Presidential Traverse in October

I mostly write blog posts so I can remember really fun times and look back to an adventure, a hope or dream. When the stars aligned for a Presidential Traverse on Oct 6 I went for it. One Day. 19 Miles. 9,000 feet of elevation gain. Hiking the last 3 hours in the dark. 

Heck Ya! 

It was great fun to look back at my post about my first Presidential Traverse and compare the trips after the second one. 

Here’s my Presidential Traverse Trip Review: An Epic Day in the White Mountains

Greg and I did a car spot at Highland Center AMC and drove up to Appalachia. We were on the trail by 7:30am. We took Valley Way to the hut and then a short out and back to Madison. Since it was a Wednesday we only saw about ten people on their way to Madison. The clouds prevented us from seeing Adams in the distance, and for Greg, this was his first time in the Northern Presidentials, so it was a bummer he couldn’t see where we were going. Or maybe it was good… He didn’t know what he was in for…..

Greg on Madison, Peak Number 1

Adams – well, it was Adams. Slow and steady wins this race. No views. 

We got to the top and then down and on to Jefferson. Again, we couldn’t quite see Jefferson from any peak but we got an occasional glimmer through the clouds to the west and the valley; beautiful peaking foliage. There are many little summits on the way to Jefferson but I recognized the summit from last year once we got closer. A quick up and a break – no views – and on to the Rock Pile. The sharp rocks cut my hands as I maneuvered over rocks and boulders in that lunar landscape. It’s a few miles from Jefferson on the Gulfside Trail to Mount Washington. We opted to bypass Clay and chugged on to the summit. We knew we were getting closer as we heard the Cog approach. Three trains passed as we climbed boulder to boulder, just waiting to get above the clouds. We walked over the cog and there it was – the view we were waiting for. Undercast. 

Mount Washington Summit, undercast

We took a break, filled our bladders with water and chatted with some people who took the Cog up. 

The way down to Lake of the Clouds was a welcome respite from climbing and finally hiking on a dirt trail. We passed the hut and on to Monroe. The entire hike up to this point was pretty warm. I could’ve worn shorts and a t-shirt (but didn’t). There was minimal wind and at some summits we had to swat flies. 

Photo by Greg, Washington looking north

The clouds were moving through and we saw several minor peaks in front of us. The trail junction marked the Mt Monroe Loop and it is a quick climb to the top. Then onto Eisenhower. Again, we couldn’t see it as we hiked on the Crawford Path and less rocky, for a bit. At this point my feet just hurt but not zombie-like, like I felt last year on this hike. My quads were good. I was tired. 

Up, Up, Up to Eishenhower and some nice views finally. Still cloudy but we could see across both side of the Crawford Path. As we descended the light started to fade to that nice, soft light. It got colder and I had to put on a jacket for the first time. A few minutes later I looked up to the west and the sunset turned pink and then a few minutes later orange. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

Sunset on Crawford Path heading south

Onto a quick out and back to bag Pierce with the headlamps on, and it was down the Crawford Path to the car. It was a bit of a slog. Seriously, 3.1 miles to the car took almost 2 hours. We both thought it seemed like 5 miles. We just couldn’t move faster and with the dark, we didn’t want to miss the trail. 

We got to the car at 9:30pm and it felt great to be off the trail. We drove back to get my car at Appalachia and I was home by 11:30pm. 

The Good: 

  • The Lunar landscape in the Presidentials is otherworldly and hard to capture in a photo
  • I had a Great hiking partner: funny, okay with leading, we never got lost and he even had beer in the car for after
  • Great weather despite the clouds 
  • Amazing sunset on the way to Pierce. 

The Bad:

  • My watch died before Washington. And seriously, since that is the only thing we considered ourselves lucky!

What a day in the Presidentials. Now, three days later, I’m still pretty sore. My feet, which were hurting so much are fine, but my legs are sore to the touch and it’s hard to walk and go downstairs still. 

And, I just want to go back. But I think I want to do a few peaks at a time and just sit on the summit for a while. I think. I’m a pretty fast hiker and don’t stop much but these mountains are so special. It was a great day and now I can say that I can’t wait to do the traverse again next year. But this time: more leg workouts and big hikes prior to the day. 

