Sunday, July 3, 2016

Return to the Rockpile!

Route: Jewell Tr - Gulfside Tr - Crawford Path - Ammonoosuc Ravine Tr*
Distance: 9.6 mi**
Elevation Gain: appx. 3800'**
Duration: 6:45

*Apparently there is a trail  called the Trinity  Connector
somewhere in there.  From the terminus of Jewell to the hut, 
I simply followed the AT except for wandering the summit 
** I was lazy and didn't verify these stats

Happy July!!!! I went through the whole month of June without a post unfortunately but we did quite a bit of hiking!  Since it's a popular one and I wrote the report up about a week after the hike (just never got around to selecting pictures), I'm writing a generic review of our clockwise loop of Washington beginning on the Jewell Trail and coming down Ammo.

Walking up sidewalk along the Cog driveway

Crossing point over the tracks to the trail
(white trail sign in about dead center of the photo)
Jewell - Gulfside - Summit:

We started from the hiker lot at the base of the Cog at about a quarter to 9:00.  It was a great time to start, well into the morning (less critter distractions for Ty) but not warm just yet.  We did a reverse of the popular Ammo - Jewell Loop by starting up Jewell since it has a more consistent grade, which I wanted for Tango.  Knowing it would warm up, I didn't want to throw challenging footing at him while he would be coping with the heat.

Did we come out to hike or graze?!

Jewell is a solidly moderate trail, absolutely perfect for what I was looking for.  No steep sections and pretty decent footing.  After the lovely man-made bridge at approximately 1.1 miles, there was no more running water until the spring well above treeline (that was dry on a subsequent visit).  The path was often packed dirt, sometimes over exposed roots and other times, very rocky but small, easy to walk on or around rocks.
Ty checking out the campsite
The only steeper portion of Jewell is between the clearing and treeline

Just shy of 3.0 miles in, we passed an illicit campsite just before a steep-ish (comparative the rest of the trail) section that led to treeline.  It was there we stopped for some Zuke's Power Bones and a layer of honey-scented protectant for the dogs' paws.  For less than a quarter mile, we traversed a talus field below the ridge that I had forgotten about (it had been three years!) and I was impressed with the dogs' instinctual light footing and slow pace to prevent injury to their paws.  They also usually picked up on where extensive use wore down the rocks' surface and followed along.
Eagerly awaiting a doggie powerbar before continuing!

This stuff is why paw protection, among other precautions, is necessary

Ty abandoning us for a fast group of traversers
Summit in our sights! (And a nice reprieve from the rocks!)
Hard to see but the alpine flowers were in bloom! What a treat that was!
About half the species I saw on 6/4/2016 were fading or gone two weeks later.
Once on Gulfside, the elevation gain was mellow (til the sumit cone) and the footing deliberate (when rocky) but not difficult.  At first, there was still plenty of rock to traverse but it was less rough than the talus field.  It's here that I especially regret not posting a timely report because the alpine flowers were in bloom and it made the alpine zone extra magical.  It's too bad Ty couldn't find some pleasure in the flowers to take her focus off the Cog.  She did not like it!  But it's visible, audible, and you must cross it once on this path.

Ty looking down into Great Gulf

Two tenths of a mile from the summit appears to be the Trinity Connector that brings hikers to Washington's summit.  It climbs the rocks that gives the mountain its nickname, "the rockpile." Again, we slowed our pace to make sure the dogs weren't putting too much pressing or dragging their paws along the rough talus too much but we still made it to the summit at noon.  I felt really good that our slower than usual pace with lots of tiny breaks for Tango while in the woods (the temps rose fast til we were able to enjoy the breeze above treeline) still brought us to the summit early.

