Friday, November 20, 2015

Return to the Dry River - Sept. 5, 2015

Route: Dry River Trail, Mt. Clinton Trail, Webster Cliff Trail, Crawford Path, Mt. Eisenhower Loop,  Mt. Eisenhower Trail, Dry River Trail
Peaks: Pierce (4310', NH4K), Eisenhower (4780', NH4K)
Mileage: 16.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 5000 ft
Book Time: 11 hours (actual 9 hours)

Early on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, my friend Chris and I met for a hike through the Dry River Wilderness. Our goal was to bag a couple of peaks in the Southern Presidentials, but to visit some rarely-used trails along the way, 2 of which I had never even been on before. Starting out, we charged up the lower end of the Dry River Trail, which I'd been on just over a month before, but this time we only stayed on it for a couple miles. Reaching the junction with the Mt. Clinton Trail, we hooked a left, found a way across the river, and started up this oft-reviled trail.

Impressive damage from Hurricane Irene along the Dry River

Dry River crossing at the start of the Mt. Clinton Trail

Chris takes a photo up the Dry River

Chris walks the balance beam while crossing the river.

Wilderness Trails are usually maintained to a lighter standard then other trails, and the Mt. Clinton Trail sees very, very little use, and so it is messier and fainter than most, plus the Dry River Trail was closed for about 3 years due to Hurricane Irene washing out huge sections of it. Still, it was great to do this with Chris, who had been on this trail the fall before, and had a feel for where the trail went. Down low we found hints here and there of the trail, but once we got a few tenths of a mile up, it became more obvious. Still, the trail was overgrown and there were several very muddy spots, and as it threads it was across the stream numerous times, it was easy to see how people lose the trail, especially if heading downhill: some of the turns to cross the stream are overgrown and brushy, while corridors seem to continue ahead. With both of us looking sharp, and Chris's prior experience, we made it up just fine, and shortly before the Dry River Cutoff junction, the trail improves dramatically and was a nice stroll from there to the Mizpah Hut.

Early section of the Mt. Clinton Trail. It's in there somewhere...

It's a little more defined as we near the stream.

An old logging chain on a tree near one of the crossings.

There is a campsite partway up the Mt. Clinton Trail, should one be interested.

Junction with the Dry River Cutoff

The trail became much better maintained in the upper 1/3.

Mizpah Hut.
After a short break at the hut, we head up on the Webster Cliff Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail, and headed up to Mt. Pierce. We had seen no one from the trailhead to the hut; above the hut, we ran into many people, though fewer than expected for a beautiful holiday weekend. From Pierce over to Eisenhower is a nice, simple stroll, and even the almost-perpetual mud pits between the peaks were dried up to to a lengthy dry spell in New England. Sunny skies and mild temperatures meant many stops to look around and take pictures, but soon enough we were atop Mt. Eisenhower, our high point for the day.

View over to Jackson and Webster, with Carrigain standing tall in the background, from the Southern knob of Pierce

Pano from "South Pierce"

Mt. Pierce summit

Looking North from Pierce

In the Pierce-Eisenhower col

Mt. Eisenhower looms ahead.

Looking back towards Pierce (far R)

After descending North off Mt. Eisenhower, we hooked onto the Mt. Eisenhower Trail, which is also a very rarely-traveled route. Unlike the Mt. Clinton Trail, however, this trail was easy to follow, clear of obstructions, and overall a nice, easy cruise back down to the Dry River Trail. From there it was time for the long haul back out to where we had left our cars in the morning, during which we ran into a ton of people heading into the valley to camp for the night. Who knew the Dry River valley could be so busy!

Mt. Eisenhower summit cairn

The Northern Presis from Eisenhower

Looking down at the trail junctions near the Edmands Path/Crawford Path junction

Eisenhower from the flats to the North

Next new trail for the day!

Last look back to Eisenhower before heading down


The Mt. Eisenhower Trail was a tad brushy up high, but most of it looked a lot like this. Nice!

Along the Dry River, we spotted these birds swimming and fishing in the river.

Washington (C) and Monroe (L) from a viewpoint near the beginning of the Dry River

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