August 10, 2014: Jefferson Notch to Crawford Notch Traverse

Trails: Caps Ridge Trail, Jefferson Loop Trail, Gulfside Trail, Clay Loop Trail, Crawford Path, Monroe Loop Trail, Eisenhower Loop Trail, Webster Cliff Trail

Summits: Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, Pierce

Hikers: Rebecca Schubert and me

Rebecca and I both enjoyed terrific hike days the day before, and this one was really a great way to finish off the weekend. Originally, I was looking at Jefferson and Washington as a loop from Base Road. Then the Monroe add-on made sense. After looking at the times and exchanging notes with Rebecca it seemed that adding Eisenhower, and possibly Pierce also fit the day. By this point we had a clear picture of the forecast for the day and decided to get the most from it. Late on Saturday we decided to hike the notch-to-notch traverse including Jefferson to Pierce and everything in between. Yeah, weíre going to have a good day.

After leaving a car at Crawford Path Trailhead (our ending location) we headed to Jefferson Notch and Caps Ridge Trail (our starting location). It was early, roughly 5:30am, and others that had spent the night there were starting to move around. As it turned out, there were two others that set off a couple hours earlier for an up-and-down of Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail Ė we met them near the upper cap. On my last visit to Caps Ridge Trail there was a group of volunteers taking care of trail maintenance; waterbars, blowdowns, and brushing. The trail is in great shape! Thanks Michael Blair and crew.

We made our way along Caps Ridge Trail stopping as needed and at the pothole viewpoint midway to Jefferson. Our start was early and we were working our way through the transition from late night to daylight. This presents a difficult challenge for someone like me with little in the way of photographic skills but I knew eventually we would have more photo-friendly conditions. We were in one of the really fun sections of the day and I was unable to get the pictures I wanted. Oh well, maybe next time. We enjoyed climbing over the lower and upper cap as the daylight continued to improve. By the time we reached the summit of Jefferson the sun was up providing warmth and light.

Another couple had arrived to Jefferson from an over-night at The Perch. We helped each other out with summit pictures. They were also heading to Crawford Notch. Once the summit formalities were done Rebecca and I were on our way to Clay, our next target for the day.

Jefferson to Clay is a pretty easy 1.5 mile walk with a small elevation gain of ~500 feet along the way. We worked our way through Sphinx Col, leapfrogging another pair on a southbound traverse, and did the climb to the summit of Clay. This summit is one of my favorites; itís usually very quiet and peaceful, and the views are as good as youíll find. There is very little difference between hiking over Clay versus hiking around, so we went over.

Next up Ė Washington. The Clay-to-Washington hike was where we started to run into the real crowds. The early-morning coal fired Cog had completed its run and a diesel cog was on the way (we reached the tracks as it passed by). The auto road also opened and a steady line of vehicles made its way to the summit parking areas. We met the first wave at the Gulfside-Clay Loop trails junction. Everybody looked very fresh and most also appeared poorly prepared for the day. Iíll bet they had a ride to the summit (Cog, tour van, or private car). Frequently, people that clearly didnít reach the summit under their own power offered words of encouragement ďyouíre almost thereĒ. They didnít have a clue Ė we werenít even almost half-way there. What can you do? Just smile and keep walking.

We reached the mob scene at the summit. Our time there was relatively brief; use the facilities, I allowed the snack bar cashier to rob me of $7.50 for three Gatorades, and we loaded up with water. After a couple pictures we were on our way south to quieter mountains.

Our next target for the day was Monroe. Along the way we passed the LOC Hut. This place seemed to mark the end to the crowds. We saw more people along the way but there were no high concentrations as we met on Washington and the Hut. The climb to Monroe was easy. By the time we cleared Washington most of the elevation was done for the day and there remained only three small climbs to get through at Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce. We arrived to the summit of Monroe, went through the usual summit formalities, and continued south to Franklin (speed bump) and Eisenhower. There were probably only a dozen or a few more hikers in this stretch. For most of the little over two miles we just walked at a comfortable pace. The lower elevation combined with the persistent sun was taking a toll on each of us. Of course, we both left the sunscreen behind. Oh well, we did what we could to stay comfortable and enjoy the outstanding day.

Eventually we started through the switchbacks on the north approach to Eisenhower. I really like this section; elevation gain comes quickly with little effort. Soon we were on final approach to the summit. It was crowded but not too crowded. People seemed to be leaving as fast as others arrived. We got our pictures and did our part to keep the summit congestion under control; we left. In a way this was the start of our exit hike.

Pierce was still in the line-up and our next and final target. The summit is a short side trip from our exit route. We continued south on Crawford Path and made the turn at the Webster Cliff Trail junction. Roughly .1 later we were getting our summit pictures for the final peak for the day. Another couple was there lounging and helped us out with the summit picture. Rebecca and I were both in need of some shade and we wasted no time in leaving. We headed back to the Crawford Path Ė Webster Cliff trails junction, made the turn, and started down the long ramp to Crawford Notch.

This was our final trail segment. Usually it seems like a very mild trail but my feet were a little tender from all of the endless rocks and the descent was not as pleasant as I expected. But it was late in the day and we were heading downhill, things could be worse. From here to the trailhead lot it was a simple matter of just walk.

Roughly 1.5 hours later we were standing in the trailhead lot smiling. What a day we had! Outstanding weather and trail conditions but selfishly, the most important part was my hiking companion. Thanks Rebecca for such a terrific day in the mountains. Iím so glad the experts were right, Iím so glad we were able to enjoy the day together, and I really hope I had nothing to do with your headache (sorry you had a couple tough hours).

Looking forward to our next time out.

Iíve posted some pictures from the day.

BIGEarl's Pictures

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