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Thread: In and around the Great Gulf

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cumulus's Avatar
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    In and around the Great Gulf

    Once when he was a bit younger my dad took a backpacking trip into the Great Gulf, and since then has always recommended it to me. Except for hiking through the edge of it once up Madison Gulf Trail, though, I had never been there, until this past weekend.

    Friday, 10 July 2015

    I started from the Great Gulf Trailhead on Rte. 16 a little after noon on Friday, and took the Great Gulf Trail into the gulf. The crossing of Parapet Brook, which had been so tricky when I did the Madison Gulf Trail, was completely easy this time. After I passed the MGT I was redlining until up on Washington on Saturday.

    At one point I fell and jammed my left middle finger against a rock. It still hurts a little.

    The GGT hiking into the gulf follows the West Branch of the Peabody river most of the way, with lots of waterfalls and glimpses of the Presidential Range, which surrounds the gulf most of the way around. I hiked until I came across an official campsite about a quarter mile past the Wamsutta Trail intersection. There was no privy, but there was a good water source, a nice flattened surface, and a little clearing which gave me a good view of the spur off of Jefferson which Six Husbands Trail goes over. Besides being a little buggy (with black flies) it was a nice place, which I had to myself.

    Saturday, 11 July 2015, Washington, Clay, and Jefferson

    When I started out Saturday morning the first thing I noticed was that there were a few more campsites just beyond the one I stayed at. Just before the intersection with Sphinx Trail I passed an unofficial (and illegal) campsite. I got sidetracked there onto the wrong path, but turned around before long and got back on the real trail. This section of the Great Gulf Trail was even better than the previous day's, with more and bigger waterfalls and lots of peeks at the towering ridges above the gulf.

    Soon I got to Spaulding Lake, where there's good views of the headwall in front of, and around, one. I could see why some people just hike out to the lake.

    Soon after the lake the trail climbs into the alpine zone, up a slide to the main ridge of the Presidentials. It climbs about 1600 feet in about a mile in this section. The views, especially when I would look back to Jefferson, Adams, and Madison towering over the gulf, were pretty incredible. The trail was hard to follow in spots above the treeline, though. There are some yellow blazes and some cairns, but a couple of times I realized I was off the trail and had to hunt around for it again. There were also some large boulders which were not as secure as they seemed; nothing really dangerous, but it's disconcerting when a rock which my Presidential hiking intuition tells me is going to be fixed moves when I step on it.

    My advice for someone doing this trail is: When you first pass the treeline you'll see a huge boulder in front of you. The trail runs just to the right of the boulder. Then it follows a little to the left of the brook. When you get near the top where the slide fans out stay to the right. (I hadn't, and had to cross over.) If visibility is good (like it was for me) you'll be able to see a sign from quite a ways away, but not when you're close to it.

    When the Great Gulf Trail crested the headwall, I saw I was practically at Washington's summit. I crossed the cog railway and hiked up there, where I found that a bicycle race up the auto road was in progress. I went to the visitors' center, where I had a soda, send my granddaughter a postcard, and bought some sunblock, which I had forgotten to pack.

    I had only met a few hikers on Friday, and two passed me while climbing the headwall Saturday, but once I was on the Presidential Range proper, on a sunny July Saturday, I started meeting a lot of other hikers. I went from Washington to Clay to Jefferson to Edmands Col enjoying perfect weather. From there I walked down Randolph Path and Israel Ridge Path (which seemed a lot longer than the map showed) to the Perch, an RMC leanto. I didn't see anyone else between Edmands Col and the Perch. There were quite a few people at the Perch, though. It ended up being five of us in the leanto itself, at least three tents on the platforms, and a guy hammocking.

    Sunday, 12 July 2015, Adams and Madison

    Sunday did not start well. First, I couldn't find my lighter. I suspect that I left it lying around Saturday and a couple guys who left before I got up packed it thinking it was theirs. I had a spare, so I had my tea, but I spent a lot of time looking for that lighter. Worse, my camera stopped working. It would go through the motions, but the display would be black. It could show old pictures, though, so the problem wasn't the display itself. If I took a new picture with it the new picture would display as black when reviewed. Luckily, I had my new smart phone on me, so I was able to take pictures with that, although not as good quality ones.

