It was time to check off another couple of 4000 footers from the list, so off we went to do Field and Willey. I heard lots of reports that coming up from Willey House was pretty steep and going down was no picnic, so we decided to do an out and back from the Highland Center parking lot. We had done Tom last spring, so had an idea what the trail was like up to the junction of A-Z. It was really cold and windy in the parking lot, so I was looking forward to getting into the woods. We were bundled up and made it a ways before we started to shed the layers. I knew we'd work up a sweat heading up to Avalon, as that looked to be the steepest part of the trail. Indeed it was, but since it was only about 1/2 mile it wasn't too brutal. We dropped packs at the base of Avalon and scrambled up the rocks to a great, yet cloudy, view! Most of the presi's were still in the clouds, and Field above us had a layer of frost or rime around the summit area. It was downright chilly in the wind, so we took some pics and headed back to the trees for a snack and some more layers. The gray jays were very aggressive this time around, we assumed because they knew winter was coming and wanted to stock up. They were taking food that we were eating right out of our hands (without being offered to them!) and would help themselves to any ungaurded bag of snack mix! We got cold pretty quick and headed off to Field. It was a pretty good .9 miles, no complaints. The summit of Field was cold and the trees had frost and rime ice on them, but everything else was ok. We didn't stay here long, then headed over to Willey.
I was under the impression that this would be a nice ridge walk, with a few steep down pitches on the way over. Boy was I wrong. The footing on the part of the hike was horrible. It offered up anything you could imagine for the white mountains- rocks, mud, roots, gravely rocks, small jagged rocks, rotted 'log' bridges over the mud... It was a mess. You just couldn't decide where to put one foot after the other. We also mistakenly had it in our heads that it was a mile, not 1.5. No wonder it looked so far off when you could see it through the trees! It didn't lose our sense of humor and made it over to Willey. There was a large group that got there at the same time, but they hi-fived and hopped off the viewless summit. I had heard about the outlook just on the other side of the summit and found it was only 50 feet downtrail so we went to check it out. What an amazing view of Webster Cliffs!! By now we could see as far as Eisenhower, but the other presi's just didn't want to come out and play. The look into Crawford Notch was excellent too. Just a tad past peak foliage though, so the colors weren't super vibrant. It was pretty nice on this little rock outcropping, so we had lunch there. More of the aggressive jays showed up and we had to throw trail mix around to keep them busy so we could eat what was in our hands! It didn't take long to cool down and the hands get cold quick, even with gloves on. We headed back out over to Field. The trip back from Willey to Field was much better than the trip over there. Once we hit Field it was all downhill from there, although it had gotten MUCH muddier throughout the day, and the rocks and roots had wet leaves on them from the water trickling down the trail, so it slowed us up some. We hit the summit of Avalon again, since we wanted to see if the views cleared up any, and there was actually a little sun and we could see as far as Monroe. It really was nice. Time to get off this mountain though, so off we went and we were happy to see the junction of the A-Z trail again. It was a nice walk out of the woods at that point, and we were burning daylight. Long, cold day, but that makes #22 and 23. One more to go and I'm half way there!