Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mount Monroe and Mount Washington Loop Hike

The warm weather continues and the forecast was predicting a great day to summit Mount Washington on the last weekend of summer. My hiking route would take me up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail with a side trip up Mount Monroe (5,372') then taking the Crawford Path to Mount Washington (6,288') and descending the Gulfside Trail to the Jewel Trail completing the loop back to the Cog Railway Marshfield Base Station.

 Mount Washington as seen from my drive to the trailhead

 Early morning view of the Presidentials

 Summit towers on Mount Washington


I arrived at the Base Station hiker parking lot and found many hikers here ahead of me but no problem finding a parking spot. The last time I was here there was someone collecting a parking fee but not today. It was a cool morning but not cold. I started out in long pants and long sleeves. There wasn't much activity as I passed by Marshfield Station but the cog trains were warming up for the day.

 Gem Pool

 View from the trail

 A little ledge help

Once on the trail it was only about two tenths of a mile and I was zipping off the pant legs and changing to a short sleeve shirt. Moving up the trail hikers were passing me and I was passing other hikers. The trail was getting very busy as I thought it would be. I was among other hikers all the way to Lakes of the Clouds hut.

 Mount Monroe

You never know for sure what the weather will be on a particular hike especially above treeline. As I climbed higher I was expecting the wind to increase with colder temps. I was pleasantly surprised to be met by a welcoming breeze as the warm sun rose higher. The views opened up and I could see the summits were still in the clear but it looked like clouds were coming in from the western horizon.

 Ascending Mount Monroe

 Mount Monroe summit straight ahead

 On the summit of Mount Monroe

I got to the Lakes of the Clouds hut and continued on to Mount Monroe without removing my pack. The wind picked up a little while ascending but I still did not need to add a layer. There were many hikers making their way up to the top of Monroe. As the summit came into view I could see several hikers there and knew it would be rather difficult to get my usual panoramic views. I arrived at the summit and only had to wait a few minutes before I had the place to myself. It didn't last long, maybe two minutes but time enough to get my photos and video.

 Mount Washington from Mount Monroe

 Zooming in on Washington

 Mount Monroe from Lakes of the Clouds Hut

 A view of Mount Washington from the hut

 Room with a view

Back down at the hut I went inside and was greeted by Joe, one of the friendly croo members. He let me know where the rest rooms were, fresh water, and that there was pancakes and applesauce cake available. The applesauce cake was delicious. This was the last day of full service at the hut for this season. I took a short break to eat and recharge before continuing my hike.

 One of the Lakes of the Clouds

 Looking back at Mount Monroe

Back on the trail I was on my way to Mount Washington via the Crawford Path. This was my first time on this trail and I found it to be an enjoyable climb with spectacular views. As hikers were coming down from Mount Washington I noticed they were dressed in fleece and windproof shells. They were telling me that a cool wind was blowing up there. Just below the summit I found a spot that was protected from the wind and put on a long sleeve layer. I don't know what it is but it always seems to take so long to reach the summit when ascending the cone of Washington. It's probably because the summit is always in sight and just appears to keep moving further away.

I reached the junction where the trail turned to the summit of Mount Washington and I completed the last two tenths of a mile to the top. There was the usual crowd of people that you would expect to see on the summit arriving from every direction, the cog railway, the auto road and of course lots of hikers. The crowd didn't bother me as I took into consideration everyone was enjoying the beauty of this magnificent mountain and the surrounding vistas no matter how they got here.

 The last 0.2 mile to the summit

 Miss New Hampshire

 A beautiful day on the summit

 Northern view

I went to the summit sign determined to get my photo so I stood in line and waited patiently. There were three hikers in front of me and I asked one if he would take my photo when we got to the sign, he said he would be glad to take my photo. We talked for a few minutes and he said they had hiked up Lion Head and would descend via Tuckerman Ravine. He also told me the young lady that was hiking with them was Miss New Hampshire. I asked her if she would mind if I took her photo for my hiking blog and she politely allowed me to take one. Thanks Miss New Hampshire!

 The line for summit photos

With summit photos completed I took some time to eat lunch. I was getting a bit chilled so I put on my windproof shell. It was 12:30 when I began my descent on the Trinity Heights Connector to the Gulfside Trail. I crossed over the cog railway tracks and continued on past the steep drops into the Great Gulf. The views were spectacular along this section of the trail.

 Descending Mount Washington

 A look back at the summit

I made the turn onto the Jewel Trail for the last 3.7 miles down to the Base Station thus completing the loop for today's hike. There were hikers behind me, in front of me and some still coming up the trail. It was along here that I removed my shell and long sleeve layer and put on the short sleeves, the temperature was quite warm but there was still enough wind to keep it comfortable.

 Cog railway

 A view into the Great Gulf

Once I got below treeline and into the woods the cool breeze felt very good. It was along this section of path that I heard trail runners behind me. I stepped out of the way and turned to see some familiar faces. It was Michael and Sumalee, two hikers/trail runners whose adventures I follow online. I called out to them, they stopped and we introduced ourselves and talked for about a minute. We all continued our descent and I lost sight of them in a matter of seconds as they ran down the trail.

 Cog train going up

I reached the Cog Railway Base Station at 3:00PM, back from where I started this morning, thus completing the loop over Mount Washington with a side trip to Mount Monroe. I have done both of these summits but this was the first time doing the loop. Athough a solo hike I was never really alone. It was a perfect day for this hike and being above treeline was very enjoyable in short sleeves and shorts.

 Cog train on Jacob's Ladder

 Back where I started at Marshfield Base Station

Mount Washington

This was my last summer hike for this year. The summer seemed to pass quickly especially after the lingering bitter cold of last winter. I'll now look forward to Fall hiking with the foliage and cool, crisp days. And so the seasons change...

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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