Warm White (and Muddy) Mountains

Our family made an end of year/beginning of year pilgrimage to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, for the third year in a row. After last year’s trip to Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, we opted for the Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Both are Appalachian Mountain Club lodges. The conditions in 2009/2010 couldn’t have been more different from 2010/2011. In 2009/2010, it snowed for three days straight and our hikes were punctuated by sub-zero (F) temperatures and blizzard winds. This trip was notable for the massive thaw. Temperatures soared into the low-40’s (F) and the snow melted with grass and mud showing itself in spots.

We still had a blast closing out 2010 and welcoming 2011. Once again, we were joined by the Roti Family (Art and Melissa and their two children) for the adventure north. We arrived Thursday, but the real fun didn’t start until Friday, New Year’s Eve day. Art and I hiked the Crawford Path to the summits of 4310 foot Mt. Pierce and 4780 foot Mt. Eisenhower. Neither are too difficult. The Crawford Path, which was our main thoroughfare, is a wide open trail without too many steep gradients. It is one of the oldest trails in the White Mountains and has a long history.

The weather was so warm that we hiked in long sleeve shirts rolled up to our elbows, without gloves, and without hats; until we reached treeline. It was really weird. The snow was so soft that we didn’t need snowshoes or crampons. I hiked in my leather boots. We had way too much gear, but better to be prepared than to be without. The views were pretty good. Our descent was rapid since the Crawford Path is like a highway. It is a good gradient and you can really move.

We got down in time to regroup with our families, fuel up, and march up Mt. Willard with all four kids on our backs. Each adult had one child to haul up the hill. It was a great sunset walk and we descended in darkness with our headlamps, which was a cool New Year’s Eve treat. After a day of walking, we were in bed well before midnight.

On New Year’s Day, as a group, we hiked on snowshoes to the Mt. Washington Hotel. We took the railroad tracks, which are inactive in winter, and were actually groomed for XC skiing. We pulled the Chariots on skis to the Lodge at Bretton Woods, stashed the Chariot’s behind the motel, and walked up the driveway to the Mt. Washington Hotel. It was surreal to go out on the deck and see people swimming in the outdoor pool with the entire Presidential Range as their backdrop. Lunch was fun and then we had to boogie to make it back to Crawford Notch in time for dinner. It was a long day of pushing and pulling, but it was good exercise and great to be outside with the kids.

Sunday dawned rainy and even warmer. The thaw had accelerated and the parking lot at the Highland Center turned into a muddy mess. We didn’t hang around too long. We returned our dorm room to the condition we found it in and made our way home. We stopped at the Brattleboro Food Co-Op for the first time, which was a lot of fun. All in all, it was a fine winter weekend in the White’s.

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