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Thread: Presidential Traverse Advice

  1. #1
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    Presidential Traverse Advice

    Hey everybody, I'm new as an official member of VFTT but I've been reading these forums for years. Glad to be a part of the community!

    Iím planning to hike the Presidential Traverse here in a few weeks. Iíve been the White Mountains once before and hiked the Franconia Ridge trail. I just wanted to run my trip itinerary by some experts and get some advice.

    Iím planning to break the trip into 3 days/2 nights. Iím going with someone who is young and athletic but not in amazing shape at the moment, so I want to pace the trip. I am thinking I would rather go against the grain and do the trip south to north (Iíve heard the sun is at your back and the views get better as you go, although the difficulty also increases). Anyone have thoughts on that?

    Iím also planning on hammocking. Iíve heard there arenít the best camping options other than the huts/tent sites. Iíd prefer to avoid those if possible. So hereís the schedule I thought out:

    Day 1: Park at the Valley Way trailhead and hitch a ride to the Highland Center. Start hiking at the Highland Center and hike up to Mt. Eisenhower. From there head down the Eisenhower trail until I hit the tree line, get 200í off trail and set up my hammock. Iím not sure how far down I would have to go to hit useable trees so any help with that would be great.

    Day 2: Head back up to the ridge, hike over past Washington and stop for the second night somewhere in the woods in the general area of the Perch tent site off Randolph Path before I get to Adams.

    Day 3: Hit Adams and Madison and then work my way down to the Valley Way trailhead parking lot where I will have left the car. Find some place that sells the biggest burger around and has plenty of beer.

    Iím hoping someone has some thoughts on my camping locations. Iíve just tried to divide it up fairly evenly and find some decent spots I can set up in the woods using Google maps and some pictures. I understand this will add some distance and elevation but Iím not sure how much.

    Thanks for the advice everyone!

  2. #2
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    I haven't done much of this route, but hammocking near treeline could be a challenge, with the little dwarf brushy trees. You might need to set up a little lower where the trees are substantial...

  3. #3
    Senior Member TEO's Avatar
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    I don't know how the locals feel, but I wouldn't be hitch-hiking or pick up hitch-hikers during the pandemic, and I'm a fan of hitch-hiking.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEO View Post
    I wouldn't be hitch-hiking or pick up hitch-hikers during the pandemic
    I'm struggling right now even with the idea of using the shuttle services, individual people's cars. I do that all the time, and I'm sure they are wiping down and wearing masks (and I will) but still I'm having trouble with the idea. I can't even imagine hitching right now.

  5. #5
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    As a proxy for "trees big enough to hammock from", I looked at the aerial view and found a stand of birch trees on the Eisenhower trail. That was at 3,600'. (The trail junction is about 4,400'.) The trail is steep, so it's only about 0.3 miles distance down the trail, but 800 feet of elevation loss is not trivial.

    Also, check the camping rules near the Perch and the other RMC sites on Adams. I think there's a quarter-mile exclusion zone, and the terrain below treeline is extremely steep, so wandering off-trail, as dark approaches, is not advised. I've no experience with hammocks, but I'd be worried that the trees close to the trail are both very densely packed and not very strong, in addition to not reaching the 8-foot minimum until the trail descends all the way to the Perch.

    I've done the traverse south-to-north over three days, it was perhaps more enjoyable than the other way (do the steeper peaks when the packs are lighter, save the best views for last). Stayed at Mizpah campsite the first night, one of the RMC spots on Adams the second (Perch? -- I think that's the only one with tent sites).

    At the end of a long day, Adams is always bigger than I remember. Finding the campsite always takes a while.

  6. #6
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    There are sites on Eisenhower trail near treeline of questionable legality that can support a hammock. Thanks, AT.

  7. #7
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    I'll recommend a modified version of the traverse. If you park at the Pinkham Notch lot, you could hike up to Hermit Lake the first day and camp in a shelter (once they are open). Second day, head up the Tuckerman Ravine trail, summit Washington and head to the Perch tent platforms. Third day, head over Adams and Madison then follow the AT back to Pinkham Notch. No hitchhiking to worry about and no searching for suitable camping spots at the end of a long day.

