Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mount Crawford

Crawford Notch to the left, much of the southern Presi's ridgeline all the way to Washington (in the clouds) just right of center.
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip 
Duration: 3 hours 

Yesterday, the pups and I, including Molly who is with us for the week, took a hike up Mt Crawford in Crawford Notch.  We were to meet up with friends from Mass but they were delayed and I made the decision to get underway, much to the relief of two very antsy dingoes!

The summit is reached via the Davis Path and a small (.3 mi) spur trail to finish off the ascent.  The Davis Path holds a lot of history and was originally built for horses so the grades are moderate.  They didn't quite seem it when we started out though, as I tried to make up for lost time!

Our hike started as a nice, 15 minute walk and I noticed the leaves are being packed down nicely by foot traffic.

The first set of rock stairs indicated the start of the incline and is likely very enjoyable if one take's her time, unlike what I was doing!

From about .8 miles in to a couple tenths shy of the junction the trail was pretty uniform.  While it wasn't steep, it did not offer many breaks, reminding me of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Hermit Lake Shelter.

A couple slow switchbacks maintained the grade we'd been accustomed to as the elevation rose. Fifty minutes into our hike, the trail evened out quite nicely and I knew were were nearing the junction.  Before that point, we came upon the first open, rocky vista.  Since we were now exposed to the wind (on and off), I put on my shell and put Ty's new Quinzee coat, courtesy of Backcountry K-9 for testing, over her pack.  The trail headed back into the trees, then over more exposed areas before reaching the junction.
A couple icy patches but nothing like what we
traversed on the Crawford Path two weeks ago.

 The spur started off heading straight up a steep incline.  The trail weaved between open rock faces and pines for most of its .3 mile/10 minute duration, barely gaining elevation.  Within a hundred yards of the summit, Ty knew we were close and started to trot.  I tried to keep up but ledges + dog on leash + random patches of ice put me more at a speed walk pace!  Looking down for footing, I always love how sudden the first glimpse of the Presidentials is.  Just up ahead was the official summit and ledges.  There were a couple small herd paths, they'll all get you to the right place and the summit is relatively small.  Catching views of all the snow-capped peaks on the drive to the trailhead, I had fantasies of epic pictures to come with all the pups.  Those thoughts quickly fizzled when I asked for a "sit stay" and got it - with pouting, puckered faces at the strong wind and disdain for standing still.  I abandoned my efforts and we headed down at a good clip.
The pitch at the beginning of the spur

First glimpse of the Presi's
My oh-so cooperative team.  To their credit, at least they stuck
with their positions when the wind blew!

About 20 minutes later, after cruising back onto the Davis Path, we ran into our friends we had intended to hike up with, Maeghan and Renato, on their way up.  After some contemplation, they turned around and we headed down together.  For the most part, after the first quarter mile or so, I was somewhat surprised by the ease of the descent.  We could've jogged it!  I suppose that means if one doesn't try to power up faster than necessary, the ascent isn't so difficult either.  There was not much picking around rocks and the grade was perfect for a fast speed - elevation loss was quick enough to pick up the pace but not so steep we spent our energy trying to slow down.

An hour later, we were back at our cars.  This is a great short hike.  Maeghan has some nasty knee issues for her youth but did excellent, heading both up and down.  While she and Renato missed the summit, they had done the vast majority of the elevation gain.  The rocky slabs they missed offer fantastic views that take me aback, even on cloudy days.  At times, they are easy to get a little off trail on.  Thankfully, I have dogs I trust implicitly and who never steer me wrong, but I finally (third time up this trail) noticed the faded blazes on the ground.  Those will help too!

The girls, naturally, napped in the car but could've gone for hours more.  Tango did quite well after a warm-up period; the grade and good footing were beneficial to him and he took the whole hike in stride.  There were not many water sources this time of year for them but there are a few patches of ice.  They absolutely love exploring the exposed slabs and I love how enchanting and easy the last half mile or so is, skirting in and out of the evergreens. As nice as this trail is, I am really looking forward to snowshoe season!

Post hike shenanigans - Ty inspecting under the hood for mice

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween on the Crawford Path (Eisenhower and Pierce)

Happy November and welcome to shoulder season!  Two weeks ago, we first encountered such conditions on a hike for which I never finished my report.  Boo on me because it was an enjoyable and challenging hike up Carrigain for Dan's NH4K finish.  That was on October 25th.  The wind had a good bite to it; Signal Ridge Trail was covered in leaves, mud, and occasionally ice along the rockiest stretches; and there was a dusting of snow at the summit.

