09 29 2014.

hiking: mt. washington

This Mt. Washington hiking trip had been planned for a little over a month. Needless to say, it was a hike that was very much anticipated. It was extra special knowing that I’d get to summit the tallest mountain in New England on my birthday weekend!

We arrived at the Cog Railway hiker’s parking lot around 8:30am. I had been hydrating like crazy on the drive over. Luckily, we were able to use the Cog Railway Station restrooms before starting our hike, around 8:45. The group consisted of: Cole, Chris, Darren, Josh, Jess, PD and myself.

Up the Jewell Trail.
It was a brisk 50 degrees out: just cool enough for an outer layer. Once we got moving, the air felt crisp and refreshing. Every now and then we’d get a little breeze that cooled our sweat.

Cole, Chris and I led the group at breakneck speed. I’m not kidding, either. We were hauling up the mountain. The conversation was great – we talked about beer, running and cars. It was interesting to hear Chris and Cole riff off of each other. Though I had heard much about Chris from the rest of the group, this was my first time meeting him. We took breaks often to look at the sights, take photos and wait for the others to catch up. I had initially expected us all to stay together, but our group consisted of three perfectly divided ability levels, so no one was left alone and we were all able to hike comfortably.

Every now and then we could hear the Cog Railway, as the Jewell Trail follows roughly the same route as the railway. We hadn’t been hiking for very long before we found ourselves above the treeline. Almost immediately, when we emerged, there was a gorgeous lookout area. It was the perfect place to stop, have a snack, and wait for the others to catch up.

At last we were moving again. We could see the observatory and tower. We knew we still had over two miles to hike, but the observatory just looked so close! The hike at this point became a bit rough. We were climbing over pretty big rocks and many of them were loose! It was also tough to see exactly where the trail went, since it felt like a lot of zig-zagging to reach each cairn. At one point, we reached a wide ridge where we could peer down into Huntington Ravine on the east side. I was shocked by how far we could see! The past few hikes I had done in NH, visibility was so poor. The blue sky was miraculous and the breeze kept us cool.

One mile until the summit! The observatory was extremely close now. Chris, Cole, Josh and I raced to the top. We had a goal of reaching the top by noon – with one mile or 20 minutes to go. We were starving. Not just belly rumbling, “I could eat something” hungry. Wobbly legs, feeling weak, actually needing to fuel – starving. Deciding to join the Gulfside trail we finished the remaining quarter mile or so on the Auto Road. That was the steepest part of the whole hike! We made it right on time!

We wasted no time at all heading to the snack bar. Unfortunately, Darren had our lunch in his pack so I had to wait for him, Jess and PD to catch up for me to eat! When they arrived, I shoveled two hard-boiled eggs and some nuts down. Despite wanting to avoid utilizing the cafe food at the top (in the name of good ol’fashioned hiking!), I had decided a few hours before that I was craving a lemon-lime gatorade.

After sitting down for a bit and recovering, it came to our attention that one of our group members was sick and unable to eat. Yikes! If there’s one thing that I’m an advocate for, it’s food and drink for fuel. We knew that she hadn’t eaten much for breakfast and very little on the way up. I was really nervous at that point – I didn’t want any emergencies! It would have been seriously dangerous for her to continue down on an empty stomach.

We hung around at the top for a while longer, waiting to see if her condition improved. Without much luck, PD was willing to stay back with her and encouraged the rest of us to continue. If need be, they could take the train down. We took in the sights a bit and got some photos before descending!

Down we went! We took the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail because we really wanted to see the Lakes of the Clouds and the hut. Darren, Chris and Josh had also been on this trail before and it was a unanimous favorite!

We made quick work of the descent, covering 1.5 miles in about 45 minutes. The lakes were gorgeous! They reflected the sky perfectly. We took a long break here just to take in the cool breeze and stick our feet in.

Immediately after the hut, the trail got tricky. There were a lot of flat-rock descents that were quite slippery. Our pace slowed significantly at this point, but after about a half mile, we were under the tree line and crossing some streams. Though I fully recognize that the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail has more sights to see, it also seemed like the foliage was more beautiful on this side too. Maybe it was the angle of the sun at that time, but the descent felt much more colorful and cheerful!

It only took us 2 hours to reach the Cog Railway station from the top, even with our breaks! Once we reached the bottom, at 4:00, I saw that PD had texted me. Jess was feeling much better and they started their descent, along the same trail, about an hour and a half behind us.

This had to have been my favorite hike of the year, specifically for the company and the weather. I loved that we could see for miles from the top. The leaves were bright gold, red and orange. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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