I’m apparently on a roll of posting a monthly blog post, as the last post I wrote was May 14th recapping the Squam Range Traverse. Today I’m back with another hike recap, shocker, I know.
Before getting into the Mt. Jefferson to Mt. Jackson traverse, let’s chat about life lately real quick. I’ve been hiking A LOT. Like, A LOT A LOT. And, completely digging it. Hands down the highest volume of hiking I’ve ever done/sustained and knock on all the possible wood but my body feels good and rest days are magical as well. The month of June has been an interesting and humbling month as all the hiking is related to a “June hiking project”.
Being someone that normally doesn’t set goals directly but who also competed nationally in sport as a child, this experience been out of my recent element but also a total blast. At the end of the day, and even the end of each week, I’m finding myself just proud of myself and the human I’ve been hiking with for most of the hikes, and just genuinely fulfilled. Hiking, nature, the woods – they feel like home. Everything flows. Everything makes sense.
Outside of the hiking project — I’m nearing the end of my Sports Nutrition course and will start the final exam/certification process soon, I have a job interview next week for a position at a addiction treatment center, have been low-key looking at graduate programs, made some mega changes to my business website, and have been doing loads of internal reflection on what I want to continue/start/stop “pursuing”/including in my life.
Now, onto the hike recap:
Hike info: Covering from Mt. Jefferson to Mt. Jackson (6 peaks) in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, 18.2 miles and 6,680 ft. elevation gain.
Trails taken: Jewell Trail, Gulfside, Jefferson Loop, Monroe Loop, Eisenhower Loop, Crawford Path, Webster Cliff Trail, Webster-Jackson Trail.
Jess and I met at the Depot Lot in Crawford Notch in the morning to leave a car for the end of the hike. From there, we carpooled (in masks… something we’ve been doing all along) to the Cog parking lot where we started up the Jewell Trail from. You can pick up Jewell Trail from its trailhead across the street from the Ammonusuc Ravine parking lot, or at the Cog Railroad lot. We opted for the ladder to cut off a little mileage as we had “enough” miles planned that day/that week/this month. Why add more.
Had Jefferson Notch Road been open, we likely would’ve taken Caps Ridge Trail up Jefferson to start versus taking Jewell Trail up to Gulfside, over to Jefferson and back (as you can see on the above GPS, we retraced a little over a mile and a half. Caps is also a lovely (and fun) approach.
A little before the intersection of Jewell and Gulfside trails, you leave treeline and remain above treeline. For this hike, we were above treeline until the section between Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce. The day of this hike was a WINDY one. Higher summits forecast called for 30-40mph sustained wind with guts up to 50mph. Let me tell you, this was the windiest hike I’ve ever done. While I’ve been in wind this strong, it’s never been for this duration of time, or sustained winds. Definitely an experience. I was certainly glad the temperature was fairly warm and the skies were sunny.
Earlier in the week, we had intentions of a full Presidential Traverse (two days before this hike). When getting up to the Madison Spring Hut we knew this wasn’t happening as the forecast was not in our favor that day. We submitted Madison and then called it, deciding we would hike Adams solo another day and then Jefferson to Jackson later in the week. While I’m cool with wind in warmer temps and sun, the day of Madison was socked in, cooler, and drizzling. #notafan. Working on my comfort zone I suppose? Yes, yes, this is good for me.
Mt. Jefferson is one of my favorite peaks of the NH 48. Monroe too. So, this hike day was surely a favorite. This was my first hike linking multiple presidential peaks since mid-Winter and it was a treat to be up on those higher exposed summits again for a full hiking day.
After summitting Jefferson, we headed back towards Washington. Unlike Jefferson and Monroe, Washington is one of my least favorite peaks, mainly because it’s not exactly an empty summit per se. With everything going on around COVID right now, Washington wasn’t busy this day outside of the mass of skiers and snowboarders we saw on Gulfside Trail as we approached the summit. This was the first hike of Washington I’ve done where there wasn’t a line to take a photo with the summit sign – a slightly off-putting feeling.
After reaching Washington we quickly left and continued onwards toward Monroe. With higher winds on the summit and not wanting to need to add any layers, plus a chance of afternoon T-storms, it was best to at least get ourselves off the highest summit of the day.
The hike from Washington to the Lake of the Clouds went by quick and we were surprised to see a fair amount of ice and snow remaining on the Lake. Not surprising was a closed Lake of the Clouds hut. Alike Washington summit, with COVID, the AMC huts have been closed (although some are now opening for certain uses as far as I know). It’s been a little strange hiking during this time, with trying to distance, cover our faces, and yet still wanting to be friendly. The vibe has felt a little off in general although we have had some hikes were it felt more “normal”.
After passing by the hut we took a quick snack pit stop at the trail junction where you can either take Crawford Path and bypass Monroe or the Monroe Loop Trail. The last time I was on Monroe was during a hike of Monroe and Washington last summer with my friend Dawna. A surprise surprise (sarcasm) is that day also had a chance of T-storms. Welcome to summer in the White Mountains.
From Monroe to Eisenhower is one of my favorite stretches of trail, it’s gorgeous and Crawford Path is quite lovey especially after a morning of Northern Presidential rock hopping. Along this stretch we were also welcomed with a good amount of alpine flowers! We were also playing leap frog a bit throughout the day with another hiker who was out for a full traverse that day, and passed him again on this section. It’s always entertaining leapfrogging throughout the day and saying to people “oh, hey there again!”.
When we reached the Eisenhower summit we were shocked to be the only two humans there. THIS.DOES.NOT.HAPPEN. Grateful to have this experience.
Between Eisenhower and Pierce is the first stretch of treeline we had been in since popping out early morning and it felt so warm being out of the wind and in the humidity (a trend that has decided to stick around… again, hello summer.) I even ended up changing from the leggings I had been in all day to shorts a little further on because #teamnopants and I had them in my pack so why not?! Perks of packing shorts: you can change into them if able, or if you get cold you can keep your bum warm but putting them over your pants… a little protip (but please don’t try this in winter… or at a minimum at least pack a second pair of pants too).
One neat thing about this day, was that exactly three years prior I had hiked Pierce which was my first 4000 footer back after stress fracturing my fibula. I wouldn’t have know this had social media not told me, but I found this really eye opening to how far I’ve come and how much progress has been made as these years have elapsed. Pierce was also my first solo hike, so needless to say this mountain holds a special place in my heart.
Between Pierce and Jackson is another neat section of below tree-line trail. The trail passes by another hut which alike Lake of the Clouds hut, was closed. For the most part, once off of the Pierce summit the trail is fairly moderate and there are some flat sections which felt like gold for the feet after the morning. My favorite part of this section of trail has to be the bog bridges!
Once on Jackson we had another food break before the final descent to the car. Jackson was technically my first 4000 footer well before I got into hiking or knew what the 4000 footers were. Each time I’m on this summit I can’t help but think back to what my life was like at this point, similarly to Pierce on this day I suppose. I think the reflection is important, and there has sure been a lot of it this month. Hiking has been such a pivotal addition to my life, and I hope it’s something that I’m always capable of doing in some capacity. For the current moment, I’m grateful for a body that allows me to pursue “hiking projects”.
“I think things are beautiful when you don’t plan them, and you don’t have any expectations, and you’re not trying to get somewhere in particular.” – Alison Mosshart