Setting off from the Crawford Depot (park here and not at the Highland Center just up the road - the Highland Center spots are for guests of the lodge, and often in busy times dayhikers take up all the spots from lodge guests), the skies were cloudy. An empty parking lot was a surprise, though it was 7:45 when I left, which is a little early for many hikers. That, and early spring isn't a terribly popular time for hiking due to rotting snow, monorails, mud, and bugs. But with cold weather for yet another day (valley temps were to stay below 40F on this day), the snow was hard-packed and I started the day in microspikes, with snowshoes on the pack. I expected I would need them later once I reached the ridge.
When I do this loop, I prefer to take the Avalon Trail all the way to the summit of Field, do the out-and-back to Willey, and then head across the ridge to Tom and down the A-Z Trail (Avalon-to-Zealand Trail). Most others prefer to do this route in reverse, hitting Tom first, but I prefer to climb the steeper (at least it seems steeper) Avalon Trail and descend the slightly milder A-Z Trail. On this day that proved to be very prudent.
|Spring starting to take hold of the streams at long last|
|Pano showing Webster's Cliffs, Mount Jackson, and Mount Washington in the distance|
|Mount Willey from Mount Avalon|
|Mount Field from Mount Avalon|
|Mount Tom from Mount Avalon|
|Just barely can see Mount Washington now|
|Tom, with Cherry Mountain (Mount Martha) behind|
|The trail-less peaks of Deception and Dartmouth|
|The Highland Center down below|
|Across the Eastern Pemi towards Carrigain and the Hancocks|
|No funny business here, the trees really were leaving over that much!|
|By the way, still lots of snow up here!|
|Pano from the Mount Willey overlook, looking down through Crawford Notch|
|Route 302 and the scenic railroad heading down Crawford Notch|
|Webster Cliffs from the Willey overlook|
|Pemi Wilderness (towards the Bonds) from near Mount Willey|
|Ethan Pond from near Mount Willey|
|Twins/Bonds from Mount Field|
|A-Z Trail/Mount Tom Spur junction - note the snow depth here.|
|Field from near Tom's summit|
|Carrigain Notch beside Field|
|Across the Pemi Wilderness to the Hancocks|
|Twins/Bonds across the Pemi|
|Pano from Tom's summit|
The descent was uneventful, though the steep section on the A-Z Trail coming off the ridge was a little tricky in a couple spots (I can't imagine what descending the Avalon Trail would have been like!). A little bit below the A-Z/Avalon junction, I saw the FIRST people I'd seen on the trail all day, heading up. I saw no one else the rest of the way to the trailhead, but the parking lot was now full. I guess everyone else headed either just to Avalon or to Field, and got there after I did.
O yea, and now that I was at the parking lot, the sky was almost clear of all skies...the weathermen missed on this forecast, but that was fine, it turned out to be a much better day than anticipated! I later discovered that this hike also put me over the half-way point for a 2013 circuit of the New Hampshire 4000-Footers, cool!
Trails: Avalon Trail, Mount Avalon Spur, Willey Range Trail, A-Z Trail, Mount Tom Spur
Peaks: Avalon (3442', 52WAV), Field (4340', NH4K), Willey (4285', NH4K), Tom (4051', NH4K)
Mileage: 10.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 3800'
Book Time: 7hr (actual 5hr 50min)