Having returned from a week in Vermont and left with but one week left before school, I wanted to fit in one more midweek hike in New Hampshire. I’ve not considered myself a peakbagger, pursuing the ADK 46 or New England Four Thousand Footers, or New England’s Hundred Highest. But lately, I’ve come to see lists like cookbooks--an external means to expand my scope of options to consider. So I think I may be beginning to pursue New Hampshire’s 4k’ers.
In my visits to the Presidential Range, I’d always managed to miss the summit of Monroe. Once I was mere yards away, but in the fog thought I’d already attained the peak. With Wednesday’s weather forecasted to be superb, I consulted TEO. Although he suggested other hikes I had both pondered and not thought of, he advised that the Southern Presidentials offered outstanding views in good weather.
Initially, I had tended towards including the Dry River drainage in my hike, since I enjoy traipsing along less-travelled paths. But the Webster-Jackson-Webster Cliff-Crawford seemed to offer the best combination of peaks, views, and timeliness.
Setting out from Crawford Notch at 8:30 a.m., I did not meet any other hikers until the junction with the Webster Cliff Trail. As I climbed, I enjoyed the gothic character of the steep hillside and its rocks, ledges, thick forest, and cliffs --it seemed to me something that Caspar David Friedrich would have seized upon for subjects. The sublime greeted me as I reached the summit of Webster and the chasm of Crawford Notch.
As I worked my way north along the ridge, views of the Dry River valley, Eisenhower, Franklin, Monroe, and Washington continued to humble me with the sublimity of the landscape. Aside from population pockets atop Webster, Jackson, Pierce/Clinton, and Eisenhower, I strolled swiftly enough to afford myself largely solitary enjoyment of the majesty.
Cursing the mandatory detour of the southwest sub-peak of Monroe, I decided that I would linger behind a rock at the summit and refuel sheltered from the breeze. Yards from the summit itself, as if on some cue, a Blackhawk rescue helicopter burst over the rocks above me. I had not heard a sound but the wind, until the rotor blades cutting my locks. I watched it fly just above the ridge southwards but turned to finish my climb as it neared Pierce/Clinton.
Prodded by Aeolus, after devouring the views, I sat plopped down in the lee of a boulder and turned my appetite to food. Two lovely young ladies surprised me--I had thought the crowds far behind. But they were making their way from Madison Hut to Crawford Notch, and had managed to catch sunrise from Adams. That must have been nice. I took a few pictures of them for them, and then headed back to the Crawford Notch.
Along the way, I encountered faces familiar from earlier in the day. They asked about the trip ahead of them. I briefly chatted with some ATers at the southern junction of Crawford and Eisenhower Loop. I hope my advice to detour for the summits of Eisenhower and Monroe was okay; darkish clouds had already swallowed Washington and seemed to be licking their lips at Monroe. After passing Mizpah Cutoff, I stopped to allow two caretakers to pass as they carried supplies up to the hut. Big loads and seemingly uncomfortable packs. Still, the rigid frames they used undoubtedly make the burden as tolerable as possible.
Just shy of 5:30, I arrived back at my car. TEO was right: hike the Southern Presidentials when the weather is clear. The views of Crawford Notch, the Sandwich Range, the Pemigewasset and its peaks, Franconia Ridge, Washington, etc., etc., etc., are superb. Even though they would not capture the sublime environment, I am sorry
not to contribute pictures for this post. Along with the sunblock, I
kick myself for having forgotten my camera.
Only 33 left.
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