Throughout my life I’ve taken trips to the White Mountains and have gazed upon the looming Mt. Washington. In the past three years, Mike and I have had the opportunity to spend more time up here and every time we pass Mt. Washington I wonder if I could hike it. For some reason this mountain instilled a bit of fear in me (perhaps from reading Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire by Nicholas Howe). I had to challenge myself to see if I could conquer this large rock pile.
We’ve had perfect weather up here this week and we decided Thursday would be the day we tackled the beast. We decided on a loop trail. We have done the mileage before, we have had the experience of tough ascents, so what was there to worry about? I could do this, I kept telling myself.
We parked at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail parking area. On a Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. the lot was not full. Parking here and not at the cog added on another 1.4 miles to the trip. Keep that fact in mind when your legs are ready to give out on the way back (Jewell trail) and you think you only have .3 to the parking area (that is to the cog parking area) you really have a bit more.
The first 2.1 miles to the Gem Pool were an easy walk in the woods. Some parts of the trail had seen the wrath of Storm Irene.
At 2.1 miles we reached the Gem Pool. We rested here with another group of hikers that we would spend most of the day leap-frog hiking with.
I knew that the next section of the Ammo Ravine Trail would be the toughest part of this entire hike. Smith and Dickerman’s words from the White Mountain Guide kept surging into my brain “very steep and rough and is likely to prove arduous to many hikers…” With a deep breath I attacked this section.
Along the way we passed softly cascading falls and when we turned around we had stunning views out.
We finally approached the final push up to the hut.
We arrived at the Hut and I had the chance to reflect on that part of the trail, I just attacked. For me this trail had it all; views, rock scrambles, ledges, waterfalls and forests. I fell in love with it and never once swore at the trail. I would hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail anytime, well except in wet and icy conditions.
We spent some time at the Hut, chatting with the group we kept bumping into. We looked over at Monroe, but decided that beast could wait for another day (another chance for me to hike the Ammo).
After snacking and putting on some warm clothes, we struck out on the Crawford Path to the summit of Mt. Washington. We had 1.5 miles to go.
As we trekked along, the summit kept playing hide and seek in the fog.
We continued our hike, watching people ahead of us wind their way around and looking back watching people catch up to us.
As we approached the summit, the excitement grew within me. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to summit this rock pile. I knew though the journey was not over once we reached the summit. We still had to descend and no trip, for me, isn’t successful until I reach the car.
Once we reached the summit, I wanted my picture taken by the summit sign. Mike didn’t need to have his taken. The line wasn’t long and I only shoved one kid out-of-the-way for not standing in line and jumping in front of everyone. I really think there should be two signs, one for hikers and another one for people who are transported up by other means than their own two feet.
We hung around, walking the observation deck, eating our lunch inside, chatting with fellow hikers and realizing we weren’t physically drained yet. Yes, one guy hiked up in two hours and he had to be in his sixties. The weather at 1 p.m. was 48, winds out of the west at 28 mph, gusts to 36 mph and windchill was 40.
We decided it was time to descend. We left via the Trinity Heights Connector trail, that would bring us to the Gulfside Trail.
Looking to the left we could see the Northern Presidentials.
After the connector we joined the Gulfiside trail. On this trail you cross over the Cog Railroad.
This trail overlooked the Great Gulf Wilderness. This was Mike’s favorite part of the trail.
While on this trail you have to go around Mt. Clay, which required going up.
We eventually met up with the Jewell Trail.
I will tell you from this sign until we hit tree line, I wasn’t happy. This was brutal for me and it stopped being fun. My feet started to get tired, it was so much rock to be on, judging the footing, making sure I landed on a rock and not an empty space. Looking out, it seemed like we weren’t making any progress, but at least the views out were beautiful.
Finally we hit tree line and my attitude was adjusted for the better.
As we descended deeper in the forest the footing became easier and we had a chance to peek out to see our trail up to Lake of the Cloud Hut.
We did meet up with the party we kept leapfrogging with on the trail. They had taken a break and just wanted to end the hike. We all agreed our least favorite part of the trail was the rock section of the Jewell trail. The group asked how much further to the parking lot (they were at the cog), we said another half mile and that energized them. We set out together and enjoyed this section.
We parted ways at the parking sign, they only had a bit to go and we still had another .7 miles to go. At this point, it became just put one foot in front of the other kind of hike.
We finished finally after 8 hours and 48 minutes. We did it. We climbed a huge rock pile, had an amazing time and I conquered the fear I had towards that mountain. Now when we drive by it, I can say hello and yup I conquered you.
The Details: Parked at Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead (which adds on more mileage than books have). Hiked Ammmonoosuc Ravine to Lake of the Clouds Hut to Crawford Path to the Summit of Washington to Trinity Heights Connector to Gulfside Trail to Jewell Trail. 10.2 miles, 8 hours 48 minutes, 4200 elevation gain.
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