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Wandering the Presidential Range - Leisurely South to North Walk

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  • Wandering the Presidential Range - Leisurely South to North Walk

    While geoians was off on a bushwhacking adventure, I decided to make a trip to the Whites to grab the remaining three Presidentials I needed: Jackson, Pierce, and Eisenhower. I planned this leisurely weekend trip a few months back, hoping to get bunks at the huts so that I could easily traverse the range and revisit the upper Presidentials. I was able to book a last minute reservation at Madison Springs and Lakes of the Clouds (I would find out over the weekend how I got so lucky) and opted to traverse from South to North.

    I arrived at Valley Way trailhead at 8am, just in time for my 8:15 AMC shuttle to the Highland Center. Originally, I planned to go in to Mizpah hut via Webster-Jackson trail, but my pack weight was irritating my knee so I opted to head directly in via the Crawford Path. The trail was pretty moderate compared to others I’ve been on, with patches of mud and wet rock along the way. Once I got to the hut I dropped my weight and immediately engaged the hut master in a conversation about Isolation via Dry River Cutoff. Ideally, my plan would have been grab my three lowers day one then day two venture to Isolation and on to Lakes via the Boott Spur. The hut master strongly advised I not do that due to a recent hiker fatality, and after climbing with my heavy pack, I agreed it was probably best saved for at least a day when I am not alone (plus the idea of muddy, swampy trails the whole way was not appealing). So, I let him know I was headed to Jackson and set off. It took me only 45 minutes to get to the summit, which had a decent view. The trail over had some very open areas, affording nice views of Washington as well, and other than a couple muddy sections, it was pretty much easy going. There were a couple rock scrambles at the end which made it more exciting. A couple AT thru hikers stopped to chat with me, and the bees were out in abundance. After lunch, I made my way back to the hut and settled in for the night, hoping weather would remain nice.

    Day two I set out towards Lakes of the Clouds. The climb up Pierce was a little steeper than I had thought, so it was slow going with a heavy pack (1 mile an hour, pretty slow for me). I met a group of 30+ spread out along the trail doing a memorial hike, and the slower crowd quickly adopted me into their group, singing “Oh Dani girl” as we approached what appeared to be the top of Pierce. There was no cairn or marker, so I questioned whether this was the summit, but they all insisted it was and stopped for photos. I checked my GPS, clearly it said not the summit, but they were set with it, so I moved on toward the actual summit, which I found about 15 minutes later (big cairn, two geo markers – I laughed to myself how shocked they would be when they arrived). From Pierce, I headed to Eisenhower with another part of the large group, Tracey and her sister, and these women were very friendly and talkative. I eventually left them behind since they were slower with a child and made my way up Eisenhower, which had fantastic views all around. I decided to eat a snack there as I saw how far away Monroe looked. A black bird landed and immediately started to scream at me so I decided to leave before it stole my precious snacks. I met up with a duo of men and hiked with them toward Monroe, passing some sort of unmarked trail. I asked them if this was Franklin, they said no. As we passed the other end of that loop, I stopped and consulted my GPS – it was Franklin! “Why do I bother asking anyone?” I started saying to myself and backtracked up Franklin as they watched me, confused, in the distance (I later told them it was, indeed, Franklin). As I descended back to the AT, Tracey and her gang were coming by so I once again joined them and learned a little more about their group memorial hike. I decided to bypass Monroe with them and head straight to Lakes so I could drop my weight and head back up Monroe with more speed, which is exactly what I did. I had Monroe to myself for the most part due to high winds. It is a rocky summit, no markers, but it has a wonderful view of Isolation and the Boott Spur (looking at it from there, I was happy I had opted not to do that trip!). I made my way back down, watched the sunset, and settled in for the night.

    Day three I was up early since every noisy sleeper was in my bunkroom the night before. I opted to skip breakfast and started toward the big rock pile at 7am. I arrived on Washington’s summit an hour later, pleasantly surprised that I was one of the only people up there. Only a few other hikers and some workers – how amazing! I took obligatory sign photos, went inside to warm up and dump some trash (sorry!), and then headed out to the Gulfside trail. Someone had suggested I grab Clay along the way so I headed up and I must say, Clay is not exactly easy! It has some rocky sections to climb up coming from this direction. It turned out to be quite the little workout! I took a quick Fireball break at the summit, thinking how much the person who told me to do Clay sucks Below, I saw some runners pass by, probably my friend Josh as timing seemed about right for him to be in the general area at that point. I headed down towards Jefferson, it looked pretty intimidating from here. The trail to Jefferson was not too rocky until I got to the loop trail to the summit. From there, it was literally climbing another rock pile. Some AT thru hikers came along with a radio so I opted to ascend with them, appreciating their good taste in music. At the summit, we all rested and had lunch, probably the biggest group of people I’ve ever had lunch with on a summit. Onward, I descended to the col between Jefferson and Adams. This was steeper than I recall (the first time I had gone North to South) and was harsh on both knees. By the time I started ascending towards Adams, I was completely sunburned and exhausted. The rock hopping had now taken its toll and I thought how much harder it is from South to North. I reached the Israel Path and decided to head up to Adams via this route. It took me only 20 minutes to reach the summit, but unfortunately along the way a rock shifted and I slipped, twisting my knee. This was eerily similar to the day in January on Sawteeth when I slipped and tore my meniscus. At the summit, I examined the situation – it did not feel like a tear but it did not feel good either. I recalled the Star Lake trail had some rock climbing sections, so I opted to retrace my steps back down the Israel/Lowe path and follow the AT to the Madison Springs hut, hoping this would give my knee a flatter route. This was indeed the case until the very end, where it descended to the hut. The views along this section were AMAZING. Lots of trails coming into the area, and I could see Gray Knob Cabin in the distance. As I approached the hut, I looked at Madison. I was exhausted. I was sunburned. My legs were hurting. My knee did not feel superb. I decided I would not do Madison, thinking maybe if I felt better about the knee in the morning I would go out that way. At the hut I met Tim, who informed me his Aunt Tracey told him all about me and insisted we meet. We ended up spending the evening chatting (nice to have someone to eat dinner with!), and I discovered that I was lucky enough to get the bunk because a family member had canceled and the bunks were released to the public. Apparently this is an annual hike and AMC blocks off entire huts for this group. I told him how happy I was to meet them all, as they were a wonderful, friendly group of people. Thankfully, Tim ended up being my bunkmate for the night and he does not snore so we both got much needed sleep after what ended up being an exhausting hike for us both from Lakes (and he didn’t even summit Jefferson or Adams!).

    Day four I woke up to howling winds and cloudy skies. It was a little misty, but not actual rain yet. After consulting with Tim on plans (I had offered him a ride back to Pinkham), we decided to part ways. He was going to brave Madison and follow the AT to Pinkham, and I was going to head to my car, not wanting to deal with rain or wet rock. Once I departed, it was a race against the skies. The Valley Way trail is steep down for the first mile and a half. Once past there it starts to level out so I was able to move quickly. 2 hours from departing, I was at my car, just as it started to rain. I hoped Tim was below treeline now, or he was in for some major wet trekking. Final stats put me at 24.7 miles for the weekend and 9 summits. A little disappointed about Madison, but it was such an amazing weekend that I can’t really be too sad about it. Looking forward to many more relaxing weekends like this in the future!

  • #2
    Nice Dani...I did not know you posted on here....nice many are you up to now in NH??? David S.


    • daniamber1281
      daniamber1281 commented
      Editing a comment
      I just started posting recently. I am at 27/48 now. Might be skipping this weekend now, though :( 25th weekend we want to do Carter-Moriah-Wildcats.