July 30, 2011
Mount Washington Hike
The original plan had been for 7 of us to hike Mount Washington today. Martha, Chuck, and Mia were supposed to come with us, but Mia has been sick all week and Martha wanted to hike this with Mia, which meant we lost Chuck too.
Plans had already been made for my long time friend (22 years now) Jason and two of my nephews (Jacob and Alex) to hike, so what was 7 turned into 4. I’m okay with that. This is a wicked fun mountain to hike, and it of course always holds some element of potential danger.
Mount Washington may “only” be just under 6,300 feet high, but until recently it held the record for the highest ever recorded winds on our fair planet…..231mph! The weather has been known to change up here extremely quick and there have been a number of deaths related to this peak……suggested reading…..”Not Without Peril” by Nicholas Howe.
It had rained Friday night and the forecast for Concord, NH was upper 80’s and sun. The summit forecast was mid 50’s, winds in the 30-50mph range and “clearing skies”. Well 2-3 ain’t bad.
We started hiking just past 8AM and climbed into clouds, mist and dampness. Oh yes, and wind. It never did truly clear up like we had anticipated, but all in all it was still a great hike and it was really fun to do it with my nephews and Jason.
When the initial phases of this hike had started, I had emailed my brother Steve and sister-in-law Alison to see if any of their family wanted to come. They are all in one form or another picking off the NH 4,000 footers. I thought this would be a good opportunity to spend some time with them and also get Washington for their lists.
Alison and Elizabeth were headed to Europe and Steve had to work. So my two teenage nephews Jacob and Alex were handed over to me. I guess it is a good sign that Steve and Alison trust me enough to bring their only two sons on this hike. They’re both scouts and know there way around the wilderness. So I really had nothing to worry about.
Ammonoosuc Ravine is a very nice hike with some cool waterfalls, nice views (so I hear) and a pretty direct route to Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the summit itself.
As we got higher up the ravine, the wind picked up and it was cool, damp and misty.
At this point, everyone was a bit damp. It was also time for a short snack and to prepare for the “summit push”. Mostly I wanted everyone to get some food and dry out. I personally had to bundle up a bit and throw on my thin wool hat.
After maybe 25-30 minutes it was time to push on for the last 1.6 miles. We had most of the elevation gain behind us at this point. Only about 1,200-1,400 feet left.
It also gets really rocky at this point. If the Presidential Range is one thing, it is rocky. Not much in the way of gentle/easy trails up here.
We hit the top and actually got several small breaks in the clouds. Nothing that I would call clear, but enough to see more than 100-200 feet.
Now what can strike many hikers as odd or “the easy way out” is the fact that you have several options to reach the summit. You can hike, drive up the 8 mile auto road, take a bus up or take the Cog Railroad up.
Also after busting your butt for several hours, it is strange to enter the summit building and smell pizza, hot dogs, etc. Most of the NH peaks are remote and far removed from any sort of convenience like hot food and gift shops.
We really didn’t rush to get out of the relative comfort of the cafeteria. Jason and I were both hoping that the skies would clear and that we could get some views. As it was approaching 2PM though, we decided it was best to get a move on.
We headed for the Jewell Trail which requires crossing the Cog railroad. I have heard that it is a tradition to moon the train as it passes. Apparently so had my nephews. Needless to say, we did not partake in that particular activity. Last thing I need is Steve and Alison thinking I’m a bad influence!
Once we got down around 5,00 feet or so the skies did kind of clear. It was still cloudy above, but we had a decent view back into the valley.
I also came upon what is hands down the oddest thing that I have every seen on a hike yet. A 30lb pound bag of cat litter. Maybe it was for the summit cat at the Mt. Washington Observatory? Maybe it was a cruel joke on a hiking partner. Either way, I have no idea why you’d drop it on the side of the trail.
The Jewell Trail eventually becomes a wooded path after all the rocks higher up. It also mellows out pretty quickly and just slowly descends.
Just before popping out at the parking lot, there is a wooden bridge and a nice cool stream. I took this opportunity to splash some water on my head and arms and cool off a bit. It was easily 20 degrees warmer down here than at the summit.
I had the boys home by 7pm and all was good with the world. I have to thank Jason for driving too.
It was fun to do this hike with my nephews. I’ve got some more planned for the coming months and most definitely for the fall foliage season!
Thanks for reading.