September 21, 2013.
Trying something new for this hike and heading up Friday evening to save on getting up early Saturday morning for the long drive. The plan was to hike Washington with Andy and an early start to beat the crowds on Tuckerman Ravine Trail. My plan was to park at the Great Gulf Trailhead and hike in a few miles and set-up the hammock for the night. Well that was the plan, unfortunately by the time I made it to the Great Gulf parking lot the sun had already set and I forgot to bring my map for this section of the White Mountains. Knowing there are some stream crossings on the Great Gulf Trail and not wanting to set up in the dark I opted for option 2, sleep in the vehicle.
Getting up early in the morning and heading to Gorham to grab some breakfast then heading back down Route 16 to Nineteen Mile Brook. While waiting for the gang to arrive there is a great shot of the waning moon from Route 16.
With the coming of morning we meet at Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead and Andy has concerns of heading up Mt Washington today due to forecasted 70 mph wind gusts. The obvious alternative was to go up Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, which we were on two weeks ago coming down from the Wildcats traverse. Jen really wanted to go up somewhere different so looking around I spied the tip of the summit of Madison poking out just above the trees and half-heartedly suggested that. Looking back on it it is kind of funny because if there are 70 mph winds on Washington then it is not going to be much different on Madison, although you are protected by the trees until you get to Madison Hut. A short ride over to Appalachia and the gang is all set to head up Valley Way Trail (Andy, Phil, Jen and Kevin).
The last time I was on Valley Way back in May of 2012 it, the trail, left a bad impression on me. I had no desire to be back on this trail quite possibly due to the rocky terrain but more I think because I had to turn back on my agenda. I had planned to hit Madison, Adams and Jefferson on that day but when I got to the top it was all socked in and really (wicked for the native NE's) windy. As it turned out I got some redemption on this hike and with some encouragement from Jen a new perspective on this trail. As you can see from the above GPS track we didn't exactly do an out and back on this trail which I will explain later.
At least the sun is shining today!
Reaching the spur trail to the tentsite area and I head over while the others take a break. Not sure if it is on the red-lining list but better to do it now then to have to come back later. It turns out I didn't need to do it but I did get a great shot of Old Speck Mt in Maine with an undercast from the campground.
A few minutes later I'm back with the group and a break in the trees affords a view across the valley to the north of the Pliny and Crescent Ranges, with a rare Phil head shot!
A zoom on a ledge which turns out to be part of Airline Trail, our unplanned descent route.
Just below the hut a tantalizing view of John Quincy Adams just begging for some attention. Kevin would make the comment about climbing it while we are here and the seed has been planted.
The hut, a little more sun and less clouds than over a year ago.
A quick stop at the hut for everyone to use the facilities and while waiting Kevin and I peruse the maps looking at our options after hitting Madison. Gathering our packs and out onto Osgood Trail getting the first full blast of the winds for the day. From the hut on up one is completely exposed and the gusts are strong but manageable. The strong ones push you but not so bad to turn back. The views are 180° from when I was here last time and I feel I have my redemption. Thank You Jen!
About half way up we stop to enjoy the views of Mt Washington across the way and down into Pinkham Notch. While Kevin and I are talking behind me is the big event for the day and before I know it it is all over, Phil proposed to Jen. Part way up Valley Way Andy had told me this was the plan for the day and that was the reason for wanting to do Mt Washington. But since we changed our agenda Phil was still going to propose but this time on top of Madison, ON TOP OF MADISON, not a quarter mile below the summit. So there are no pictures on my end but there were great views from the spot of the proposal and a great memory when I pass by this spot while doing the AT next year.
Clouds rolling into Pinkham Notch with Wildcat behind. Mt Washington across the way.
The newly engaged couple on the summit of Madison.
While on the summit a couple of guys arrived and they just had that "look" of being thru hikers and I had to ask. Sure enough they were and as far as I know the first I have ever come across on the trails. I had a good conversation with them and as we were leaving to head back down to Madison Hut I gave them both $20 as my way of paying it forward for my AT adventure next year. Back down the trail and stopping at the hut for some lunch and a celebratory champagne toast to the Phil and Jen.
Today was my first time stepping into one of the AMC huts, I've been by every one in the Whites (Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Galehead, Mizpah, Lake of the Clouds and Madison) but never stepped inside. I'd also heard through various postings about their soups and today's was pumpkin. What a surprisingly tasty and delicious bowl of soup this was and I'll be sure to start making a habit of this in the future, and only $2 for a huge bowl! Back to the planning for our retreat and after looking at the maps it was decided that Kevin and I would make the short foray over to JQ Adams and catch up with the other three somewhere on Airline Trail. So we split up and Kevin and I headed up Gulfside Trail while they headed over to Airline Trail via Airline Cutoff. Right after passing the junction of Gulfside and Airline Trails we veered off to our left and started the whack up to JQ. Picking our way up this bouldery peak (no different than any other peak in the Presidential's) and thirty minutes from leaving the hut we had arrived.
The views from up here were outstanding. Our path back down over Durand Ridge to the north.
Mt Adams just a half mile away.
The gang making their way down Airline Trail.
Madison from JQ and two more Adams I'll need to visit someday to complete the four of them (Sam and Abigail).
Spending some time on top of JQ and the scenery was another first for me. The clouds that we saw rolling into Pinkham Notch while climbing Madison were now coming up and over the ridge (make sure to check out the videos at the bottom of the page). Time to start heading down and Kevin really wanted to head over to Adams seeing how close he was to it. It was tempting but I knew we still had a ways to go to get back down and catch the others, another time Kevin, remember the mountains aren't going anywhere. Heading down in a different direction making our way to the Airline Trail just above the junction with Gulfside and then a left turn onto Durand Ridge just above where King Ravine Trail comes out over the headwall.
This trail is supposed to fantastic for a variety of terrain and views and I told Kevin one day we'll have to come up it. He didn't seem too keen on the idea but I am sure once on it he'd enjoy the heck out of it. All along the exposed ridge we kept getting glimpses down into the ravine and it's beauty. Airline Trail has to be one of my top trails now with the views all around and especially with the clouds coming up over the ridge of Adams and in the col between JQ and Madison.
I was constantly stopping and looking back in awe at where we had come from and especially down into the ravine every time we got close to the edge. It is a remarkable area and I really am looking forward to exploring this neck of the mountains in the future.
Another trail coming up out of King Ravine, Chemin des Dames, and the boulder ledge I spotted from Valley Way Trail.
View north and south along Durand Ridge.
After doing quite a lot of dawdling along the ridge we finally hit the tree line and now to make up some time and catch up with the rest of the group. Kevin and I make some good time picking our way down and eventually about a mile from the road we surprised Andy and company when we caught up to them. Phil was hurting from the mileage and when back at the parking lot he had had enough.
Thanks everyone for a great day and some great memories that will always bring a smile when I pass that one spot just below the summit of Madison, NOT ON TOP OF MADISON!
Final numbers: 9.5 miles, 9 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 4.1, Total to Date: 391.7