Mt Jefferson has been on my radar ever since I was on the summit of Madison last summer. There is something about that rocky summit towering over the Great Gulf that is very appealing to me. The entire north end of the Presidential range is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve been watching the trail reports and monitoring snow levels all spring. With all the heavy snow this past winter it seemed like the snow would never leave. Even on June 9th I ran into a small patch on the Jefferson Loop trail.
Due to a tight schedule I didn’t get to the trailhead for the Castle trail on Rt.2 in Randolph, NH until after 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. My plan was to hike Castle Trail to Castle Ravine Trail to Israel Ridge and end up at The Perch for the night. That’s a little less than 4 miles with a book time of about 3.5 hours.
This route runs along the Israel River and then later on Cascade Brook for a couple of miles and passes some beautiful pools and cascades. The best were just beyond the junction of the Link trail.
I ended up spending almost an hour on the rocks there, soaking up the sun completely mesmerized by the roar of the cascades. After this point it was a pretty steady steep climb until I made the turn for the Perch Cutoff. Since it was an early season Sunday evening I was expecting to have the site to myself so I was quite surprised to arrive and find all four tent platforms full. I ended up staying in the shelter.
There I met Ben, a guy from Westchester NY who was out exploring the Whites for the first time. He was good company and we had a few good laughs. Ben was on tour with no particular plans. We talked about some of my favorite routes in the Whites. He was thinking about heading to Maine to check out Baxter SP and Katahdin. I envied him and his plan-free summer program for hiking.
Monday morning I was back on the Israel Ridge trail which soon turned into the Randolph Path where I reached tree line and my first views of Jefferson. Soon I was in Edmand’s Col where everything was in bloom. There was a carpet of Diapensia. I’ll let the photos tell that part of the story.
The weather was pretty interesting on this trip. The forecast was for possible thunderstorms later in the afternoon so I was keeping a close eye on the sky. Clouds where continuously building and dissipating, big blue holes allowed the sun to beam down on the mountains and warm everything up and then the wind would blow the clouds in front of the sun casting shadows across the valleys and peaks creating dramatic lighting across the landscape.
The Gulfside Trail leads up out of Edmands Col to the Jefferson Loop, where I ran into the one and only patch of snow on this trip.
A quick ½ mile and I was on the summit of Jefferson looking down into the Great Gulf and up to Mt. Washington. From here I could see the route I had done the previous week on the southern Presidentials. I had been thinking about this summit for almost a year and it didn’t disappoint.
Dark clouds were beginning to form over Adams and my bailout route was on somewhat exposed ridge so I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked.
I headed back down the way I had come into Edmand’s Col. One of the guy staying at the Perch had told me about a spring that was not to be missed that’s just a short 100 foot walk down the Edmand’s Col Cutoff. I topped off my water and by the time I was back up on the Gulfside trail the weather looked to be improving so I decided to head for Adams.
The Gulfside trail provided some fantastic views in all directions at one time or another, never very steep, always rocky. As I reached Thunderstorm Junction I saw someone sitting on a flat rock taking a break when I realized it was Ben. He was finishing off last night’s diner, sitting there without a care in the world taking in all the sights. He had nowhere to be and all day to get there, the life of a mountain wanderer. Ben had climbed Jefferson yesterday and had just finished Adams before I showed up. I told him my plan was to hit the summit and then I would have to start heading back to the car to head home. He was headed to the Madison Hut to check things out but decided to climb Adams again and take Airline down.
We reached the summit under sunny skies and views for miles in every direction. It was like being on top of the world. I could have hung out there all day but I had some miles to cover and my route down had changed leaving me with a bit of a road walk back to the car.
I snapped a few photos for Ben and gave him my email. I told him get in touch with me when he came down out of the mountains.
My modified route brought me back down to Thunderstorm Jct to Lowe’s Path, over the top of Mt Abigail Adams, along the open ridge and back below the tree line. Once again dark clouds began to form so I picked up my pace to get out of the open and avoid becoming a lighting rod. On my way down I stopped to check out the Gray Knob Hut and had the opportunity to meet Hannah the caretaker for the summer. She has a great gig, paid to live on the side of a mountain all summer! Lowes Path continues down fairly steeply for the next mile with some pretty greasy Granite. I ended up taking a pretty good tumble just before the Log Cabin shelter so I stopped there just long enough to patch myself up and top off my water. Shortly after that I passed the junction with King Ravine trail and then The Link. After that the trail flattens out a bit and the last 1.7 mile passed quickly.
Back out on the US 2 I stuck my thumb out for a ride and as a couple dozen cars passed by I began to think I may be walking back to the car. Just then I noticed that my left leg from the knee down was covered in blood, maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten a ride! Sure enough after cleaning up the third car picked me up for what turned out to be a very short ride to my car.
Check out more photos here: http://www.dmkerr.com/Backpacking-in-the-White-Mouta/Jefferson-Adams/i-k6pq5jw/A