    The hiking started good; Israel Ridge Trail seemed a lot shorter in the morning after a good night's sleep. I could see Jefferson in the clouds as I circled around to the Gulfside Trail north, and I soon entered a cloud myself. I climbed up the Adams summit cone in a cloud and in a very high wind.

    Then I fell. I'm not sure what happened, or how much the wind contributed to it, but I lost my balance and fell off the rock I was on, going down maybe ten feet to land head down on another rock. It was something of a slow motion fall from my perspective. I had broken my fall with my hands, so my head didn't get banged at all, but my shins were both bloody, especially my right one, which was badly scraped. A few days later I noticed bruises on my left arm, and started feeling pain in my left shoulder, which must have come from the same fall. Anyway, I bandaged myself up, started hiking up the mountain again, and after a couple steps saw the summit sign in front of me.

    It was way too windy to stay long at the summit, so I started down the Airline Trail. Around this time I took off my hat and put it in my pack because I was worried the wind would take it away from me. After a while, though, the wind died down to reasonable levels, and the sun came out. For the rest of the hike I was out of the clouds, as was Adams, although I could see that Washington was not.

    There were not as many people on the trails Sunday as Saturday, but there were a few, including a sobo through hiker.

    At the hut I had some baked goods, and then proceeded up Madison. Once again it got very windy, and once again I put my hat in my pack, even though I was now in the sunshine. After Madison I continued down Osgood Trail. Again, once I was below the summit area the wind lessened quite a bit. The Osgood Trail follows an exposed ridge quite aways, and then drops steeply down for a lot longer than I'd remembered from the last time I'd hiked it. For the final section back on the Great Gulf Trail I was really dragging, even though it's one of the flattest and smoothest trails in the Whites.

    Summary

    This was a great trip. I'd been thinking about doing something along these lines for a while and I'm glad I finally did. The Great Gulf Trail is now one of my favorite trails, both for the section which follows the river and the section which climbs up the headwall. I had originally scheduled the trip for Sat., Sun. and Mon., so I would be at the Perch on Sun. night when it should be less crowded, but I changed it due to the weather forecast, which was the right decision since it meant I climbed out of the gulf on a great day weatherwise.

    I'm reclimbing the Northeast 111 in my 60s, having done them previously in my 50s. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison were numbers 17-20 (out of 115) in that effort.

    Here are the pictures, by my camera on Friday and Saturday and by my phone on Sunday.

    --

    Cumulus

    NE111 in my 50s: 115/115 (67/67, 46/46, 2/2)
    NE111 in my 60s: 20/115 (15/67, 5/46, 0/2)
    NEFF: 46/50; Cat35: 36/39; WNH4K: 36/48; NEHH 81/100
    LT NB 2009

    "I don't much care where [I get to] --" said Alice, "-- so long as I get somewhere," ...
    "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
    - Lewis Carroll

  2. #2
    Senior Member yogi's Avatar
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    Thanks for this report Cumulus. I enjoyed it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Driver8's Avatar
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    West Hartford, CT (Photo: Sages Ravine, Salisbury, CT)
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    Beautiful pics, Cumulus and enjoyable account. This is a hike I've been dreaming about for a while. Looking forward to it still - fun to experience it vicariously through you, for now.
    NH4K: 21/48; N.E.4K: 25/67; NEHH: 28/100; NEFF: 14/50; Northeast 4K: 27/115

    https://www.facebook.com/Arkie.in.CT
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Grey J's Avatar
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    Way to go, oh bearded wonder! You are doing us >60s proud. I really enjoyed the photos.
    "I am a pilgrim and a stranger"

  5. #5
    Senior Member jjo's Avatar
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    The Tetons in pic.. live in MidWest
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    Thank you, Cumulus...Great pics of a great area!!!! keep these coming
    "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn"-J.Muir

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