Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mount Monroe via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

It was a crisp, clear and cool morning with a brisk breeze as we drove toward today's hike. We were heading for Marshfield Station, home of the Cog Railway. The plan was to hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut and then summit Mount Monroe (5,372 ft.).

Smoky morning - Cog Railway train

Driving into the Marshfield Station parking lot there was a man standing in the road to collect $5.00 for hikers that wanted to park there. They have a "special" parking lot for hikers and an ominous sign warning that no hikers are to park beyond that area. So I paid my fee and he told me exactly where to park. There must have been a lot of hikers here today because there were many cars in the "hikers" parking lot but room for more.

I pulled into my designated parking spot as instructed. We geared up and headed toward the train station. The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail starts around the back of the main building and up past the small cabins behind it. There is a sign that marks the way and we started up the trail. It was 8:44 and 46 degrees.

Cog train seen at the dip in the ridge

Rock stairs

First ice

Mount Washington Hotel far below

The trail runs beside the waters of the Ammonoosuc River and gradually climbs until it reaches Gem Pool with a nice waterfall that cascades into it. After crossing Gem Pool the trail goes seriously up and it's constant and continual. Most of the trail consists of stepping from one rock to the next with a number of rock stairs that help the ascent. The upper portion of the trail requires some ledge scrambling along with some water crossing but all were quite manageable. We emerged from the treeline and followed the trail marked with cairns up to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

Ascending Mount Monroe

Going up!

Cold summit

Biting wind!

Mount Monroe summit pin

We reached the hut and saw the sign on the door - Closed for the Season. The hut was actually open but it was the last day and the croo was busy scrubbing and cleaning. Bathrooms and water were available as well as hot water for hot drinks. There were several hikers inside eating, relaxing and enjoying a bit of respite from the wind. It was still cold enough inside the hut to see your breath. The outside temperature was 29 degrees and the anemometer was broken so I'm not sure what the wind speed or wind chill was.

Mount Washington summit

Descending to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

After about a twenty minute break it was time to make the final push to the summit of Mount Monroe. We put on all of our layers, warm hat and gloves, pulled up the hoods on our windbreakers and out the door we went. The wind was strong but the summit was clear. It was a fairly easy and quick climb to the top. During the final stretch of trail at the summit the wind was unobstructed and it took some extra effort to navigate the last 100 yards.

Hugging the trail

Room with a view

Descending from Lakes of the Clouds Hut

It was not going to be a day to bask in the sunshine on top of Mount Monroe. The views were spectacular! Mount Washington is the next mountain over and stayed mostly in the clouds with an occassional clear view of the summit towers. We found the Mount Monroe summit pin, took lots of photos and were soon on our way back down to the hut. There was a steady stream of hikers making their way past us to conquer this mountain peak.

Back at the hut we took a short break and were soon ready to make the descent to Marshfield Station. On the way down we met many hikers, some in shorts and t-shirts. I was a little surprised by that hiking attire given the cold temperature and wind they would soon be encountering. I'll carry my layers with me, I can always take them off which is exactly what we did as the temperature warmed up.

Gem Pool

Back at the beginning

Marshfield Station

A cloudless Mount Washington

Upon reaching the end of the trail I looked up at the summits and found all the clouds had vanished, the peaks were clear and the sky was a deep blue. Despite the forecast of cold temps and wind we were glad we chose Mount Monroe for our hike today! It was our 9th hike on the list of 4,000 footers.

Having fun in the great outdoors!

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