May 26, 2012. It's been six long weeks of not being able to get back to the White Mountains to continue with my quest for the NH 48 4000 footers. With just eight to go I had really ambitious plans for today. The goal was to do the three northern presidentials - Madison, Adams and Jefferson. However, as the title explains it I only made it to Madison.
Got up a little earlier than usual this morning, 3 instead of 3:30, and out the door by 3:30. The ride up was uneventful, quiet and peaceful with hardly anyone on the road at the time of the morning. Through Franconia Notch as the sun started to come up and made it to the trailhead, Appalachia, right off Route 2 just west of Gorham. Quick change with the shoes and I'm on the trail by 6 heading up Valley Way. It's a cool morning with the temp around 60° but the humidity is high causing me to start dripping sweat almost immediately once I warm up. The beginning of the trail was your typical walk through the forest all green a pine needled and leafed foot path.
The morning is very overcast and foggy and the trail soon starts to change to a rock strewn pathway with no remorse. Every step it seems is from one rock to another being extremely cautious not to misstep and twist an ankle. I am soaking wet from the humidity and sweating. What seems like a short two and half hours from starting I reach the "Danger Will Robinson" sign.
"THE AREA AHEAD HAS THE WORST WEATHER IN AMERICA. MANY HAVE DIED THERE FROM EXPOSURE EVEN IN THE SUMMER. TURN BACK NOW IF THE WEATHER IS BAD."
Now if they could post warning signs like this at the beginning of trails for the tourists who think hiking is just a stroll in the woods. The ones who go up with no water, no map, no flashlight, wearing sneakers or flip flops, bringing their two year old's then call for search and rescue. And another thing a cell phone is not an appropriate device to use to find your way out in the dark. Rescue Oh but I digress! One could do a search on this topic and find a whole bunch of "stupid people" stories.
Once passing the "Warning" sign I get the first glimpses of Madison through the blowing clouds and mist. A few minutes later and I reach the hut located at the base of Madison.
The hut is still closed so I go out behind it to get some shelter from the blowing wind and drop my back. I put on my zip off pants and another shirt with my rain jacket to help keep me dry and warm as I start the climb up the boulder peak of Madison. It is just a fractured pile of boulders and it makes me wonder what caused this to become what it is today. I'm sure at some point in its' history it was once a solid mass but today it is nothing but a huge pile of boulders piled one upon one another. A quick look back and the clouds roll by quick and blindingly as Madison Hut is not in view and a few minutes later she appears out of the mist like a magic trick.
At about 9:20 I am a little below the summit and hunker down behind a rock pile waiting for an opportunity to make the final twenty feet to the top. The wind is fierce (peaking in the 50's I checked MWO when I got home) and as soon as there is a little break in the wind I make a quick dash to the summit cairn and take my picture.
Coming back down off the summit and I pass by a pile of moose droppings at 5200 ft. Madison Hut is kind of famous for having a moose hanging around in the area and I had hoped to see him but this is all I would see and even that was not very fresh. I make it back to the hut at 9:50 and the conditions are not improving at all like the forecast had called for. Rather than taking any more chances I decide to abandon the rest of the hike to Adams and Jefferson and head back down Valley Way. About an hour later as I am picking my way down the dreaded rock path the clouds are starting to lift down in the valley by Route 2. But my decision has already been made and I am comfortable with it. At the time it was the right decision under the current conditions and continue to head down with no regrets. Funny how quite a few months ago when I first turned back I had a hard time dealing with the "failure" of not completing the planned hike and today it was a much easier regret less decision. Down I continue and towards the bottom of the trail I take a parallel side trail that runs along Snyder Brook to see Tama Falls.
Another quick stop just before the trailhead as I spy a structure off in the woods. Walking out off the trail and following the power lines I find what looks like the remnants of an old maple shack.
Finally at 12:40 I am back at the car and an earlier than expected ride back home. Seven more to go and seeing how this is Memorial Day weekend and if the weather looks good for tomorrow then I'll head back up and tackle Jefferson and Adams.
Final numbers: 8.7 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes, 1 peak, # of peaks to date - 41.