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View Full Version : Webster, Jackson, and the Hancocks



MichaelJ
07-08-2004, 09:43 PM
Well, it's about time I wrote this!

The best way to spend a Friday afternoon at work is to not be there, but to be in the car driving north for a long weekend of camping and hiking. My destination was Hancock Campground, where on June we were having the planning meeting for this year's Flags on the 48 (http://www.flagsonthe48.org/) memorial hike on Saturday, June 26th. The meeting, however, was just one part of the weekend; the rest would be spent hiking.

I arrived at the campground in a rush, trying to beat the huge splotches of rain on the weather radar, and quickly found where the planning crew had established our sites. It was time for the inaugural setup of the Taj Michael, my 4-person LL Bean tent with attached screen room. I can actually stand in this thing. It was quite the extravagant luxury, but what the heck - I'm car-camping in a campground and needn't be a meager backpacker. After that, I made a swing into town for ice and a fantastic plate of spaghetti at the Earl of Sandwich. A beer and relaxation around the campfire topped off the evening before retiring for the night.

I was up with the dawn the next morning, got my gear together, devoured a bowl of granola, and headed out into the clouds and fog. The weather was not promising, and as I arrived in Crawford Notch rain was spitting down and there were no views whatsover. LittleBear arrived, as undeterred by the weather as I was, and we started up the Webster-Jackson trail.

The trail was a combination of grey and green. The rocks were wet but not slippery, the going easy as we warmed up and chatted the miles away. We passed a cascade that must be lovely on a warm, sunny day. Before we knew it, we were at the split, taking the right-hand link to go up Webster first.

The first thing the trail did was drop steeply into the narrow ravine of Silver Cascade. This was a bit rough on our quads, as we weren't yet ready for that kind of movement, but it was over quickly, and then the long, moderate ascent continued. As we rose higher up into the clouds, we started to feel more rain and also a light but steady wind. This was hypothermia weather, in the 50s, so we stopped and put our shells on. Then we came around a corner and there was the summit with its fine cliff views of ... grey. So much for majestic Crawford Notch.

I did a little exploring of the paths on the summit (there are some fine-looking campsites hidden off in the trees), then we made our way back to head over to Jackson. This was a wonderful piece of trail, a sub-alpine ridge walk over flat rock ledge and bog bridges. There were some ups and downs, but with a little conversation to break the grey it passed quickly and we were soon celebrating my 35th 4000-footer on the summit of Mt. Jackson.

We spent time talking with a few people who'd come over from Mizpah Hut for the view, and for about a minute there was, in fact, a view back to the hut, then it closed in again, so after a quick lunch we started back down. This piece of trail is steep and rough, with slippery and loose rock, and so was a bit of an annoyance. But it soon passed and it was back to a moderate walk down to the junction.

After closing the loop at the junction, we noticed a few things: the rain had stopped, the sun was intermittently breaking through the clouds, and the bugs were attacking unmercifully. We took the side trail to Bugle Cliff and saw that the weather was lifting, but couldn't stay for long as the black flies became the substitute storm. Fortunately, they stayed in the woods as we came out onto the road. The bright, sunny road. By the time we were in our cars, the sky was clear, the day beautiful. Oh, well, what can you do? Why, you can go back to the campground for a beer!

LittleBear came back to our fabulous campsite to hang out for a while as we all sat around enjoying the afternoon and waiting for folks to arrive back from their respective hikes. As evening came on, the grill was fired up for dinner, then we had a very productive meeting enjoying the warmth of MtnMagic's nuclear campfire. There was one remarkable moment as the clear sky suddenly darkened with downpours and 20-30mph wind gusts blasting through. Thirty minutes later, it was clear and calm again. Ah, White Mountain weather.

Saturday morning I was again up with the dawn. After breakfast we struck camp, and MtnMagic, SilentCal, Vicki, SonicBoom, and I made our way over to the Hancock parking area by the hairpin turn on the Kanc. This is a great spot in and of itself, with beautiful views of the Osceolas and Scar Ridge under blue, sunny skies.

