Lakes of the Clouds Overnight
Summits: Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson
Total Distance: 12.2 miles.
Day 1: Jefferson Notch to Lakes of the Clouds via Jefferson Notch Road, Boundary Line Trail, Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. 6.0 miles.
I decided to park at Jefferson Notch to cut my day 2 distance by almost three miles. It was clear that the Boundary Line Trail sees very little usage. It was very muddy and overgrown with ferns in many locations. Had the humidity been a little higher it would have felt like a temperate rain forest.
On the Ammonoosuc the first and only signs of the major avalanche that struck in late February were visible at 3,300 feet. All the trees within 30 feet of the center of river where flattened into an un-passable tangle of roots, trees, leaves, rocks and water. It would be interesting to see how that damage evolves / degrades over time. A few hundred feet up the avalanche crossed the trail, but all the trees had been cleared.
The rest of the hike up the Ammo was uneventful and I only saw a handful of people on the entire trail. I decided to forego the sunset hike up Monroe as a strong winds and increasing high clouds were offsetting the rewards.
Day 2: Lakes of the Clouds to Jefferson Notch via Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson descent and the Caps Ridge Trail. 6.2 miles.
The ascent up the summit cone of Mount Washington went quickly with only a few brief stops to enjoy the views of the hut. The wind died overnight, but was blowing 30-40 by morning and made layering difficult. My core was nicely warmed from the climb, but the cool dry air was quickly cooling my skin. A combination that left me chilled after arriving at the hut the day before.
Since I know the summit well I went directly inside to top off my water bottles and study my planned route. Down the Great Gulf Trail, up Six Husbands, over Jefferson and down Caps Ridge. From my vantage point it was clear I had a lot of ground to cover.
A few minutes after leaving the summit I was already down to the Great Gulf cutoff, I studied the signs and ventured over the lip into the ravine. About 100 feet down it hit me that maybe this wasn't the best idea. When I run I have endless amounts of time to calculate my pace and when I am going to finish within a small margin of time...plus or minus four minutes for a half marathon, a minute for a 10k and maybe 30 seconds or less for a 5k. For the past day now I had been doing the same thing for this leg of the trip. I knew the distance, but could not get a handle on how long it was going to take. Was it going to be a six hour hike or a twelve hour death march? Given the unstable and poorly marked talus field I just began descending I feared the latter. Coupled with a five hour drive home it was an easy decision to abort.
I made my way back to the Gulfside Trail and spent the next few miles pondering my decision. The first hikers from Madison and the parking lots began showing up on the trail after I passed Clay and I arrived on the top of Jefferson to a stream of people climbing up the Caps Ridge.
The route down had some interesting sections, but was fairly tame. Below treeline the trail crossed through several blow downs that looked to be a few years old. The trail was hot and dusty, a stark contrast to the bogs along the Boundary Line Trail. Another great feature along the trail was a polished piece of granite with several water carved potholes. I have never seen a rock formation like that in the Whites before. Including 30 minutes of breaks the hike took over five hours and twenty minutes?confirming my fears that a trip into the Great Gulf would have turned into a very long day.
Jefferson & Caps Ridge
Despite the shorter route it was a great hike. The highlight was actually at Lakes of the Clouds when I found the log book my family signed back on 8/8/88, almost 22 years ago, and exactly 21 years to the day before my son was born.