Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Much-Needed Day Above Treeline on Easter

Date: April 20, 2014
Peaks: Washington (6288', NH4K), Monroe (5372', NH4K), Little Monroe, Franklin (5001', TW72), Eisenhower (4760', NH4K), Pierce (4312', NH4K)
Route: Jewell Trail, Gulfside Trail, Cog Railway, Crawford Path, Monroe Loop, Franklin Loop, Eisenhower Loop, Webster Cliff Trail
Mileage: 13.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 5050ft

About a year ago in late April 2013 I joined a friend for his New Hampshire 4000-Footer list on a Northern Presidential Traverse from Jefferson through Madison. The thought of doing the other half of a Presidential Traverse, from Washington through Jackson, occurred to me and I decided that in 2014 I would wait for the right day and jump on it if I could. Fast forward to April 2014, I haven't been above treeline in over 6 months. There is just something magical about spending a day above treeline, it's good for the soul and at this point it was something I sorely needed.

Easter Sunday was shaping up as a decent day to do just this hike, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Theresa wanted to hike on this day as well. With that, plan A was set, and all the weather did as the week went on was get better and better for Sunday. With a final forecast of temperatures at 5000 feet being in the low 30s with hardly a cloud to be found and winds in the low 20s mph, we were a go.

We met at the Highland Center at 7AM, left a car, and headed to the cog railroad parking lot, nearly losing our teeth on a massive frost heave on the road to the cog that we couldn't see in the morning sun. The weather looked fantastic, and we were off in short order. We made decent time to treeline on the Jewell Trail, and from there we took a steady, but most definitely leisurely pace to the day. It was clear early on that we wouldn't be making it to Jackson, but it didn't matter, the weather was too beautiful and we enjoyed every single moment of our time above treeline.

We saw a mere total of 10-12 people all day, and 4 of them were on the summit deck of Mount Washington. Still, no line for summit pictures, as the cog railroad was not open yet, the auto road was also still closed (and will be for a while yet), and being a holiday most people were not on the trails. We got to enjoy a perfect day nearly to ourselves. We felt hardly a breath of wind all day, the trail conditions were great (we carried snowshoes but never once even considered putting them on, as the monorail on both the Jewell Trail and Crawford Path below treeline were rock-hard even in the afternoon, and there was a lot of bare rock above treeline), the views were incredible, and the temperatures mild (I wore a t-shirt all day except when we took snack breaks).

We saw every one of the high peaks in Vermont easily by eye, from the Jays up near Canada, through Mansfield, Camel's Hump, Abraham/Ellen, and Killington/Pico. The high peaks in Rangeley, ME were also easily visible, and there was barely a cloud seen all day. In fact, I got a pretty good sunburn, and it was totally worth it!

We took every summit loop we came to, including the short, unofficial but well-defined path to Mount Franklin, and made it back to the Highland Center with just enough time to retrieve the car and enjoy a wonderful turkey dinner before crashing for the night! This day was just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. A full, long day above treeline does a body and mind good, and I could feel all the worries just melting away as the day went on. Theresa and I chatted, strolled, and simply had a tremendous day, one of the best days of hiking all-time for me!

I'll let the pictures do the talking from here (a slideshow of the full album is at the end of this post):

First view from treeline on the Jewell Trail

Treeline on the Jewell Trail, looking West

Bonds, Twins, with Franconia Ridge in the background

Looking down the ridge the Jewell Trail ascends

The Southern Presis waiting for us

Clay from the Gulfside Trail

Mount Carrigain

Willey, Field, Tom, with Bond behind the Tom-Field col

The Bond/Twin range, with Moosilauke and Franconia Ridge behind

Mount Washington from the Gulfside Trail

Walking up the cog tracks for a couple tenths of a mile to avoid an icy trail around the Great Gulf Headwall

While we were up there, there was a lot of rime ice falling off this tower in the warming sun

No line, clear skies!

The Northern Presis, shot from right near the MWOBS camera of the same view :)

Heading down to the Southern Presis

Franconia Ridge - would have been a good choice today too!

Mount Monroe from near Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Looking back at Mount Washington from near Lakes of the Clouds Hut

This guy came up the Ammo Trail just as we left the hut - guess he decided to go hut-bagging today!

Pano from Mount Monroe

Washington and Monroe from Little Monroe

Franklin ahead

Pano from Mount Franklin

Franklin from the Franklin-Eisenhower col

Mount Jefferson peeks out

Looking back North from Eisenhower

Eisenhower from near the Pierce-Eisenhower col

Theresa approaches Pierce with the day's work in the background

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