2018 White Mountains Family Adventure #1

This past weekend, we had another great White Mountains family adventure. Our 2018 summer trips have been low-key. We opted to not travel far after a busy 2017 summer with two trips out west. This year, we decided to just spend time in the mountains of New England, and only two to three days at a time.

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Last month, we went to NEMBAfest for a mountain bike themed trip. Two weeks ago, we were back in Vermont, but just for a couple of days when Debbie ran the Vermont 100K. In the summer of 2017, we didn’t make it to our beloved White Mountain Huts, but we did visit Baxter State Park and we climbed Mt. Katahdin.

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So, this year, we decided to return to the huts and help the kids tick more 4,000 footers off their lists. It was a last-minute trip, so Debbie was challenged when tasked to plan the logistics because many of the huts were booked. She eventually figured out an itinerary that was a close approximation to our 2012 trip when we took the kids on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway to the summit, and then hiked “down” to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, stayed the night, hiked to Mizpah Spring Hut, stayed the night; and then hiked back to Crawford Notch.

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It’s hard to believe that was six years ago. Our kids were tiny, and we carried our daughter a good chunk of the way. This year, I had a hard time keeping up with the kids. They are turning in to powerhouse hikers. I was especially impressed with Dahlia. I already knew that Shepard had developed into a tough tramper, but in the past year, she has come on strong. This time, they hiked the entire way!

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Last Friday, I worked in the morning, but was able to get home by noon. We were already packed, and we made the drive to Twin Mountain, New Hampshire in about 4.5 hours after only one brief stop. We started at the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead shortly after 4:00 P.M., not far from the Cog Railway Base Station. We hiked the 3.1 mile steep trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It was raining lightly at the start, but by the time we got to the Hut, the late day sun had broken through the clouds. We arrived after 2 hours and 45 minutes of walking. We were nearly an hour late for dinner, but the Croo had saved food for us. It was a beautiful trail with lots of fun stream crossings.

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After dinner, we experienced an amazing sunset. It was a wonderful way to end the “work week.” We awoke on Saturday to a mix of clouds and partial sunshine. After breakfast, it looked like we were going to be socked in by more clouds, but on our 1.6 mile hike to the 6,322 foot summit of Mt. Washington, the skies cleared a bit more. This was Dahlia’s first ascent of the mountain, though she stood on the summit back in 2012 when we took the train.

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Shepard and I climbed the mountain in 2015, the last time I rode the Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb. So, he already had this one checked off the list. We snapped some pictures on the summit and then headed back down to the hut. On the way down, the clouds parted some more, and the sun shone even more brightly. It was turning out to be a really nice day. We refueled at he hut where we had left Dahlia’s pack hanging on a hook to save her from carrying the load. After we “geared” up, we started the traverse to Mizpah Spring Hut.

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This included the short but steep climb to the top of Mt. Monroe at 5,372 feet. Then, we went over Mt. Franklin at 5,001 feet, which isn’t on the official 4,000 footer list (the saddles between its summit and the adjacent peaks is not below the required 200 feet required for eligibility). We continued over Mt. Eisenhower, which at 4,760 feet is an official one, and then we summited Mt. Pierce, at 4,312, our fourth official peak of the day.

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The descent from the Pierce summit to the Hut is doozie, but we still arrived shortly after 4:00 P.M., more than an hour faster than we expected. The trip from Lakes of the Clouds was about 6 miles. We made good time despite a leisurely pace that included lots of breaks for photos and snacks. Both of the kids did great, and it was awesome to have such good weather. The predicted thunderstorms never materialized.

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We spent time lounging around, going over to the spring, exploring the Nauman Tentsite, resting, and listening to the Hut Naturalist’s talk. Dinner was fantastic, and we had great conversations with many new acquaintances.

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I was whooped, so I retired early while Debbie and the kids played games in the hut library. Despite having a snorer in our bunk room for the second night in a row, I slept OK. The weather on Sunday was even better. After breakfast, we made a leisurely descent down the Crawford Path to the notch. It was a little less than 3 miles. The trail was wet from more than a week of steady rain leading up to our trip, so we took care to remain on the rocks. Near the bottom, we bumped into our trail running friend, Larisa Dannis, who was heading out on a “Double Eisenhower Traverse.” She is an amazing athlete and super-hiker.

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When we reached the notch, Debbie handed me her pack, and she ran about 4 miles via Mt. Clinton Road (which is closed because it is impassable by car) and Base Road to fetch our car at the trailhead. The kids and I spent some time at the AMC Highland Center, horseing around on the playground, and rocking in the chairs on the front porch.

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Debbie returned with the car and we packed up. We spent another 24 hours in Cohos County. We drove 30 minutes northwest to visit with friends who live there. They were gracious hosts. We explored their land and then took a leisurely 6 mile canoe/kayak trip down a section of the Connecticut River. We saw two Great Blue Herons, and many other lovely birds. Shortly after noon on Monday, we were back on the road. We reached home a little after 5:00 P.M. and we were flatlanders again.

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