Growing up in New Hampshire I’ve always heard lots of things about the White Mountains. I’ve even driven through them on I-93 going up to Rangeley, Maine on many occasions. Hiking them just never seemed to happen even though I did a fair amount of hiking when I was a kid. I felt somewhat inadequate as a New Hampshire resident, or former resident, by not experiencing these beautiful mountains up close.
I can now say that I’ve been though. This weekend Chrystal and I went up with a group of her co-workers for a hiking retreat. Rather than staying in tents and “roughing it”. We had the pleasure of staying at one of the AMC Mountain Huts. These huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club are spread through out the Whites. They offer dinner, breakfast and bunk to sleep in. The huts are manned mainly by college students looking for a unique summer job. The huts are pack in-pack out operations but have propane/solar electricity and appliances. There are no showers but there are indoor non-flushing toilets and running potable water. The hut experience is a lot of fun because of ease of getting into the backcountry without worrying about a tent and large amounts of food. While the huts are a lot of fun, just remember to bring your earplugs for sleeping!
The weekend started by Chrystal and I packing up our stuff Thursday evening. And by this I don’t mean the normal jackets, gloves (yep its the Whites!), gorp and extra socks. I’m talking fresh basil, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers on melba toast. What? You don’t normally bring these into the woods? Well you are obviously a heathen. In reality Chrystal’s co-workers traditionally have an hors d’œuvre contest on Friday after getting to the hut. Chrystal’s entry, with my help, won a prize.
Friday morning we met up with the rest of the group and proceeded up I-91 to Rt. 302 in NH. Along the way we got some passing showers but overall the drive was nice. We did need to stop along the way to pickup some stuff at EMS in West Lebanon. Even though we stopped a few times we were just a minute behind getting to the trail head. From the parking area at Mt. Clinton Rd. we headed up Crawford Path to the Mizpah Hut. Mizpah is located just off the summit of Mt. Pierce and is at 3777 ft.
The hike up was a little warm but nice. The skies stayed sunny for the most part. The trail is part of the Crawford Trail, which according to a plaque on the trail, is the oldest continuously used hiking trail in the US, since 1819. Up to the hut is a constant uphill, not terrible, but never backing off. With the rain we got earlier in the day the trail was wet and muddy. Thankfully the AMC keeps the trail very useable even in muddy conditions. Never was there a point were the trail was impassable or required a detour.
The forest along the trail was different than what I’m used to. Everywhere off the trail was extremely dense. There was no possibility for making a campsite off the trail. This continued all the way up until we were at the hut. It even continued until we got to the treeline.
Saturday we took the Crawford Path/AT along the ridge line hitting Mt. Pierce, Mt. Eisenhower, Mt. Franklin and finally Mt. Monroe. In the morning we were totally in the clouds which was kind of eerie but very tranquil at the same time. As we approached the summit of Eisenhower the wind picked up and was probably around 35mph. Around Mt. Franklin the clouds started to breakup teasing us with the spectacular views which could be had. As we ate lunch on Monroe the clouds finally lifted to above the mountains and we could see the spectacular vistas from every angle. Every angle because as the pictures show there is a treeline. I’m not sure but my guess is it is around 4500ft.
The views we had were not just of the other mountains in range but we could see all the way back along the ridge we came out on. I thought this was pretty cool because in the morning there wasn’t a great sense of space or openness because of the clouds.
Sunday was a leisurely hike back down. The weather was absolutely amazing Sunday. Weather report at the hut said visibility was around 110 miles. On the hike back down we saw plenty of people heading up for the day, I certainly can’t blame them. Near the bottom of the trail we veered off to check out Gibbs Falls. I thought it was pretty nice.
A great weekend and here are some pictures to prove it.