Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn in the Mountains

We slipped into fall over the weekend. It felt time, with cooler nighttime temperatures, heavy morning dew, frost in the north, and hillsides of color. We ventured north to Jackson to celebrate this seasonal shift. On Saturday morning low cloud cover obscured our view of the mountains. We were dubious whether the clouds would clear as we headed to Crawford Notch (where low clouds always seem to linger) to hike the Webster-Jackson loop. To our surprise and joy, the Notch was clear and colorful.
A view from Bugle Cliff looking down at the
AMC Highland Center and Route 302
The 6.5-mile round trip hike to the top of Mt. Webster (3,910') and Mt. Jackson (4,052') via the Wesbter-Jackson Trail and the Webster Cliff Trail is rigorous. It passes through spruce-fir forest, climbs several steep rocky pitches, winds up and down to cross several small brooks--all of which had flowing water.
On nearly every hike in the White Mountains--up high or down low--we see a toad,
which always make me glad for some reason
The summit of Mt. Webster is a ragged mound of bare rock that drops off precipitously to the west, into Crawford Notch. We perched here briefly to take in the view of Mt. Willey, Mt. Field, and Mt. Tom on the west side of the Notch.
After taking in the sweeping view to the west from atop Mt. Webster, I turned northeast toward a clear view of Mt. Washington and its high presidential brethren.
The trail between Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson is relatively flat, except for the last bit. Bog bridges and boardwalk dot this stretch of trail that traverses wet, boggy areas. Two thru hikers--Beeline and his partner--passed us as they headed north. They moved quickly, in part because they were well-conditioned, but also because winter is closing in on the final leg of the Appalachian Trail. They needed to move quickly. We wished them well.
A look back at Mt. Webster as we began the final climb up to Mt. Jackson
The summit of Mt. Jackson was a popular destination on Saturday. Many hikers on top and we passed a lot of hikers on their way up as we descended. The youngest hiker we met was six years old. Mt. Jackson offers great views, especially on the cusp of fall.

Henna, Kodi, and I atop Mt. Jackson with Mt. Washington in the distance
A close-up of Presidential Range: the gray speck on the left,
on the south shoulder of Mt. Pierce, is Mizpah Hut.
Mts Eisenhower and Monroe rise beyond Mt. Pierce
and lead up to Mt. Washington
And then another look west across to the Willey Range
Mt. Jackson has a much broader summit than Mt. Webster, with many nooks and crannies and view points. In this next photo I captured the wind-swept fir trees ("flags") on the windy summit.
Henna, our youngest dog, is still not off-leash, so she set a quick pace, straining against her flexible lead. By the time we arrived back at the car we were ready to rest our feet and our knees. With a final look at "Elephant Head," a rock formation that looks down on Route 302, we headed south, leaving the Notch behind, but taking a bit of fall with us.

2 comments:

  1. Terrific report, Ellen, and your photos are truly splendid! Autumn is such a wonderful season, and it seems to last but an instant!

    John

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  2. Thanks John, your comments are much appreciated.

    I forgot to mention one thing in my post. The Jackson Brook leg of the loop must have taken a hit during Hurricane Irene. The lower section looked to be recently re-constructed with some serious stonework. Kudos to whichever hard-working trail crew worked to make our hike down easier.
    Ellen

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