I finally got back to the White Mountains on Sunday after a 4 week hiatus and did a short 2.6 mile hike from Crawford Notch to Ethan Pond. This was a little section of the Appalachian Trail that I had missed and wanted to catch up. It was a surprisingly steep ascent of about 1,500 ft.
After that I backtracked a mile to the junction between the Ethan Pond Trail (AT) and the Willey Range Trail, before climbing Mt Willey (4,285 ft) and Mt Field (4,340 ft), both on the White Mountain 4,000 footer list. Total mileage for the day was 11.6 miles in 7 hours with about 3,700 ft of elevation gain.
I am happy to say that my knees are totally healthy once again. I didn’t need a Cho-pat today and I’m not in any pain now. It looks like my gym workouts and our vacation to Scotland worked a cure. That or the Belhaven, that is.
The climb up Willey was very steep and wet. The trail is heavily eroded despite lots of ladders and steps. I don’t think I’ve encountered such a hard section of trail since the Mahoosuc Range, back in June. There is a great view once you get to the top of Mt Webster directly across Crawford Notch which I captured hiking back to my car, but when I summitted the first time, Willey was in cloud.
From Willey, I continued another 1.5 miles to Mt Field which was a pretty easy hike except for one or two spots. By then the fog and cloud started to break up, so I settled in for a spot of lunch before retracing my steps back up Mt. Willey and down to Crawford Notch. I met a woman at the top who has climbed up just to feed the Grey Jays, a very aggressive little bird, that is known to snatch food out of hikers hands. Word had spread that they were hanging out on Field.
Autumn has arrived in the White Mountains but I’d say we’re about 1-2 weeks from peak foliage. Next weekend, is a national 3 day holiday called Columbus day, so the mountains will be swarming with people. But today, the trails were remarkably empty for this time of season. I attribute that to the heavy rain we had Saturday and the extremely dense fog that I encountered driving north on Sunday morning. I drove for two hours in the stuff until I arrived at Franconia Notch where the sky was suddenly clear, and the day just got better from there on out.
The window of daylight available for hikes has really shrunk by this time of year, down to 12 hours max, and it’s going to get worse from here on out. I have one more day hike left to do on the AT in New Hampshire and then two overnights to complete the state.The first of these overnights is week after next from the foot of Mt Lafayette to South Twin, hiking over Mt Garfield and Galehead Mountain on the ridge overlooking the Pemigewasset Wilderness. You can really lose yourself up in these mountains and woods, which is the plan.