Then there is the grid. I enjoyed checking off these peaks for the October grid. But the thing about the grid is that I love getting to know these mountains and the grid is the way to do it. For my grid I’ve been to Mount Washington twice (not counting ascents prior to 2020). I want to get to know all the peaks and features of the area around it. This is why life is so fun and interesting and exciting – there are so many opportunities to see amazing places and challenge myself physically.

Mount Chocorua in August with Jason, Charlie

On Wednesday I hiked Mount Chocorua with my brother and his son. Jason wanted to hike this mountain with his son like we hiked it in September 1988.

I had marked the hike we did in my White Mountain Guide. I discovered that we hiked Liberty Trail and Brook Trail “9/88 with JL”. Wow, that was a long time ago. I was 17 and Jason was 14.

This time we are 50 and 47, and his son is 15. 

I didn’t remember the forest road to the trailhead nor did I remember much of that hike in 1988. However, the Liberty Trail is a perfect hike which starts out fairly flat and after a mile you start to climb. In about a mile from the peak we would catch a glimpse of the summit and couldn’t believe it was a mile away – it seemed much farther. 

Then the granite slabs started and a bit of scrambling. This is a tough hike! Just below the summit there is a section that seems a bit sketchy but we got up it and saw 360 degree views. While Washington was in the clouds we could clearly see Passaconnaway and Whiteface, and the peaks off the Kanc. 

Jason and Charlie

We ate lunch and then headed down Brook Trail. This counter clockwise loop is clearly the best because we kept looking back to see if we could see the summit and there aren’t clearnings where you can see where you are going. After a half a mile or so of rocks and butt sliding, it is a nice, gentle hike back to the car. We spotted a beautiful waterfall. 

The trail is in great shape – thank you trail maintainers. Hiking is always a great way to get to know someone and just talk, talk, talk. It was nice to catch up with my brother and his son on a humid, no-wind day in the mountains.

Franconia Ridge Traverse

I opted for a longer ridge traverse that included two other mountains versus the traditional Franconia Ridge Traverse.

On Wednesday my plan was to park in the hiker parking lot just north of the Flume Visitor Parking. I would hike to Liberty then to Flume, back to Liberty and follow the Franconia Ridge trail to Lincoln and then Lafayette. I would go down Old Bridle Path and run the Pemi Trail paved bike trail back to my car.

I love it when a plan comes together. I did exactly what I planned – 7 hours 40 minutes and 16.4 miles. 

The trails were in perfect condition. Going up Liberty Springs was tough, alright all the trails on this day were tough. It was nice to meet two southbound AT hikers from Mississippi who stayed at the Liberty Springs tent site. They were excited to finish the White Mountain section of their thru hike knowing the Kinsmans were going to be tough. 

I got to Liberty and then over to Flume. There was very little wind and clouds but perfect views of the notch and mountains in all directions. As I headed back over Liberty a large group of kids were whooping and high fiving at the top. They were pretty thrilled to make the summit. 

Franconia Ridge looking north

I love ridge running and it was nice to run a bit once I was on my way to Lincoln. A little mud was left behind on the trail from the rains but manageable. I forgot how tough it was to hike to Lincoln but being above treeline makes it all better. 

Pemi Wilderness from the Franconia Ridge Trail

Lafayette was amazing, as always, and still very little breeze, and warm. I wore a tshirt and running shorts the entire time.

Moody skies coming down Old Bridle Path

I filled up my water bottles at Greenleaf Hut and started down. There were much more spots to run and I made good time back to Lafayette Place where I picked up the Pemi Trail. A few miles to run on the paved path back to the hiker parking at Flume Visitor Center.

Since it was mid-week I didn’t see a ton of people at the parking lots or on the trails. It was a good day to bag these peaks for the August grid.

Mount Isolation in July

Mount Isolation is no joke especially if you get there via Glen Boulder Trail and Davis Path. 

My hiking legs have been in hibernation since completing my goal: 48 in my 49th Year. This hike was a challenge.

While I’ve been swimming, biking and running – this doesn’t seem to translate well to hiking in the White Mountains. I guess the best training is hiking the White Mountains to be ready to hike the White Mountains. Ross and Vicky just seemed to float up and over to Isolation while I seemed to suffer to go up and up. 

The initial goal was an epic trip. We settled for 12 miles to Isolation and back. 

