Monday, July 14, 2014

Mt. Washington and Pinkham Notch

After last night's rain this morning was bright and sunny! We headed out mid-morning to get to the Mt. Washington Auto Road. It was a quick drive, and soon we were surrounded by huge mountains!

The road up is privately owned and they charge a pretty penny to drive up and they have a lot of rules! We got a CD audio tour and the first 10 minutes were instructions on how to drive the mountain road! Funny because it's about the same terrain as the entire state of Colorado and no one gives you any instructions for driving in Colorado!

For all the rules and expense the road is neat! It totally reminds me of Loveland Pass in Colorado! We paused a few times on the way up and soon we were at the summit! There are several tourist buildings at the summit, including a gift shop that is bolted & chained to the rock so it doesn't blow away!

Dad and I were going to take a quick hike on the AT, which runs right over the summit, to Lake of the Clouds Hut (an Appalachian Mountain Club wilderness hut that you can hike to and spend the night, for a fee of about $100 a night). I'd looked at the map and thought it was about a mile there for a 2 mile walk, I figured we could do that quickly.

Dad and I found the AT very easily and started walking. What we didn't realize is that we were walking north instead of south! The sign with the mileage to Mt. Kathadin should have been a clue! We were scrambling down a huge boulder field. It was another opportunity to test our shoes and realize how great they are! It was only about .2 of a mile to a trail junction and the boulder field ended, it took us 30 minutes to hike it! It was so slow over those rocks!

We came to a trail junction that pointed us back to the summit a different way so we took it and soon we re-joined the AT and we could see Lake of The Clouds Hut and the sign said it was 1.4 miles. Since we'd left Mom hanging around the summit with little to do we didn't want to spend too much time out there so we walked just a little way. The trail was entirely above the tree line and exposed! Even though today was beautiful - lots of sun, some clouds, fairly light wind, you could easily see how dangerous the area is in any kind of foul weather!

(Lake of the Clouds Hut is the white spot below the peak)

After we returned to the summit we wandered into the Summit House to use the bathroom and found Mom sitting at a table in the snack bar area happily watching the action and playing games on her iPad. She'd tried to text us (yes we had cell phone signal up there!) but neither of us had gotten the text.

Soon after joining back with Mom we headed down to have lunch at the cafe at Great Glen Trails, which was really good! After lunch we headed down the road to Pinkham Notch to the visitor center and two short trails - about a mile & a half total distance.

We drove to the Ellis Falls parking area and Mom dropped us off and headed back to Pinkham Notch. We hiked down more than 100 stone steps to see Ellis Falls. It was a neat river and a pretty cool waterfall!

When we got back up we headed toward Wildcat Ridge to pick up the AT and hike past Long Pond and then back to Pinkham Notch. This is where the fun started! In order to get the Wildcat Ridge Trail and the AT we had to cross the Ellis River. We started out rock hopping, which gave us yet another chance to fully appreciate our Oboz! I got to about the middle of the River when I decided that the rocks were just too far apart to step from one to the other so since I was on a big rock I sat down & took off my shoes. The water wasn't cold and it wasn't very deep either so I just waded from rock to rock! Dad soon also ended up taking off his shoes! Soon we were on the side, with our shoes on ready to proceed!

Once we got to the AT we thought it was going to be smooth sailing, however we were wrong. The trail was a poorly blazed rock maze. We were climbing over under and through rocks and there were no indications that we were on the right trail or not. I saw one white blaze, but it was old and worn and barely visible. Where there was dirt it was pretty packed indicating that it was a well traveled trail. I finally pulled out my phone and sure enough I had signal and I checked Google Maps - the AT was marked on the map and my "you are here" dot, was right on the trail, so unless the AMC had re-routed the trail and it wasn't in Google Maps, we were right! Eventually the rocks thinned out and trail mantainence was obvious, even though there were still no white blazes! I'm not sure what was up with the AMC and why that section isn't better marked! It's always these "short/easy" hikes where we get into trouble! Not sure what it up with that!



We were almost back to Pinkham Notch when some southbound Thru-Hikers caught us! We chatted with them the rest of the way! They seemed really excited and very clean - they were only 300 miles into their thru-hike, whereas the hikers I saw in PA were over 1000 miles into their hike!

From Pinkham Notch we headed back to the campground, making a few stops/detours to check out where things are that we will need later in the week!

As we left Pinkham Notch it started to rain and according to everyone we talk to it's supposed to continue through Wed, our weather channel and weather bug apps aren't on board with that forecast, but my bet is that the locals are correct. Not sure what there is do in the rain around here! Glad we went up Mt. Washington today!



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