When you plan a weekend in the mountains during leaf season, you are at the whim of the weather gods. Since we were locked into a weekend at a condo well ahead of time, we didn’t know when peak leaf season would be, or if we’d get good weather for the hike. As it turns out, we’d missed the peak by a little bit, but we hit the weather dead on. We’d picked a hike in the southern Presidentials because it’s a great above treeline hike in good weather, it makes for a nice pseudo-loop, and the last two times I’d been there the views were non-existent.
We drove directly to the Ammonoosuc trailhead, near the Cog RR base station, which is where we expected to end up. You never can tell in the Presidentials. Then it was back down the Mt Clinton Road to the Edmands Path trailhead. There were lots of cars already there, so we had to park out on the road. Then we were on the trail, which is a pretty flat at the bottom as we all got into the groove of the hike. Soon though, we were climbing at a good pace. The Edmands Path is a very well graded route, over 100 years old, and still one of the best ways to reach treeline in the Presidentials. The higher we got, the more obvious it was that we were going to have a good day .
After passing a major steam crossing where you have to step carefully across some wet rocks, you start getting views of the northern peaks. After reaching the proverbial warning sign and hitting treeline, you hit the trail junction with the Crawford Path on the backbone of the ridge. From here you can see Mt Eisenhower, our first destination for the hike. The Mt Eisenhower Loop goes past Red Lake, a small tarn at the col. The climb is steep but short until you reach the broad open slopes of the summit, often considered to resemble the mountain’s namesake. We spent some quality time up there, communing with nature and soaking up the slightly chilly sun. Bill and Geetha decided they were going to hang out at the summit for a while longer to take in the views then head back down the same way. The rest of us were headed for Monroe.
Travel on a ridge is different than other hiking. On a clear day like this, time loses meaning as you just walk and walk and walk. The views is all directions are perfect, and after a short while you fail to notice the distance you travel or the surrounding mountains. Instead you notice what’s close by, a more intimate view of the world. We could just walk, talk, and feel a part of the world at large. As we cruised along northward, I wanted to make sure we stopped by the summit of Mt Franklin, a small bump on the ridge with some great views into Oakes Gulf and the Dry River. It’s also just a bit off the beaten path, which helps get some perspective on the path you’ve been traveling. Then it was back to the Crawford Path and up the south peak of Monroe. This section of trail is fairly rough and uneven, and unless you are careful you can loose the trail. We also found a strange little man, but he seemed harmless enough.
We hung out on the summit of Monroe, just above the Crawford Path, knowing that it was the high point of the trip, and we were about to embark on a long descent. We'd spent several hours above treeline on one of the most wonderful hiking days of the fall, and now we were going to drop several thousand feet in a few miles, so the rest was in order. We dropped down towards Lakes of the Clouds, but we didn't hang around very long at the hut. Then, down and down and down the Ammy waving to the Smog Railroad as we hiked. We took the short sidetrip to the gorge and its wonderful waterfall, then finally made it out to the cars. One half the group continues to the cog base station where the rest of us, who hike to the parking area, picked them up. Then back to the car at the Edmands Path trailhead, and off to a well deserved meal back home.
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