Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to the Mountains

It was nearly a year since we last hiked in the White Mountains, so it was good to return this past weekend for several hikes. From our base in Jackson, we took in two very different hikes. On Saturday we drove over Hurricane Mountain Road and up Route 113 through Evans Notch to the Caribou Mountain parking area. Lots and lots of other people had the same idea to hike this weekend, but we still found quiet spots and solitude, at least on the hike to Caribou Mountain and later along the East Branch of the Saco River.
On the Caribou Trail, on the way to the summit, I spotted a cow moose feeding among the underbrush of a storm-damaged yellow birch stand. It was a perfect late summer day: blue sky overhead, mid-70s, a light breeze, no mosquitoes or black flies.

Yesterday we hiked a portion of the Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack, and Mts Lincoln, and Lafayette. It was overcast with thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon. The summits were in and out of the clouds, but no rain fell. Hundreds of others were making the same trek so we encountered a steady stream of hikers going and down. Still, it was wonderful to be on the ridge amidst the clouds and the temps and wind were refreshing. And most surprisingly the brooks were flowing with water, despite the long, dry summer.

The Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack Mountain crosses Dry Brook several times,
showcasing a series of falls that were definitely not dry.
We reached the summit of Little Haystack (4,760') by 11:30. Clouds constantly shifted across the ridge; sometimes Mt Lincoln was visible, then moments later it was shrouded in clouds, then emerged again.
Franconia Ridge Trail on the way to 5,089-foot Mt. Lincoln;
a mat of cranberry borders the trail.
Mt. Lafayette (5,260') was in the clouds when we reached just past midday.
It didn't matter to me that we had no view from the summit of Lafayette. Being on top of one of these high peaks, reached on my own two feet, is exhilarating enough. The rocks and plants at my feet are just as beautiful as a long, sweeping view.

At lower elevations hobblebush is the common shrub along most any trail in the White Mountains. I suspect that most people don't notice it since it is so common, but I notice it all the time, stopping to admire the buds and fruits, and changing leaf color, and even a large toad that hopped beneath a leaf.
This morning, before leaving Jackson, we explored the East Branch of the Saco River. We weren't there for tubing (not enough water for that anyway). It was at this spot that we found our solitude. We listened to the water flowing over rocks and watched a solitary sandpiper feed at the water's edge. We sat on and wandered among the river's rocks, noting individual plants that have taken hold, logs washed downstream then caught by large boulders, and the myriad sizes and colors and patterns of stones.
It is bone dry back home in southern New Hampshire. I'm comforted knowing that the high peaks are often shrouded in clouds and rain and that the brooks and rivers meandering down from up high are still flowing and nourishing life along the way.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great weekend of hiking. It's awesome you saw moose...I'm still mooseless when it comes to seeing them on the trail.

    You mention the Hobblebush and wanted to say that it's one of my favorite plants/bushes in the Whites. I always get excited seeing them even though they are common. My favorite time to see them is in early spring when the leaves are small and thick. I also like the flowers soon after that. Someone told me once that the larger perimeter flowers are simply decoys to attract bees for the smaller middle flowers which are active.

    Great blog post!

    Karl

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  2. Ellen, your photos are excellent! Also, I love your statement (quoted below), and totally agree with the sentiments you expressed.

    "It didn't matter to me that we had no view from the summit of Lafayette. Being on top of one of these high peaks, reached on my own two feet, is exhilarating enough. The rocks and plants at my feet are just as beautiful as a long, sweeping view."

    John

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