Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Along the AT: The Presidential Range

Currently I am in Lapland hiking but thought you may like to read of another of my adventures on the AT, this time it was the The White Mountains in New Hampshire and the walk along the Presidential Range, all of the mountains are named after US presidents. For those that know their US history they will recognise the names for others I will provide some links as I go along.





I started this trip in a warm and humid July at the bottom of Websters Cliff Trail, with a starting height of 1270 ft (387 m.) The trail climbs steeply to Webster Cliffs 3330 ft ( 1014 m) and in the humid conditions I was soon getting warm.


The cliffs provided wonderful views to the south looking over Rte 302 and Crawford Notch. After taking my time to enjoy the view in the sunshine. Leaving this scenic spot the trail heads away from the cliffs and climbs firstly to Mt Webster named after Daniel Webster, then Mt Jackson named after Charles Thomas Jackson a Geologist.




The trail is well used and very rocky in parts, the signs of erosion are very evident and given that only walkers pass through here it is apparent that over the years much damage has been done to the surrounds. This is one reason why camping is restricted to certain areas within the White Mountains.



For this trip I had decided to stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts along the trail, it meant that I did not need to carry morning and evening meals nor did I need to carry a tent. This was my first experience of such accommodation and provided for some interesting moments. The first hut to stay at was Mizpah Springs hut. The hut was built in 1964 and is intended to cater for about 60 people there is a large dining area seen on the right in the photo and the bunkhouses are to the left.


There was approximately 20 people staying there the night I was there. The hut is staffed (as are all huts in the area) by volunteers who are supported by hikers on the AT who work for free or reduced accommodation for the night. Meals are fairly standard fare are set at designated times be there or possibly go hungry. After dinner most hikers sit around discussing whatever takes there fancy as well the hut staff will interact with the guests providing information etc. 

The next morning after breakfast, but before you leave, the staff (at all huts) put on a short song that is intended to remind you to clean your room fold the bedding etc. as well as suggest that you may like to make a donation to crews collection. The singalong was very entertaining and ensured that I left the hut in high spirits.

The trail continued its climb along what could best be described as large rock faces which were slippery from overnight rain.



This section of the trail seemed to go on for ever and was certainly a test for the feet and legs. For this trip I was wearing a pair of lightweight Solomon Mid Boots (no longer available)



Once above the treeline the first views of the Presidential Range appeared including the cloud covered tops of Mt Eisenhower and Mt Franklin.



As I climbed, down in the valley to the north west the Mt Washington Cog Railway locomotive which gradually climbed the hill to its terminus adjacent to Mt Washington. It climbs gradients as steep as 37% making it second only to the Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm railway in Switzerland.



The train nearing the top of Mt Washington.



A closer look at the locomotove.





As the mountains were in cloud I skirted the sides of Mt Eisenhower and Mt Franklin along the Crawford Path. the oldest hiking trail in the USA, before reaching the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, in time for lunch. The hut was peaceful at this time of the day and I spent some time just enjoying the view out towards Mt Washington



After lunch the cloud had lifted so I decided to head back along the trail but this time I chose to climb over Mt Franklin and back to Mt  Eisenhower. The view along the range towards Mt Washington with just a hint of cloud on top was very enjoyable.



By the time I had returned to the Lake of the Clouds hut, the place was full of hikers staying the night, many had walked the short distance from a carpark at Mt Washington whilst others had come from further afield.


I was up early the next morning and soon begun the climb up to Mt Washington, standing at 6288 feet (1916m). Mt Washington is renowned for its high winds with maximum speeds of 231 mph (372 km/h) being recorded in 1934, fortunately it was not that windy during my visit, but it certainly was breezy. The photo below was taken by the webcam at Mt Washington, you will note that there was no one else there when I visited, this is not often the case.





After leaving Mt Washington the trail descends before climbing past Mt Clay (also known as Mt Reagan), providing views of the Great Gulf Wilderness area.


The day grew colder and overcast and the wind increased, as I climbed Mt Jefferson (named after Thomas Jefferson. At Thunderstorm junction (interesting name) I took a lesser used trail over Mt Adams (named after John Adams), before descending steeply to Madison Spring Hut seen to the left in saddle in the photo below.





Madisons Springs Hut, was built in 1888 and has just been renovated, it was a magical place and whilst small it provided a wonderful environment for walkers to meet and chat. This was my favourite hut.




The next morning, my last on the Presidential Range, was sunny and I followed the high trail along Osgood Ridge, it provided magnificent views to the west towards Mt Washington.



A photo taken on many of the vantage points along the Osgood Ridge.


As I descended the towers on Mt Washington became visible as did the smoke Mt Washington Railway as the train climbed to the top.





My final night was spent at Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch the following morning I caught the early bus to Boston and then train to a rainy New York. It had been a memorable trip one that I would happily repeat, along spending more time exploring the area.