Route: Old Jackson Road, Madison Gulf Trail, Star Lake Trail, Airline, Gulfside, Osgood Trail, Osgood Cutoff, Madison Gulf Trail, Old Jackson Road
Peaks: Adams (5799', NH4K), Madison (5366', NH4K)
Mileage: 16.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 6300ft
Book Time: 12 hr
For the second weekend in a row, I planned to meet up with Whitney ("Tip-Toe") and Kenny ("Kenny") as they made their way through New Hampshire along the Appalachian Trail. Their schedule happened to nicely coordinate with my desire to visit the Northern Presidentials (it's been well over a year!), and Denise wanted to come along as well, so the plan was made to meet them at the Madison Hut. Denise and I decided to make a red-lining day of it, and head up to the hut via the Old Jackson Road and the Madison Gulf Trail. This would take us up the headwall itself of Madison Gulf, which the AMC White Mountain Guide makes sound exceptionally tough. Knowing from others that the difficulty was highly exaggerated, we weren't too worried.
Meeting very early at Pinkham Notch (we expected our friends to be at the hut by 11), we set off around 6:15 on the Old Jackson Road. The entirety of this trail is part of the Appalachian Trail, and offered an easy warm-up to the crossing of the Mount Washington Auto Road. On the other side of the road was the Madison Gulf Trail, also a segment of the Appalachian Trail in the lower stretches (the AT avoids the headwall section by taking the Osgood Cutoff and Osgood Trail up to Mount Madison). Shortly after crossing the road we took the short detour to Low's Bald Spot, a very worthwhile diversion. The morning views of the Northern Presidentials and our route yet to go was stunning.
|Crossing the Mount Washington Auto Road near mile marker 2|
|Adams (L) and Madison (R)|
|Adams and Madison with Madison Gulf in between. We have a long way to go yet!|
|Crossing the suspension bridge over the Peabody River|
|Small cascade along the Madison Gulf Trail|
|Large waterfall along the Madison Gulf Trail|
|The Wildcats and Carter Dome from the Madison Gulf headwall|
|The trail skirts around all the sheer cliffs|
|One of the few slabs to scramble up|
|View from the top of Madison Gulf|
|Denise climbing the final pitch of the headwall|
|A cloud briefly rolled in, hiding Mount Adams|
|Madison from Star Lake|
|The Star Lake Trail|
|Inside Madison Hut|
The Star Lake Trail was also a new trail for me (just never got around to it I guess!). The 3 others seemed to sprint up it, while I huffed and puffed a bit, especially up the steep boulder steps. My frequent breather breaks allowed me to keep looking back and watch as Star lake got smaller and smaller though, which was cool. The final pitch near the summit is a sort of mini-chimney, which was a ton of fun. I like those short little scrambles like that, it probably explains why I loved the headwall climb earlier in the day too. We only spent a few minutes on Adams, getting a few pictures and then dropping down the Airline and Gulfside Trails back to the hut.
|Leaving Madison Hut|
|Mount Madison over Star Lake|
|The Carters and Wildcats, plus a shoulder of Mount Washington|
|Star Lake starts shrinking|
|Higher (and smaller - the lake that is)|
|High on Mount Adams|
|Madison from Adams|
|Heading up Madison from the hut|
|Mount Washington across the Great Gulf|
|Starting the descent on the Osgood Trail|
The Osgood Trail was predicatbly rocky and somewhat slow going as it passed over countless small bumps along the ridge. Mercifully, once it reached treeline, the footing improved dramatically and we made good time to the Osgood Tentsite. Denise and I wished them well on their final few weeks, and headed off on the final 5 miles of our day. That ascent from the suspension bridge crossing back to Low's Bald Spot was an unpleasant surprise (it wasn't steep, but is roughly 700 feet of climbing!), and the Old Jackson Road at this point seemed to drag on forever, but we made it back fine, stopping the clock at 12hr 40 minutes for the day, which included the long stop at Madison Hut mid-day. The 3.5-hour drive home afterwards stunk, but after a day like that in the mountains, the 11PM arrival back home was completely worth it!
|Mini-PUD after rocky mini-PUD, down the Osgood Trail we go...|
|Not a bad view to have to descend towards|
|Looking back towards Adams (L) and Madison (R)|
|Nearing treeline on the Osgood Trail|
It was only the next day that we did the math on the mileage and elevation gain and realized just how much we had done! I was surprised at how I felt all day considering the beating from the day before on the Cannon-Kinsmans Loop, but I have a feeling that without the long rest at the hut that the day would have been a different story. It was an awesome day, and a great time with great company, and I have to say that the Madison Gulf Trail might rank right up near the top of my list of favorite trails!