Mts. Adams, Jefferson, and MadisonThis trip would be my first "above treeline" on something larger than 1500 feet. I was very excited. My husband and I were planning on this grand tour that include a 3 hr. hike to the cabin, then a 6 hour hike up King's Ravine, across to Madison Spring Hut, to Mt. Madison, then to Mt. Adams via the Star Lake trail, then back to the hut for the night. This was not to happen.
An interesting experience
As we wanted to get on the trailhead by 5:00 am...we spent the night at an inexpensive hostel, "Hiker's Paradise". As Randolph, NH is near an AT Trailhead, this is a stop for the weary AT hiker. I'd never been at a hostle and was very excited about a new experience. Well, it was definitely an experience. We met one north hiker who had traveled 40 miles lost...and had been on the trail since APRIL. He was a bit disoriented and we had a difficult time getting much cohesive information from him, despite our continued attempts (I think he was too interested in eating at this point). We met another South hiker. This guy (having only come about 350 miles) was more with it...and had some interesting information and advice for us hiking "newbies". Finally, we met the caretaker of this establishment. Although he had never hiked, he had more stories and info than anyone else I'd met. I suppose, sitting there listening to all of the hiker's stories, you can gather a lot of info. Anyway, to say the least, the night's sleep was...well...minimal. Between the train whistles, creaky beds (how many times can 4 people get up to go pee anyway?), cars and trucks stopping at the light right outside the window...I think I drifted off maybe a few times.
Anway...we made it on the trail by 5:30 am to head up to Craig Camp.
We got to our home for the night pretty uneventfully. The weather was holding (lots of fog but no rain, yet), but the trail was very wet due to the past week's rainy days. As Lowe's Path is pretty steep in places, it was a challanging hike. When we got to the "Quay" (the first view on this path) we couldn't see anything. Finally on to the Camp to eat lunch and trot off to our long day hike to hit Mt. Madison and Mt. Adam. Unfortunately, when we got there...we could see that rain was coming soon.
We waited out the rain...but, it would only stop briefly only to start up again. We could see the clouds rushing up the ravine and the summit of Madison (usually visible from the cabin) were completely socked in. Good thing we had brought cribbage. We waited...but our 6 - 8 hour hike was not to occur. Finally...we got the break (so we thought) and decided to at least hit the summit of Adams as it was only an hour each way.
Off to the SummitWe hiked up the Spur trail. Looking back provided BEAUTIFUL views. On the way, we took a side trip to the Knight's Castle. WOW...so that's Craig Camp? No wonder it has such a nice view!
Unfortunately, once we hit the Krumholtz Zone...the clouds came in again. I kept saying "oh, they'll blow off"...but they didn't.
Should we turn back?
Thunderstorm Junction is this massive rock pile that is the merge point of 5 trails up to the summit of Mt. Adams. When we got there...well, you can see, it was verly little visability. The wind was about 40 mph at this point (my husband is pretending to be fighting the wind). Of course, we decided to keep going as we were almost there. No sense coming this far only to turn around and not summit.
Well, to make a long story short (too late for that I guess), we did summit. But, by the time we got there, it was raining (I say sleeting), 50 - 60 mph winds and so foggy we almost didn't see the sign. I touched it quickly and said let's get out of here! Unfortunatly, it was too rainy, and I too scared (remember, newbie...I was thinking hypothermia at this point)
On the way down, we missed our trail twice...only noticing when we hit some feature we didn't remember from the first time. It is all rocks up at the summit...and there are several trails that run close to each other. As it was very foggy...we hit the wrong cairn several times leading us to the wrong trail. One detour was 15 minutes...the other almost an hour!
Finally HOMEBy the time we returned to camp, it was 6:30 pm and we were soaked to the skin. Yes, you got it...newbies didn't have good rain gear (can you say...GORETEX next time?). By this time, I had no dry pants. Fortunately, I had a nice warm shirt and socks that were dry. I spent the night wearing my sleeping bag as pants.
The next morning when I woke up...I wanted off this God Forsaken mountain...never to climb again. Remember, I had truly thought I was going to die. We woke up and went out to get breakfast. It was clear and beautiful!
Ok...so maybe we can take the long way down. After breakfast...we altered our route to include a trip to the Perch (a Randolph Mountain Club tent site) and down by the Randolph Path. How beautiful. We truly were trying to come up with a way to spend just one more day so we could do more hiking. But, alas, this was not to happen.
We took a slow, 2-hour detour and had a truly wonderful hike that day. We returned home with lots of stories and pictures (some of the stories we didn't share with my mother...she would FREAK!) If only...
Unfortunately, you can't really pick your vacation days. Mt. Madison and Jefferson might have eluded us this time...as did King's Ravine. But...there is always another day.