06 22 2015.

hiking: mts jackson, pierce, and eisenhower

Earlier in the week, Darren and I had planned a hike that involved getting Jackson and Pierce. (Remember that time I had intended to do Webster and Jackson only to miss Jackson completely and end up 6 miles up the road on Rt. 302?) This was our “make-up” hike to try to bag that peak! After examining our AMC maps for a little bit, we realized that we could hit Eisenhower if we added on 3 more miles. We proposed this idea to our hiking friends and everyone seemed on board. So we added Eisenhower to the list of peaks to hit on Saturday!

On Saturday morning, we left Portland at 6am to try to get a start time of 8:15-8:30. And thus, the hike began.

(For a more detailed report on the Webster-Jackson trail before the Webster/Jackson fork, check out my hiking report for Webster Mountain.)

(Map photo © AMC White Mountain Guide)

The base of the Webster-Jackson Trail extends 1.3 miles before it forks. Like the last time we were there, the trail was pretty muddy and slick. Luckily we all had sturdy hiking boots. I would not recommend sneakers or anything that isn’t at least water resistant! It seems to be pretty common to be encountering mud and little rivers along the way. (Even if there wasn’t rain recently!)

It was nice to be able to stand on the Bugle Cliff this time and see over 302 without a haze! We had hiked this high up in less than 25 minutes on the trails!

We veered left at the fork and continued along the Jackson Branch of the trail for another 1.2 miles. Those 1.2 miles passed quickly. The elevation gain was really gradual – not strenuous at all. We held a constant conversation during that time on the trail.

The trail did become more of a rock climbing experience right before the summit. We spent maybe 10 minutes climbing over big boulders on our hands and knees. It was actually exhilarating – despite not being in any real danger, it felt dangerous!

I was so excited to reach the peak of Jackson! (Second time’s the charm.) By this point, around 10:00, we decided to sit down for a bit and refuel with a snack. The summit was beautiful – I was surprised, since I knew the summit to be under the tree line. The temperature was around 60 degrees, which was warm to us since we had been moving! After 10-15 minutes, the cool breeze started to feel cold so we decided to keep going.

Onward to Pierce!

This section of trail was quite possibly the best of the entire day. We descended quite a bit, which was a little hard on the body. We had to take it slow since the rocks were a little wet, but were well rewarded with some beautiful flat meadows.

I loved the meadows. They were so beautiful and kind of unexpected 3,000+ ft above sea level! They were also large enough that you could see the White Mountains surrounding you from all sides! It was humbling.

Soon after, we arrived at the Mizpah hut. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I had never seen a hut on the Appalachian Trail before (aside from the Lake of the Clouds Hut which was closed off to us at the time). It was really cute inside! Some hikers were cooking – it smelled like delicious soup – and others were chatting. I loved the environment – it seemed really communal.

We decided not to stop for too long, since we still had the majority of the hike ahead of us and we were quickly approaching noon.

Heading on to Pierce, we got separated a bit. I was in the front group with Darren and Josh and Jess and PD held back a bit. Jess was having some stomach issues after the snack on Jackson and PD had experienced a pretty bad Charley Horse in his leg that rendered him limping for a bit!

I ended up following two hikers (a male and a female) closely behind. I could hear a bit of their conversation and gathered that they were getting to know each other. I figured that they were both AT thru-hikers who had met somewhere along the way and were sticking together for parts of the trail. I caught a glimpse of the back of the man’s leg and spotted the Ironman tattoo. I couldn’t help myself – I asked, “Have you done an Ironman!?” The two turned around, really excited, and talked to me! Turns out, he had done multiple Ironmans and run 30+ marathons! The woman was an ultrarunner!

I ran into the woman AT hiker again on Pierce as she was recording a video of the summit for her family. I talked with her a little bit longer and discovered that she was actually doing the whole AT and her trail name was Cashmere. She had a great explanation about the name, too, about why the name fits her. She was such a wonderful woman to talk to, I would have loved to tag along and make conversation, but Pierce was our lunch spot, so we stopped.

We reconvened with Jess and PD on the summit of Pierce and sat down for some lunch. The views were amazing! We could see much more around us than on Jackson – roughly 270 degrees around us. The general mood was really cheerful. A group of hikers wearing purple shirts arrived at the summit, approaching from Eisenhower. They were part of an Alzheimer’s “The Longest Day” hike effort. I talked with a male hiker for a bit about how the trail to Eisenhower was and was really excited to move along!

The Mount Washington Hotel!

So we kept moving along. 1.6 miles to the summit of Eisenhower. Again, Darren, Josh, and I ended up a bit ahead of the other two, so we stopped often to look back and wait. Our progress was definitely slowed but we had practically raced up Jackson so we definitely had time to spare. I had been hoping to reach Eisenhower at or around noon (which was a seriously optimistic estimate, and by the time we got to Pierce, wildly incorrect) because Backpacking Magazine was going to be there to film and talk to hikers! I thought that was a cool opportunity, but one that we unfortunately missed.

The hike to Eisenhower was actually the easiest section of the trail. Though it was the tallest summit of the three by almost 400 ft and there were some descents and climbs between Pierce and Eisenhower, it was totally manageable and we were warmed up by then!

We waited up for Jess & PD close to the summit so that we could all reach the peak together. It’s a huge deal! 3 summits in one day – all Presidentials! I was so proud of us all.

Jess & PD were feeling much better at this point, which was a saving grace since we still had 4.6 miles to go (about 1/3 of the day’s distance) before we’d be at the car!

Partly from the excitement of finishing such a huge hike and the promise of a delicious hard-earned dinner in North Conway, we raced down the mountain. We covered the final 3 miles in about an hour – a group of hikers on a mission!

By the trail measurements on the map, we covered a little more than 12 miles. According to PD’s GPS that accounted for zig-zagging on the trails and avoiding mud, we covered 14.1 miles.

What a hike! It feels like such an accomplishment – I loved every bit of it and was blown away by the views from the summits. There are quite a few summits in the White Mountains that don’t yield views – well these mountains were quite the opposite! I would absolutely do these again. We were so lucky to have the weather we did and the perfect company. The weather brought out some really happy and talkative hikers (myself included!) so I loved chatting with a few people!

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