Less than one mile in, while Vicky and Ross attended to a water bottle malfunction I continued on. I kept looking back and at one point stopped to wait for about 4-5 minutes. When I didn’t see them I knew something was wrong. I turned around to hike back to see what was holding them up and realized my mistake: I went down a ski trail instead of staying on Glen Boulder. 

The next 2 hours was trying to catch up to them. I asked people if they saw them and they did. I knew they were ahead of me but I couldn’t catch up. Plus, it was a tough trail. Once I got above treeline I thought I saw them and I thought they looked back to see me, but they didn’t wait for me. 

I began to get annoyed but at least I knew they were ahead. I hike with them because I don’t like hiking alone sometimes, plus “the Vicky and Ross show” is pretty hilarious. 

I caught up with them on the summit of Isolation and it turns out they thought I was ahead of them the entire time, seeing a woman with a white hat. The white hat woman, in turn, kept looking back at them from high points and Vicky was hoping she (thinking she was me) would wait for them. When the woman didn’t, they got pissed. 

View on the Glen Boulder trail heading west.

All in all, I knew they were heading for Isolation but it wasn’t a fun few hours. They were hiking faster to catch up while I was hiking fast to catch up. We were all pretty mad about it. Then laughed about it on the way down.

However, despite opting not to do the epic hike, or going on to Davis (52 With a View) we had a large visitor on the way across Isolation trail – a young moose just hanging out on the trail. We were warned by Mirra who was hiking ahead of us about the moose in the trail. I bolted into the thick brush to hide. Ross and Vicky hid on the trail but made eye contact and took pictures and video. I was scared to death but he was so cool to see. 

He slowly made his way down the trail chomping on trees. Flies surrounded his butt and Vicky saw ticks all over his butt. I saw him a bit through the trees enough to know a big, brown moose was 6 feet away. The brush was so thick on this section we couldn’t hike around him. We just had to wait for him to move along. 

Moose on the Isolation Trail July 15, 2021

Mirra then decided to join us the rest of the way down, and we laughed and chatted back to the car. The views of the Presidentials were so much better on the way down; the skies cleared and we hiked together. 

View in the late afternoon looking towards Mount Washington from Glen Boulder Trail.

I hiked in my new Timp Altras and they were a bad choice. Despite only wearing them a few times, they aren’t as grippy as the Lone Peaks. Vicky only wears Lone Peaks and I like trying different Altra models. I’m now convinced that the Lone Peaks are the choice for hiking on rocks in the Presidentials. This trail had wet rocks at all different angles and I slipped a bunch. The rocks were dry on the exposed trails but in the trees it was very damp. Lone Peaks are the way to go! 

Glen Boulder is pretty cool to see every single time; the rock is just hanging there. Rhe views looking south to the peaks in the distance is just stunning, especially in the late afternoon light. 

We completed just over 5,000 feet of climbing for 12 miles. It’s one of the tougher routes to Isolation but the alternative is Rocky Branch, which I hiked the last two times. Being above treeline and seeing Mount Washington is one of the pleasures of this trail. 

Our original plan was to hike Dry River Trail to Lakes of the Clouds, over Monroe and Eisenhower and down to the car spot. We started a bit late and hiked a bit slower so the plan was curtailed. I’d like to try it another day. 

We ran into a woman who was doing a supported Direttissima – she was on peak 5 at Isolation. She was high energy and loving life. Now that’s how you run/hike in the White Mountains for 4 days. I wish I got her name. I would’ve liked to know that she finished. 

While I didn’t get to bag three peaks for the July grid I’m happy to finish and take in the views.

Resting on Mount Isolation

Training Status Update; It’s Monday

Average Resting Heart Rate: 42
Training Status: Productive
Total Vert last week: 1,923
Total Hours last week: 7:02 
Plan for this week: 7 hours: Swim, Bike, Run, Weights

It’s a whole new ballgame folks. So many races in the coming weeks so let’s get down to it. 

I’m doing more morning hikes with these characters:

I’m doing more running and biking at Gunstock. It is so green at the mountain and I love running the Ridge loop and biking on the cross country trails.

And just all around more focused training. 

After all this rain the brooks will be running and that is good hiking with the dogs. This week also includes a trip up north to the White Mountains with Vicky and Ross. It’s going to be another epic hike.