We started up the Hancock Notch Trail, which like many old logging routes is an easy, nearly-level walk through gorgeous woods along the river. This was just an outstanding stretch of trail, with some incredible-looking (occupied) campsites along the way. I'll definitely be heading back there, maybe even on skis in the winter.

The rest of the route to the Cedar Brook Trail, then to the shared portion of the Hancock Loop Trail, was all a terrific walk in the woods. By the time we got to the (easy) water crossings, my friends Jenifer and Karl had caught up after arriving late at the trailhead, and we were all one big, happy troup. As we turned left to climb the north peak, the trail drops a bit and crosses a remarkable dry river bed. In fact, there's a campsite and fire ring right in the middle of it, lending credence to the White Mountain Guide's statement that the brook here simply pours into the sand and vanishes underground. Still, I wouldn't have the nerve to camp there...

Then the trail climbs. Oh, yes, it climbs. Although very much in the woods, the geology is just like the nearby Arrow Slide: loose, broken rock that even dry wanted to slip under our feet as we rose painfully steeply. The advantage to that kind of grade, however, is that it doesn't last long, and we came over the crest to the summit junction of my 36th 4000-footer. A short side path leads out to a couple of huge, smooth, flat-topped boulders with an unimpeded view similar to that from the parking area, only with a great deal more openness and distance. This would be a great lunch spot.

We bundled up against the chill breeze and had our sandwiches and snacks. While sitting there, Jenifer and I realized that the hiking couple that arrived after us were in fact John and June, whom we'd met at Guyot Shelter the previous year! It's a small world, after all.

We were getting a chill and decided it was time to warm up and get moving, so we packed up our food and started across the link to South Hancock. There's a Middle Hancock lump, and it tried my tired legs, but in reality wasn't that bad. The sag between there and South Hancock was even easier, and then we were on the summit for my 37th 4000-footer! In fact, while on the summit we met Mari and her friend, whom we knew from online but were doing the loop in the opposite direction. After exchanging hellos, I headed down to a nice lookout with great views across the Sawyer Pond area to the ranges beyond. There were scattered clouds but the weather on the whole remained fantastic.

We all had long drives home, so after only a short stay we started down the trail. This section is even steeper than on North, but the size and distance of the rock steps made it quite passable, even at a decent pace. I was glad for the direction we chose to do the loop.

As with all hikes that begin with a long, flat walk, on the way out that walk can become tedious. A 3K and three 4K's had taken their toll on my feet and quads, and I felt done. The miles passed slowly but pleasantly, and when we got back to the parking area it felt all the better to get the boots off, a clean shirt on, and a cold soda in.
It was a great weekend of camping and peakbagging with great friends, of which I'm very appreciative. This was truly what it's all about.

As always, pictures are online:
Webster-Jackson (http://hiking.saletnik.org/album/index.cgi?mode=album&album=./Webster-Jackson_2004)
The Hancocks (http://hiking.saletnik.org/album/index.cgi?mode=album&album=Hancocks_2004)

Coming soon ... the epic adventures of MichaelJ, Poetree, and Poison Ivy along the Kinsman Ridge Trail from Rte 112 to the Whitehouse Trail!

KenC
07-09-2004, 10:42 AM
I know how you felt on the Webster Jackson loop Michael. Mickey7 and i did Jackson, Pierce, and Ike one day a while back and were treated to the very same views!! Gray!! Untill of course we were back at the cars, then it cleared.

That trip i'll do again on a Good Day.. :-)

Enjoyed your pics of the Hancocks. I've only done them Winter but thought it would be a great spot in the summer.

JohnL
07-09-2004, 11:11 AM
Michael,

As usual, nice photos and nice reports. Looking forward to hearing what you think of the Kinsman Ridge Trail.

JohnL

MichaelJ
07-09-2004, 12:06 PM
Kinsman Ridge was tough, but overall a really nice trail to spend two days on since it had a little bit of everything from cascades to rock scrambling, bog bridges to stairs, trees to open ledges. Eliza Brook Shelter was absolutely gorgeous. The pictures are actually already here (http://hiking.saletnik.org/album/index.cgi?mode=album&album=./Kinsman_Ridge_Backpack_2004) , but I haven't written the story out yet. :D

38 down, 10 to go!