Southern Presidentials

This adventure started off in Crawford Notch just south of the AMC Highland Center at the Webster Jackson trailhead. Before I hit the trail, I stashed my bike in the woods at the Edmand’s Path trailhead to avoid the road walk at the end of the day. The forecast for the higher summits from Mount Washington Observatory was looking pretty good. I would experience the highest temps in 2 weeks. The forecast was for upper seventies with 15 to 20 mph winds predicted to increase to 30 later in the afternoon. It never blew stronger than 15 all day.

Webster Jackson was pretty wet and muddy after the rain we had this past week but nothing too bad. I walked through most of it doing my part not to damage vegetation along the trail, causing unnecessary erosion (a pet peeve of mine). If you’re going to hike in the spring you are going to get muddy. Deal with it.

The spur to the Elephant Head comes up pretty quickly. I took the short quarter-mile trip out to take a look at the notch. It was nothing special to be honest. Skip it and check out the view from the Bugle Cliff that’s just up the trail a bit further.

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Things start out pretty moderately, with a few steep pitches but no real lung busters. I took my time, snapping photos of all the wild flowers and moss-covered logs with mushrooms growing out of them. Bringing my camera forces me to slow down and check things out.

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At about a mile and a half in, I reached the junction where right takes you to Mt. Webster and left takes you to Mt. Jackson. Both trails have the same name which struck me as kind of strange.

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I went right and headed down the very steep pitch to Silver Cascade, a sweet little pool and cascade.

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From there, the climb towards Webster is pretty consistent with a few more small brook crossings (these may be dry in the summer). About a mile from the junction, I reached the Webster Cliff trail (part of the Appalachian Trail)

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I took a right, and after a tenth of a mile I was standing on the summit of Mt. Webster (3910’). Great views of Crawford Notch! I’ve always had a thing for this notch and it was pretty cool to see it from this perspective.

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While I was there I met another hiker who turned out to be a through hiker doing the AT. He started in Georgia in February. He’ll be finished by the end of June. As it turns out, he was a local from Concord, NH, so the Whites were no surprise to him.

My route from Mt. Webster, Mt. Jackson (behind the tree), Pierce and Eisenhower with Washington in the background (not on this trip).
My route from Mt. Webster, Mt. Jackson (behind the tree), Pierce and Eisenhower with Washington in the background (not on this trip).

Back to the Webster Jackson/Webster Cliff junction and down into the col between Webster and Jackson, the section was pretty wet with a couple of short scrambles (are they scrambles if you’re going down?). It was typical rocky, root covered White Mountain footing, followed by a steep final ascent to the summit with a scramble or two.

Mt. Jackson looking west.
Mt. Jackson looking west.

The summit of Mt. Jackson (4052’) was a busy place. Everyone was out enjoying the perfect weather. I ran into one of my teammates from Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team and ended up hanging out with him and his girlfriend for a bit. He just passed his advanced EMT certification (congratulations, Andy!). After snapping a few more photos, I headed down the other side of Jackson towards Pierce. The trail off the summit is steep and enters into a boggy section. The vegetation changes to kind of an alpine meadow with a pretty flat grade.

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I entered back into the woods and began a gradual incline up to the Mizpah Hut and Nauman tent site. My original plan was to spend the night at the tent site but it was too early and the weather was too nice to waste the day sitting on a tent platform. So I filled up with water and had a good snack before I got back on the trail.

The climb to the summit from the hut is fairly steep. The last time I was here, there was six feet of snow on the ground and I was wearing snowshoes. Back then, I never even noticed the ladders/steps that I was climbing on this trip. Once on the summit of Mt. Pierce (4312’) the views were spectacular.

Mt. Eisenhower from the summit of Mt. Pierce.
Mt. Eisenhower from the summit of Mt. Pierce.

The last time I was here, everything was white. Now it was all green. I met another hiker on the summit who told me that he does this hike a few times every year. I asked him if he knew of any good spots to camp in the area. He said he didn’t know of any off hand and that I would most likely have to drop down below tree line to find something legal. I was kind of hoping to hear of some super secret spot to hang out for the night. No such luck. So I headed off the summit and passed the Crawford Path junction and down into the scrub pine where there was a small stream.

Crawford Path from Mt. Eisenhower looking towards Mt. Pierce.
Crawford Path from Mt. Eisenhower looking towards Mt. Pierce.

I topped off my water before emerging onto the open ridge with more spectacular views. From here the Eisenhower Loop trail climbs 300 feet in 0.2 mile and brings you to the summit of Mt Eisenhower (4760’) and its giant cairn.

Cairn on Eisenhower summit
Cairn on Eisenhower summit
Mt. Washington from the summit of Eisenhower.
Mt. Washington from the summit of Eisenhower.

At this point, I realized that my options for a camping spots were pretty thin and made the decision to just hike the last 3 miles down Edmand’s path to the trailhead. I carried my tent, sleeping bag and two days worth of food over 14 miles and 4500 vertical feet for nothing! I reached the trailhead and stuffed my 5 pound camera (anchor) in my pack. I hopped on my bike and started pedaling down Mt. Clinton Rd. I came flying around a corner when I saw a massive bull moose directly in my path. This guy was in no rush to get out of my way despite my prodding. Normally I’d spend some time taking photos and watching as long as he’d tolerate me but this day, all I wanted to do was get back to my car, dump my pack and get my boots off. After what seemed like forever, he trotted off into the woods and let me by. It wasn’t the trip I planned but it was a great one just the same.

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