Mt Madison Foliage Hike
Full Day Hike DATE: 10/06/2021 - 10/06/2021
Trip/Event Location: Randolph, NH
Trip Leader(s): phoenix
Max # People: 10
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
We will hike up the Air Line Trail and take the Airline Cutoff to the Madison Spring Hut. (The hut will already have closed for the season.) From the hut, we will take the Osgood trail to the...
We will meet at Appalachia parking area on Route 2.
Fred, James, Martin, Mo, and Steve joined me for this hike. Everyone was at the trailhead on time, so we started hiking up Air Line at 8:40. We immediately encountered the fork in the trail, where Valley Way veers left as we continued on Air Line to the right. In quick succession, we hiked Air Line past its intersections with The Link, Sylvan Way, Beechwood Way, Short Line, and Randolph Path. We were surely making great progress, never mind we had only navigated a mere 0.9 miles through this prolific trail maze!
Air Line was a bit wet and muddy in places, so we needed to watch our steps. Nevertheless we carried on lively conversations, starting with the usual queries regarding one’s type of employment or retirement. Somehow the conversation took a radical turn into a discussion of a Barbie doll as well as the associated, anatomically incomplete Ken doll.
We passed the intersection with Scar Trail and continued upward. When we came upon the intersection with Chemin des Dames (Lady’s Way), four women who had just hiked up King Ravine using that trail were resting. We stopped to chat with them before continuing ever upward. As we were approaching tree line, the sun was directly aligned with Air Line, and thus, in our faces. We felt the sunlight was lifting us to the heavenly views on the bare ridge above. There we took in the awesome views into King Ravine and the autumn colors below. (The foliage is on schedule to “peak” over the upcoming holiday weekend for leaf peepers.)
I had a hidden agenda in posting this hike. It was to traverse the 0.2 mile Airline Cutoff that leads to the Madison Spring Hut. Thereupon, I would finally grasp the “Holy Grail” of Redlining – to have hiked all the trails in the AMC White Mountain Guide (around 1450 miles). To celebrate I had brought some chocolate candy to share, so when we reached the hut we paused to eat the candy. (The hut is already boarded up to survive another vicious, presidential winter.) Wisecracking friend Mo claimed he is bluelining. That simply means celebrating after every hike he does rather than setting a huge goal such as redlining the 627 trails described in the White Mountain guide!
Then all five co-hikers voiced consent to continue to the summit of Mt Madison, 0.5 miles and 500 feet elevation gain via Osgood Trail. We reached the summit shortly before 1 p.m. We could see some lower elevation peaks, but the Mt Washington and Mt Adams summits were covered by clouds. To add insult to injury, the Madison summit was a bit bug infested. I made history by suffered a bug bite on my left arm this late in the season!
The weather forecast had called for a mostly sunny sky, with a high temperature of 50 degrees, and wind speeds of 5-20 mph. The clouds from the previous day were to be gone by midmorning. The Mt Madison summit had a mostly cloudy sky, but the air temperature was probably well above 50 degrees (I was down to T-shirt and shorts), and there was no wind. But if you have hiked in the Whites, you expect actual conditions on your summit may vary considerably from what was forecasted.
The clouds teased us that they might clear away. However, only the Wildcat Range to the east and the hairpin turn of the Mt Washington road at the four mile marker came into view. But in my trip posting, I had advertised magnificent views of the Presidential Range. I always try to have a Plan B when I’m trip leader to quell co-hikers thoughts of mutiny. By setting the WABAC (Wayback) Machine to 8/17/2002, the date I climbed Mt Madison from the other end of Osgood Trail, I retrieved a summit picture from that clear day. Using that picture, I revealed to my co-hikers what was behind today’s clouds! (That picture is also posted in this trip report.)
We retraced our steps back to the hut and headed down Valley Way. Like Air Line, Valley Way was wet and muddy. Once again we carefully watched where to put our feet and avoided slipping or falling. To stay on Valley Way, we carefully noted the signs at the numerous trail junctions. The group was less chatty in descending than we had been in ascending and on the summit.
We were back at our cars after hiking for 8 hours, besting my originally projected time by a half hour. We had ascended 4050 feet to touch the clouds, which is just 200 feet less than hiking from Pinkham Notch to the Mt Washington summit. Although the spectacular view of Mt Washington had only been seen in a picture, all my fellow hikers were greatly impressed looking into the precipitous King Ravine and by the foliage. All in all, a very successful hike with excellent GO members, if I may say so myself!
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