"Adventure is not outside man; it is within" - George EliotAuthor's Note: It has been sometime since I last wrote in this blog. For those of you who have enjoyed these tales and wondered at their absence, I apologize. For those of you who did not miss these poor scratchings, and who groan at the mere thought of their resurrection, I apologize most humbly.
|View back to the summit of Mt Washington as we descend the cone on our way to Jefferson.|
|Crossing the high plateau of Mt Washington, we approach the headwall of the Great Gulf. The northern Presidentials stretch for miles across the gulf.|
|As we approach the Cog Railway railbed, an engine and car slowly climbs up towards the summit.|
|Now on its descent, the Cog Train passes us, engine first. As we watch it crawl by the passengers watch us watching them.|
|The Great Gulf and the northern Presidentials. The peaks are, from left to right. Mt Jefferson, Mt Adams, and Mt Madison.|
|Mark stands on a long splintered and eroded ledge above the gulf. While this looks dangerous, it was only risky for Mark. I was quite safe taking the picture. So no worries really!|
|We reach the intersection with the Gulfside Trail.|
|Mt. Clay. Really more a shoulder of Mt. Washington than a distinct peak.|
|The view from Gulfside Trail near Mt. Clay down into the valley that holds the Cog Railway base station. The railbed is visible along the ridge to the left and the base station and its approach road are clearly visible in the center.|
The pace of a hike is determined by the condition of the hikers, the condition of the weather, and the nature of the trail. One of the slower trails to traverse is one whose bed is made up of large, angular, and chaotic stones. This surface requires each step to be carefully chosen and made. It is more tiring as well as being more time consuming. This is due to the additional muscular effort needed to maintain balance when one's foot rests not on a flat surface, but rather on an uneven angular surface that often is much smaller than your boot's sole. Thus did many minutes sift through the hourglass as we pushed on.
|The intersection of Gulfside Trail with Jewell Trail. Jewell Trail would be our path down once we returned from Mt Jefferson. Well, that was the plan anyway.|
|Mt Jefferson rises ahead!|
|Monticello Lawn. With the summit of Mt.Jefferson behind us, we look across the lawn and the Great Gulf to Mt Washington. At the right edge of the image, in the distance, is the summit of Mt Monroe.|
The summit of Mt. Jefferson is a small plateau upon with rise three little "peaklets," the tallest of which is the highest point and is thus the true "Summit." The plateau hosts the intersections of several trails marked by trail signs and robust cairns. Reaching the summit, we spent a little time enjoying the incredible views, the feeling of completeness caused by reaching all three peaks, and the wonderfully wild feeling of standing so high above the surrounding lands. A handful of summits are my very favorites in the Whites, and Mt Jefferson had found an unassailable place among those favorites.
|Seen from the area of Monticello Lawn, across the Great Gulf, the Carter Range stands to the east. Beyond those mountains lies western Maine.|
|Mt Washington seen from Jefferson. Monroe stands to the right. The three peaks our hike traversed.|
|Mt. Adams, another of my favorites, as seen from the summit area of Mt. Jefferson.|
|Mark snaps a photo on Jefferson's summit.|
|A venerable cairn just below Jefferson's summit still harbors the corporeal memory of the Fall's first snowfall. Mt Washington in the distance.|
|Weather-worn trail signs, and robust cairns, mark the trails across the summit plateau. Cairns are more than works of art, they are montane hiker's lighthouses, as-it-were, during poor visibility and foul weather.|
|Mark and I leave Jefferson and begin the hike out.|
|Mark leaves Monticello Lawn. The lack of a pack is thanks to our "dashing" to the summit, and the long shadows being cast speak to why we were dashing. The peaks running in the middle distance are the southern Presidentials.|
|The Cog Railway along the ridge ended up being our chosen road. Looked easy really. It wasn't easy. Not in the least easy!|
|Leaving the Gulfside Trail we head across the slope to hike down along the Cog Railway railbed.|
I could go on and on about how unpleasant and exhausting the hour was that it took us to crawl down the Cog railbed. I won't though. I'd rather not recall the awful specifics of what ended up being a mini Bataan death march. I didn't take any photos at the time to illustrate the folly of it. I should have, but then I just wanted it to end as fast as possible. It did finally, of course. When were nearly down the expected maintenance path did at last appear alongside the rails, and we gratefully climbed off onto terra firma (terra no greasa!) and limped our now filthy selves back to the car. After cleaning up as best we could we headed to dinner and then drove the long miles home.
As the saying goes, we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. I made several mistakes, or poor decisions on this trip. I chose to ignore my illness and push on even though my reduced pace caused us to be way behind schedule. I failed to ensure we had all the gear we should have before we started out, and we ended up being a headlamp short. We survived though, and Mark pointed out that our sketchy descent made a better story to tell friends. And it was more exciting due to the added risk and a small matter of technically being an illegal trespass. Ya, I guess it does make a better story. Especially since no one got hurt, or arrested! Not getting to answer questions from the authorities was most likely due to the fact that it was too dark to see us on the rails. I did lose my favorite jacket though, forgotten somewhere near the Ravine of the Sphinx. I wonder who is wearing it now...