Tango found a shallow spring
Crossing the cog on Gulfside

About .4mi from the top


 Our summit experience was pretty brief.  The crowds, Cog, and not moving was stressful to Ty.  But we got our picture taken at the summit sign (unlike the first time!), a wicked nice tourist brought hot dogs out to us since dogs aren't permitted inside, and we met lots of very kind people.  Earlier, I had decided to descend via Ammo to mix things up instead of returning via Jewell.

Our first Washington summit photo thanks to a nice couple!
(Last time it was too busy)
Tip Top House

Crawford - Ammo

Heading down the Crawford Path from the summit is an interestingly different experience from Jewell.  Part of it is the difference in the range to the south vs. north but you can follow the Crawford Path and its distinctively tall cairns all the way down the slope to the hut and beyond.  The path was typically softer on the dogs paws (but still all rock for awhile).

The trail turned more to stone dust as we neared the "lakes" which the dogs found it very difficult to stay out of (I had to call them away and give them their own water soon after, which I'm sure wasn't anywhere near as refreshing!).  We hung out at the hut for a bit.  The dogs enjoyed being social but as I laid down on a bench, Ty started to wander so we continued down Ammo.

(humans/pups asked not to frolick in the lakes)

I will preface this by saying there is a very good reason people generally go up Ammo and down Jewell.  It is steeper, smooth ledges to scoot down, and not easy.  But it was more entertaining!

Looking back up from the first pitch
Always surveying
It began very ledgy with neat views to the north and I scooted on my butt here and there.  The dogs were able to find water not too south of the hut.  Running water was often heard, though not always accessible and we eventually crossed an unnamed stream before officially entering the woods.

The ledges gave way to smaller rocks, dirt, and roots.  The going was steeper and faster than the ascent but we had to be careful at times due to loose gravel over smooth slabs.  We passed Emerald Pool and enjoyed the beauty, sound, and comparative ease of the walk as the trail lined up with the Ammonoosuc River.  At that point, I think we mostly stopped losing elevation and it was pretty muddy in spots.  Being that it was in the upper 70's, walking along the water was extra enjoyable!

Emerald Pool
As the time crept past 3:00, we passed some signage and popped out at the top of the hill behind the dumpster at the Cog building.  And that was it, our second (and long overdue!) visit to Mount Washington!
Hello mud

Noticed a lupine for the first time!
The obvious warnings apply - quickly changing weather, lack of protection above treeline (I believe about three miles), etc.  On top of that, for the dogs, the rocks are very rough on their paws.  We only saw two other hiker dogs all day and I was grateful for it after seeing too many inexperienced dogs on Jefferson last year.  It'd be wise to condition a dog's paws before attempting Washington (and ignorant to not).  Plenty of regular hiking, a Pierce - Eisenhower traverse or Moosilauke, etc.  Bring a protective wax and boots and check paws regularly!

Other than that (and your responsibility to pay attention to weather), it's a great hike of a nice length for a day trip with spectacular views.  The above treeline time is the absolute highlight for me.  The hike itself is a very nice one for the dogs.  Tango, with his preferences, enjoyed himself and the crowds.  You definitely take the good with the bad for Washington, as it is very crowded!  Jewell has little water access, Ammo has a fair amount, you can fill up both at the summit and Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

Ammo is challenging but no more so than, say, the Kinsmans.  I certainly liked it better than Fishing Jimmy Trail! (to be fair, it was damp that day).  You'll pass a lot of hikers, which will slow you down as you respectfully move your trail pup over for others to pass.  We had our first less-than-dog-friendly interaction (which, in and of itself is perfectly okay; acknowledgement that not everyone is comfortable with dogs is why I try to keep their manners in line) but the issue was pushed despite my respectful acknowledgement and desire to simply move on.  Anyway, just a little odd.  Everybody else was amicable, much to Tango's delight.  For dogs like him, crowded trails are great!  Ty assumed a higher level of patience than usual, for which I was quite proud.  Good, tired, happy dogs and a happy human who owes great thanks to the Weather Gods makes for a special trip to Mount Washington.

Evidence of tired pups!

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