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10 June 2011

A Beginning and Ending on Mt. Washington

Although my friend Marty and I both feel a slight twinge of guilt when we do this, once every so often we will treat ourselves by driving to the top of Mt. Washington and launching a hike from the top.  I suppose you could think of it as a top-down approach, rather than the more traditional bottom-up method.  Our qualms about using the Auto Road are somewhat mitigated by reminding ourselves that over our individual hiking careers, we have used the traditional manner for hiking to all the NH 4K peaks (including Mt. Washington), and have hiked to countless other mountains over the years. 

And so, this past Friday (10-June) Marty and I did what could be coined as a modified loop hike which began and ended at the Mt. Washington summit.  Shown below is a map of our 5-mile route.
As we ascended the Auto Road, we started to wonder if the overcast would eventually clear, as it was predicted to do.  The following two photos show the overcast.  One of these snapshots includes Marty capturing the scene with his camera.
Once we arrived at the summit, we headed over to the summit building to use the facilities before embarking on our modified loop hike.  The scene at the top was the usual touristy-conglomerate of cog railroad passengers, etc.
It was a delight to leave the summit and enter into the more serene world below Washington's summit.  As we descended, the overcast waxed and waned over the ridges and ravines.  On the approach to Tuckerman Ravine, we could see a huge cloud bank rapidly approaching the headwall from the west.  It was almost like watching an avalanche happen!  Within a second or two after snapping the photo below, Tuckerman Ravine was completely engulfed!
Speaking of Tuckerman Ravine, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail was closed on the day we were there because of icy conditions on the upper portions of the trail corridor.
By the time we arrived at the junction of the Alpine Garden Trail and the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, the fog bank had cleared from the ravine.   We stopped to snap several photos, and as seen in the snapshot below, there was still some lingering snow.   Several hikers reported seeing some die-hard backcountry skiers making some runs earlier in the day.
As we climbed upward to meet up with the Lawn Cutoff Trail, there was a huge snow field just a few feet off the side of the trail.  The photo below shows a portion of the snow field in the foreground with Tuckerman Ravine in the distance.
Before continuing any further, I want to interject that we saw some marvelous displays of wildflowers throughout the course of our trek.  The photo below shows an attractive collage of wildflowers, lichens, mosses, sedges which was artfully created by Mother Nature.
Although not nearly as creative as Mother Nature's composition, shown below is a collage of my photos of some of the wildflowers we saw during the course of our hike.  Of the ones that I remember, we saw: Alpine Bluet, Alpine Azalea, Bog Laurel, Bunchberry, Diapensia, Labrador Tea, Mountain Aven.   
When Marty and I do our occasional adventure from the top of Mt. Washington, we try to incorporate at least one trail that one or the other of us has never hiked.  For this particular trek, the Camel Trail was a new experience for both of us.  I'm uncertain it this is technically correct, but I think the Camel Trail would run along the far southern end of the area known as Bigelow Lawn.  Regardless, the next photo shows a scene that includes a very "lawn-like" area in the foreground with the Montalban Ridge/Oakes Gulf stretching out beyond.
As we continued westward along the Camel Trail, the shapely image of Mt. Monroe was ever-present.   The lighting was never quite right to get a super nice photo.  We must have each snapped a dozen or more photos as the lighting on the mountain faded in and out.  Below is the best snapshot I managed to get.
Besides Mt. Monroe, the Camel Trail also provided some different perspectives on Mt. Washington.  Shown below is one view of Mt. Washington from the Camel Trail.
When we arrived at the junction of the Camel Trail and Crawford Path, we got the classic view of Mt. Monroe as viewed over the Lakes of the Clouds.
Next on our itinerary was to climb to the top of Mt. Monroe.  Although we've both visited this mountaintop on many occasions, it's never boring to experience the vistas from here time after time.   Each person has their favorite views from any given spot.  One of my favorite views from Mt. Monroe is looking down at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut nestled among the high peaks of the Presidential Range.
Speaking of the Hut, the winds were quite mild-mannered on the day of our trek, but breezy enough for some folks at the Hut to enjoy flying a kite.  At the top center of the photo below, you can sort of see the kite .
The final leg of our journey was the climb back to the top of Mt. Washington via the Crawford Path.   The photo below shows the view of our destination as seen over Lakes of the Clouds.

To sum it up, we spent an awesome day above tree line as we leisurely trekked along various hiking trails on the south side of the Mt. Washington summit.  It will be awhile before we treat ourselves again to the use of the Auto Road to launch a hiking adventure.  However, we already have some preliminary plans for doing a modified loop off the north side of Mt. Washington the next time around.


NeoAkela said...

Beautiful shots of the best time of year on the mountain! Good to see the alpine flowers are still out in force!

Grant said...

Nice pictures! This is definitely an interesting place to start and end a hike! How is the drive down the road, I would think that is the scariest part.

1HappyHiker said...

@NeoAkela: Yup! The alpine flowers were out in force, and there were others that were budded and getting ready to bloom. So, I think for the immediate future, there will still be wildflowers up there to enjoy.

@Grant: Regarding the drive DOWN the Auto Road, Marty did all the driving this time in his car. However, on a couple of separate occasions, I’ve driven my own car when accompanied by my wife. It’s really not all that scary coming DOWN if you keep your car in low gear, and keep your speed at 20 mph (or below). There are plenty of spots to pull-off, not only cool your brakes, but also to let other folks pass you who prefer to go faster than 20 mph! Also, rather than drive close to the edge of the road (where it can be scary), I often drive in the middle of the road. When there is an oncoming car, I just pull into my lane and nearly come to a stop until they pass by me.

Thanks guys for taking a moment to post a comment!


Mark Truman said...

Spectacular! I read and replied to the abbreviated version on the forum but as always was happy that I ended up here for the full version. Truly looking forward to our trip up there this weekend after this great preview! Glad to know that the alpine flowers will be out in force to greet us as well.

1HappyHiker said...

Mark . . . thank you for your reply.

You have my best wishes for a thoroughly delightful hike in the Presidentials! And even if the weather is overcast, that shouldn't interfere with ogling the wildflowers!:-)