Member Trip report
Northern Presidential Range Backpack
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
Robert and I met up at the Appalachia Trailhead on Route 2 in Randolph on Friday morning (November 24th). It was just before 8AM and it was mostly overcast and in the mid to upper 20's. We got quickly ready and headed off on the Air Line Trail.
The trail was modest in grade and only covered by a dusting of snow initially. As we climbed, there was increasing snow cover and patches of ice. Still it was manageable without additional traction. By 10AM we entered a stretch of serious blowdowns from the October storm. Twenty minutes later we were started to get views of the ridgeline and luckily it appeared that the clouds were starting to lift. At 10:30 we reached treeline and we popped out onto the rocky ridge, with views to the summits and down into King Ravine. It was along this section, that the skies totally cleared. We turned towards the Madison Hut and just before arriving, we were joined by a few other hikers, who had come up the Valley Way. We took a short break and dropped our packs for the ascent of Mt. Madison. This relatively short ascent was rocky and icy in spots, but the views were magnificient (Washington, Adams and the Carter Range were clear as a bell) all the way up. We reached the summit of Mt. Madison (5367') at 11:40AM. The winds were fairly strong, so we didn't hang out too long and we re-traced our steps back to the Madison Hut. It was about 12:20PM, when we got back to the hut and we had our lunch break.
After lunch we proceeded onto Mt. Adams by way of the Gulfside Trail. Before we left the hut we doned our microspikes finally. This was fairly steep and by 12:45 we turned back onto the Air Line Trail for the final segment to the summit. This was modest at first and then progressively became steeper. At 1:20 we were standing on the summit of NH's second highest peak at 5774 feet. The views were even more incredible with the near crystal-clear air. Despite the winds we hung out on the summit for about 10 minutes before starting down the opposite side on our way to Thunderstorm Junction, which we made by 1:45. Here we continued to descend the range by way of Lowe's Path. This had a bit more snow and was not as well traveled, so our progress was a bit slower. We reached the treeline by about 2:30 and in another 10 minutes we were at the Gray Knob Trail junction. The Gray Knob cabin was only a tenth of a mile off the trail and we reached it only a few minutes later. This Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) cabin was a small two-story structure tucked into the woods at an elevation of about 4400 feet. When we first arrived the caretaker was out on rounds, but there were two other hikers already here. It was cozy inside with an upstairs loft for sleeping. We hung out until the caretaker returned, when we paid and I volunteered to get water from the nearby spring. By the time that I returned more people had showed up and it wasn't long before we were about 11-12 others for the night. Also, the caretaker had started the wood stove. Robert was once again in his element, since about half of the hikers were French! We had our dinners and then spent the rest of the evening chatting with the other hikers and the caretaker. We turned in shortly after 8PM.
In the morning, we started to get up just after 6AM. I was surprised how warm it was. The thermometer read 38F and the morning trip to the outhouse was not too cold at all! There was a temperature inversion with cooler temperatures in the valley...pretty amazing considering the elevation. After a leisurely breakfast and re-packing, we headed back out at 8AM, where we took the Gray Knob Trail all the way over to Edmands Col. We had put our microspikes on again for the additional traction. The trail climbed modestly as it pretty much followed the contours over to the col. There were a couple of footprints from the previous day, so it was even easier knowing where to step across the snow-covered rocks. There were great views of Mt. Jefferson and its Castellated Ridge along the way. It was overcast, but the cloud ceiling was well above the peak. We arrived at Edmands Col by 9:20. We took a short break and then began our ascent of the peak. The trail climbed steeply through a crag as the we made our way up to the Gulfside Trail's cut-off for the summit. We arrived here only 15 minutes later and we decided to drop our packs for the rest of the way to the top. We reached the summit of Mt. Jefferson (5712') at 10:05, with increasingly clearing skies. The winds were again very strong across the peak and we stayed long enough to take in the views. On our way down we ran into a young solo hiker who had already come across Madison and Adams. By the time we again reached Edmands Col again (10:45), he had already summited and caught up with us. We chatted a bit and then we started back down the way we came. At 11:20 we reached the junction with the Randolph Path and turned onto this trail for the return trip. For the most part, this trail was gradual with a few tricky spots. Except for one small blowdown, the rest of the trail seemed to have already been cleared. We followed this trail most of the way back to Appalachia through a number of trail junctions. We crossed Lowe's Path at 12:30 and the Spur Trail at 1PM. We turned onto the Short Line at approximately 1:45 and we re-joined the Air Line Trail at just before 2PM. We reached the parking lot again at 2:20.
This was an amazing November backpack! The weather more than cooperated and yielded clear skies, spectacular views and fairly warm temperatures. The RMC cabin provided a great option for "winter" hiking up on this part of the Presidential Range and it great to share an evening with other hikers. As always, it was nice to hike with Robert and he really wanted to do an overnight after Thanksgiving. From there we jointly figured out the plan (we both had wanted to do something that involved the cabin)!
Total mileage and elevation gain: Appoximately 16 miles and 6500 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
There are 50 photos in Album (Note: Move mouse pointer over larger pic and click on NEXT for better viewing)
I was so happy that this Thanksgiving trek worked out - nature is a deep source of inspiration for me and a force of true healing for when I'm feeling down. The weather was top ten and the Gray Knob hut was brilliant. To top it off two of the other Gray Knob guests played the guitar and we were treated to some low key guitar jamming - a sweet way to spend hut time with friends new and old!!