Posted on 14 Aug 2021 by Steve Markham
On Thursday, Andy, Kyle, and I headed to the White Mountains to hike the Presidential Traverse. According to a library book Janet got me, it’s one of the top 50 hikes in the world (only a couple of which are in the contiguous 48 states). It was difficult hiking and the weather was very hot, so there were some adjustments made mid-trip, but boy was it beautiful!
If you just want pretty pictures with a little trip reporting interspersed, skip ahead.
Andy had planned a superb 8-day trip on the Long Trail in Vermont, starting August 12th. A few weeks ago, the Stake started getting desperate for more male coverage at girls camp, which starts August 16th. So, we decided to do Andy’s Long Trail trip later, and do a shorter two-night trip in NH this week, freeing up Andy and me to help at Camille’s first girls camp. Meanwhile, James has been hiking the AT since about April, and Andy ended up hiking with him starting this past Sunday, the 8th. So the final pre-hike plan for the Traverse was for Andy to leave James Thursday morning, park at Appalachia, and take an AMC shuttle to Crawford. Kyle and I would park at Crawford, hike with Andy back to his car, then get a ride with him back to our car, the end.
The Markhams had a lovely trip to Utah and LA, getting home at 1:05am Wednesday morning, minus one bag. Kyle managed to catch a cold. And Andy started feeling ill on his hike with James sometime around Tuesday. Oh, and there’s been a heat wave across the country since mid July.
Normally, a north-bound trip along the Presidential Traverse would cross Mounts Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower, Franklin, Monroe, Washington, Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Several of those are double peaks (eg, Little Clay and Clay, Little Monroe and Monroe, etc.) and Adams has 5 peaks. As it turned out, Andy decided to stop after Jackson, and Kyle and I started reconsidering our plan on the top of Washington. We didn’t go to the summit of Jefferson (though we did walk near it; you can see a red trail on the map, which we took), and we completely skipped Adams and Madison. We talked to several Southbound hikers, and none of them said anything nice about the parts of the trail we skipped, so I regret nothing. Sometime when I’m fully rested and there’s not a heat wave going on, I’ll check out the rest of the Presidential Range.
If you are not a glutton for punishment, I think the best of it was Washington and points southward. There’s a case to be made for taking a train up Washington and then hiking down in whatever loop you choose, though hiking up from the RR station also seemed fairly popular.
Anyway, time for pictures.
We started up the trail around 12:40pm. Kyle and I had a quick lunch 15 minutes into the hike. We got to the top of Jackson around 3pm. It was very hot and humid, so we were sweating like crazy. Andy has adjusted his hiking setup. If you untuck your shirttails, some of the sweat will drip off them straight to the ground instead of into your pants. And if you keep your hanky out of your pocket, it will be dry the first time you use it.
We got to the AMC Mizpa hut around 4. The huts are lovely, but pricy compared to my usual backpacking accommodations, which are free. We cooked dinner and ate, and chatted about options. Andy had been hoping he’d feel better, but he was neither hungry nor thirsty at dinnertime, which was not a good sign. He decided to hike down along the Mount Clinton trail and then hitchhike back to my car, and go home. We traded keys, so that Kyle and I could go straight home from Appalachia. The plan at that point was for Kyle and I to hike a few more miles after dinner, camp somewhere along the trail Thursday night, then at the Valley Way tent site Friday night, and be home early Saturday afternoon.
We hiked down off the ridge a little ways past Eisenhower. In hindsight we probably should have gone farther down, but it was threatening to rain and we found a nice spot someone had cleared for tenting that was big enough for two hammocks. It was hot overnight, so it took a while to fall asleep despite being exhausted. We hit the trail around 7:45am Friday morning, trying to get in a few miles before breakfast.
Feeling energized from breakfast, we started the largest ascent, up to the top of Mount Washington, elevation 6288’.
The trail was rocky, and it was during the uphill side of Washington that I started complaining like a five year old. I’m hot. My feet hurt. Are we there yet? I need more water. James had warned Andy that after Monroe the trail got worse, and I was beginning to understand what he meant.
The top was kind of touristy, what with there being two different non-hiking ways to get there (car and train). The road was closed to the public, though, since they were having a race. Up a mountain. Average speed >50mph, apparently.
Along this stretch is when I realized I was going to be sunburned before the end. It’s worst on my neck, but my arms are pretty pink as well.
We took a long water break on Little Clay and started discussing options. We had lunch on top of Clay and decided to skirt the summit of Jefferson, skip Adams and Madison entirely, and head straight for the car. If we hustled, we figured we’d get home without having to drive too late into the night.
The highlight of the trip back to the car was a lovely spring near “The Perch” that had cold, crystal clear water. We also passed a few waterfalls, but I didn’t take pictures of any of it because we were trying to hustle. We got to the car before 6, but it’s a long drive and we didn’t get home until almost 11. I don’t love driving at night, but Kyle kept the conversation interesting the whole way.