08 15 2014.

hiking: webster mountain

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I decided to take Thursday off from work to get a little bit of hiking in. My best friend was up from Pennsylvania for the week and since it’s rare for us to spend more than a few hours together on these visits, this was also the perfect opportunity to see more of each other.

We planned the hike over the course of the week, intending at first to do Saddleback, but the promise of a Thursday thunderstorm put a stop to those plans. New Hampshire’s White Mountains had a better forecast so we switched up our hike to Webster and Jackson mountains.

Wednesday night we had some torrential downpour. There was flooding in Portland which doesn’t actually happen that often! I was a bit concerned that the rain would linger and we’d end up hiking a washed out trail. Morning came and it was actually gorgeous out. My friend met us at our apartment and we took off.

We parked at the Highland Center and walked a few minutes down the road to the trailhead. It was foggy and chilly at around 63 degrees, so we put on our sweatshirts. Almost immediately we knew that it was going to be a wet hike. Little streams had formed on the trail as the mountain attempted to rid itself of the rain from the night before.

Soon enough, as we started ascending, we were shedding our layers. It wasn’t really that difficult of a hike. It was made more difficult by slippery trail conditions, but I’d call it moderate.

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About a half mile up the Webster-Jackson Trail, we came to Bugle Cliff. Bugle Cliff is a small ledge that overlooks Crawford Notch and 302. We were just below the clouds and fog at this point.

A little ways up the trail, we came to our first river to cross. This was relatively easy as you could walk to the edge of the rock on the near side of the water and “fall into” the rock on the far side – which was much larger.

There were two older gentlemen hiking the trail. It was at this point, on the river, that we ran into them. One of the men, claiming to be the “Mountain Man,” guided us across and took our picture. He also informed us that it was good luck to have your picture taken by the Mountain Man.

A little further on, we came to a fork in the path. We could choose to summit Jackson first or Webster. Because Jackson was the real prize of the hike, we decided to do Webster first, hoping that the fog would burn off at the day got warmer.

Almost immediately after the fork, we had to cross a second river. This one was exciting. Though never truly difficult, it took a bit of planning to cross.

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Without much trouble, we reached Webster’s summit (in the clouds), stopped for a bit of lunch, and continued on.

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After a mile or so, we were confused by how much we had descended – and we knew Jackson Mountain to be 100 ft. higher than Webster. We took out our AMC guide and realized that we had continued down the wrong path! Oops. Because we had guests coming to visit us that evening, we knew that we didn’t have time to retrace our steps and continue to Jackson (which would have added another hour or two to the hike). We continued on. I was disappointed for a little bit until we realized that we were now on a section of the Appalachian Trail! (Heading southbound.) My friend was especially excited because she plans to hike southbound on the AT next summer – so this was a little introduction.

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We ran into two women – Jackie and Dallas who had started the AT in Georgia back in March and February. They had less than 300 miles to go until Katahdin! We chatted with them for a bit and asked about gear. Jackie informed us that she stayed, for the first time on the trail, in a hotel the night before – as the downpour had forced her to a halt. At some point, we emerged onto a ledge near a stealth camp and realized that the fog had burned off and it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon!

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We emerged from the trail onto a part of 302 four miles from our car. The descent had been really hard on our knees and ankles, so we were all a bit sluggish. We decided to try to hitchhike. (Sidenote: I’ve never hitchhiked before and though I was slightly nervous at the idea, I was also excited to experience another “first.”)

Two miles down the road, we still hadn’t been picked up. We had almost given up when a man pulled over. He had room for all three of us and, as it turns out, he was also headed to the highland center! We asked him a bit about hiking, since he had a pack in his trunk. He informed us that he works for the AMC and does hut maintenance. (So that explains his trust in hikers!) It was fun chatting with someone who was so knowledgeable about the White Mountains. Now I want his job…

Even though we didn’t get to summit Mt. Jackson, we still had a blast waterfall-hopping, talking to some AT hikers and hitchhiking! Every time I find myself in the White Mountains, I become more and more convinced that that’s where I want to stay. This hike was no exception. It was a beautiful trail. Thank goodness, too – because I’m going to have to hike it again if I want to cross Jackson off my list!


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