Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Alpine Garden, and a Grid Finish! - June 14, 2015

Route: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Crawford Path, Tuckerman Crossover, Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Alpine Garden Trail, Huntington Ravine Trail, Nelson Crag Trail, Gulfside, Jewell Trail
Peaks: Washington (6288', NH4K)
Mileage: 11.55 miles
Elevation Gain: 4350ft
Book Time: 8hr

It was a gorgeous day coming according to the weathermen. A hiker I've hiked with a few times, Ed, was finishing his grid on Mount Washington (hiking all 48 4000-footers in each month of the year - 576 summits in all!), and the alpine flowers were supposed to be blooming. What to do? Hike Mount Washington via the Alpine Garden of course!

A small cascade at one of the several stream crossings on the lower Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

The first view up the headwall of the ravine towards where I was heading.

Gem Pool. Now the climbing begins in a hurry!

Shortly above Gem Pool, there is a 1/10-mile side path to a couple cascades.

I headed off earlier than the grid group, as they weren't going to the Alpine Garden. I parked at the USFS lot for the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (I needed to redline the lower sections of both that and the Jewell Trail), and headed up to Lakes of the Clouds. Tired, and running a little late to make the grid finish on Washington, I skipped Mount Monroe, a mere 1/2-mile away, and took the Tuckerman Crossover (yup, another redline!) to Tuckerman Junction and headed through the Alpine Garden. The blooms were limited through the garden, a lot of the Diapensia was done blooming for the year, but there were still some very nice pockets. If you catch this on one of the few peak days of the year, it must be spectacular!

1/4-mile to the hut claims the sign. Only it's actually a fair bit longer than that in this case...

Mt. Washington

Mt. Monroe from just below Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut. I haven't been to this hut when it was open in 14 years, today I got to go inside!

Washington from Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Pano from the hut.

There is an emergency shelter under the hut. In the winter, it frequently gets blocked in by ice and snow. Here is it mid-June and there's still a big chunk of ice inside!

Mt. Monroe behind an air quality sampling station.

One of the namesake Lakes of the Clouds

A small patch of Diapensia.

On to the Tuckerman Crossover!

Mt. Monroe, there's still a small patch of snow on the East side!

Hikers descending Monroe.
Here comes the cog! The engines are now all bio-diesel, but the first train of the day is still run with the old-fashioned coal engine.

Cairns lead the way on the Davis Path over to Boott Spur.

Swinging around the summit.

Pano from the top of Tuckerman Ravine.
The trail up the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine usually doesn't open until early July due to the massive winter-time accumulation of snow leading to unsafe conditions on the trail.
Heading up a short part of the Huntington Ravine Trail to the Nelson Crag Trail, I ran into gridders John and June for yet another time (I've run into one or both of them a lot the last year or so), before making my way to the summit. Ed and company were a little late getting to the summit, so I relaxed amongst the madness of Mount Washington in summer (actually fairly calm considering it was a beautiful day on a summery weekend, the cafeteria was only about 1/2-full, but it was definitely still busy!). Ed arrived in the company of Ed Hawkins (5 full grids and counting!) and several other grid finishers, pictures, congrats, and issuing of the patch were had. Ed's wife and grandkids and some other friends had come up the auto road with cake and other goodies, and so a small celebration was had.

Beginning on the Alpine Garden Trail were a bunch of Alpine Bluets.

There's still a decent amount of snow in Tuckerman Ravine!

Mount Washington from the Alpine Garden.

Mountain Aven
A few days earlier I bet this expanse of diapensia was all blooming and was magnificent. But most of the flowers had died off for the year.

More Diapensia. This is a very rare plant to see South of the Alpine Tundra in Northern Canada.
A marshy section halfway through the Alpine Garden.

Rhodora I am told.

A short (~10-15 foot) stretch of the trail was lined with flowering Alpine Bluets. Awesome really.

Alpine Azalea

Mounts Adams (L) and Madison (R)

Nelson Crag

Approaching the summit via the Nelson Crag Trail.

For the descent I hiked with the gridder group, meeting and chatting with several names I knew but had never met before this day. We descended via the Gulfside and Jewell Trails, finding a very nice, large patch of diapensia along the way. When we reached the bottom where a spur heads over to the cog railroad, I broke off from them (their cars were at the cog lot) and hustled along the lower part of the Jewell Trail (a very nice stretch of trail too!) to my car, met them for a short post-hike celebration, then had the 3-hour drive home. Congrats again to Ed for finishing the grid! You sure picked a heck of a good day for it!

Northern Presis from Mt. Washington (Jefferson through Madison)

Smile for the camera! X marks the spot!

All aboard!

Ed reaches summit #576 on his grid!

Heading down the Gulfside toward the Jewell Trail. A wonderful view of the Northern Presis across the Great Gulf.

Looking down the Great Gulf toward Spaulding Lake at the bottom of the headwall.

A huge field of flowering Diapensia along the Gulfside Trail.

Mt. Clay from the Gulfside Trail.

Mt. Clay and the Northern Presis

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