On Saturday we met up with David and his dog Meka for the first time to do Eisenhower and Pierce and encountered more of the joy that is the shoulder season.

Around 5:50 AM, we headed up the Crawford Connector from the parking lot on Clinton Road.  It was our first time departing in the dark, something I'd been wanting to experience for awhile.  Hiking with someone who's done it countless times made it fun and no different than hiking in the daylight.  Except that Ty was leashed for the first hour.

Thanks to David and Meka, we made okay time up to the junction with the Webster Cliff Trail, though I know we slowed them down!  It was about 7:40 and we had missed what looked like had been a hazy sunrise but still enjoyed an incredible view while continuing on to Ike.  (We held off on Pierce knowing we were to meet more friends there later on.)
View from just past the trail junction
 I was astounded at the lack of wind as we continued on.  Up until  that point, the trail had been wet and slick for a step or two but hadn't affected my pace; however, ice became a common obstacle on the ridge.  Flat sections were narrow skating rinks and rocks were iced over.  Of course I had left my poles in the car and David graciously lent me one of his.  The walk to Eisenhower is a relatively flat one until one reaches the loop - a detail that made the walking over ice much easier than it might have been otherwise.  We could have put light traction on but between each icy section there were still enough dry stretches that it wasn't worth killing our gear (or putting spikes on/off/on/off...).

The loop trail was clear of ice and the low vegetation and cairns had some rime on them, a sight I am rarely lucky enough to witness.  There was some wind at the summit but it was shockingly tolerable (at least to me!) and we were there for about 45 minutes, playing games with the dogs and, for me, subjecting them to photos in costume.  It was Halloween after all!

Loop Trail


Meka playing hide and seek
around the summit cairn
Back on the Crawford Path, the ice had started to melt, making for more slippery ice.  The wind was nonexistent, we ran into the first two other hikers of the morning, and the views were gorgeous.

At 10:30 we reached Pierce and I was still astounded by the mild weather.  We had prepared for wind and I was excited for the cold that Tango would've thrived in but it had to be in the upper 40's/lower 50's in the direct sun because I wasn't wearing gloves (I get cold easily).  Marcy soon arrived with Tucker and Sonny (more of our Facebook friends).   Marcy's storytelling is wonderful and she explained her tardiness and some of Tucker's most memorable escapades as Tango the shark napped in my lap, much to Marcy's amazement.  She said she'd passed at least 15 hikers on her way up so I put TybTangs' costumes back on, ready to solicit smiles.  Between their Halloween spirit and the canine convergence on the summit, many hikers were entertained!

Canine Takeover

An impressive two hours later (Ty had light reflections and critters in the summit cairn to occupy her for that long), we headed back down the Crawford Path.  It took about an hour and a half to descend the icy (predominantly north of the Mizpah Cutoff intersection), wet, muddy trail.  We passed another handful of people on their way up and only one other dog.  Meka and Ty got into a nice tag team routine chasing critters, whose angry chirps we smiled at with amusement.

Crawford Path trail conditions

Finally got all five pups in one photo (barely!)

At the (strangely empty) parking lot, David had celebratory ice cream for everyone.  Today was Meka's birthday celebration hike!  She is 10 years old and still kicking butt doing double-digit miles.  It was awesome to meet them and Marcy with her pups; putting faces to names is always fun, especially when dogs and trails are involved.

As in previous trip reports that include this section of the Crawford Path, I'll again extol its overall awesomeness.  The views are vast and beautiful and  the grade is easy to moderate.  The trails are mellow enough for Tango but also offer enough excitement for Ty. (Though I wish she would remove "lose collar" from her list of exciting trail activities!)  There was plenty of water access for them.  More runoff streams were flowing than I'd seen before due to the recent rain.  To this report, I will add that right now, it is more difficult than usual due to the wet and icy conditions.  Ensure your clothing and footwear are waterproof!  We had traction but opted not to use it, just took the extra time to move carefully over the ice.  At the very least, I would recommend trekking poles (for the ridge) but those are not requisite either.  Overall the dogs were unaffected although Tango had a few missteps on the ice.  As always, a wonderful hike with my two loves!