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.