  8. #8
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    My standard observations (CV-19 or not)

    1 mile and 1000 feet of elevation normally gets you well into more mature trees from the ridgeline but there are as many exceptions as there trails that follow the rules.

    If in doubt always go down a side trail to the west or north, the geography means that the trails are steeper on the east side (and end up in more remote places.). That said Ammonusuc Ravine Trail, Caps ridge trail and Castle Trail are all bad choices that violate the 1 and 1 rule and the go west rule. Ammo is posted RUA all the way down to pool at the base of the ridge. Caps Ridge is dense until you hit the Link and a fir wave/blowdown had made a mess of the woods (there is no good water unless you head down the Link). Castle Trail is just a long hike with some significant scrambling before you get to the woods. Jewell Trail has a bootleg but legal camping area about 1/4 of a mile into the woods. It just a wide spot on the trail with space for one or two tents and a persistent fire ring. The softwoods are borderline open enough on the south side of the trail to fit tents in. A hammock user would need to look around and do a low hang. There usually is some water crossing the trail just be leaving treeline. Treat it as its downhill from Gulfside trail. The wide spot and woods also makes it popular toilet spot so watch your step.

    Edmunds Path on Eisenhower has camping spots on sloped ground that are close to the 1 and 1 rule. There is a reliable water source that crosses the trail about 150 yards off the ridgeline.

    There are no real good options around the Perch, Gray Knob and Crag Camp except head down Lowes Path until you find suitable trees. Valley Way tentsite is extremely popular, the trees get more mature as you go down Valley way but the slopes are steep.

    Thru hikers and others maintain various lists of "so called stealth sites" which generally are illegal. Sphinx Col is not legal but used frequently due to its location but if bad weather comes through its one of more exposed areas along the ridge line, there is no good escape once the weather hits. Thruhikers at this point of the hike are usually very LNT and hiking long days so they are in around dark and out around sunrise. Logistically the FS would have a tough time enforcing the rules at this site. If large groups started using it I expect there could be enforcement but FS resources are thin and best deployed elsewhere.

  9. #9
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    I'll recommend a modified version of the traverse. If you park at the Pinkham Notch lot, you could hike up to Hermit Lake the first day and camp in a shelter (once they are open). Second day, head up the Tuckerman Ravine trail, summit Washington and head to the Perch tent platforms. Third day, head over Adams and Madison then follow the AT back to Pinkham Notch. No hitchhiking to worry about and no searching for suitable camping spots at the end of a long day.
    Welcome Greg,

    The route described above makes sense in the summer of COVID. And, if you use the Tuckerman Crossover you can bag Monroe also on day 2. That would give you all but 2 summits and the most dramatic scenery on the ridge.
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
    .

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    And, if you use the Tuckerman Crossover you can bag Monroe also on day 2.
    He could combine Monroe with the remaining Southern Presidentials, Boott Spur and Isolation as a loop hike at a later date.

  11. #11
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    An option for a Northern Presidential loop that allows hammocking would be to park at Pinkham, hike the AT to the Great Gulf trail and set up the hammocks near the Clam Rock site. On day 2, follow the AT south to summit Madison and Adams and follow Lowe's Path downhill to suitable trees. On day 3, follow the the Grey Knob trail to Edmands Col, over Jefferson, Washington and down Tucks.
    Last edited by jfb; 07-03-2020 at 09:57 AM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Is your partner old enough to drive, bringing two cars may be the better option than hitch-hiking. Bikes would make day one mostly a bike ride with camping down low, but that would mean the trees are large enough for Hammocks. Day two captures most of the terrain and means you just have one day to descend to sizable trees. You may have a descent of more than a mile and several hundred feet of elevation.

    I've done in as a multi-day S-N in the huts and 1 day going to N - S and the one day trip meant being in shape and getting up pretty early but the logistics otherwise were easier.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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