Looking down on Spaulding Lake

Clay via Ridge of the Caps - 3/June/2003

By David Metsky

Another mid-week hike with Dave, this time just the two of us. Again, looking for a quick trip to treeline we settled on the Ridge of the Caps trail for a run up Jefferson and Clay. On the drive up the Jefferson Notch Road we encountered a large pile of dirt, blocking our way. It seems the town was grading the road, and hadn't quite gotten back to this spot. Fortunately we were in Dave's Jeep so we made it over the pile, and the grader operator let us by. There were only a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived, so we quickly packed up and headed out.

Begining the steeps    Climbing the Caps    Climbing the Caps    Willey, Tom, and Field    Eisenhower and Pierce

Not much going on until we hit the Whirlpool Ledges. From there we had our first views of the day, and trees get much more open from there on up. Gradually we get up to the Caps, and some more difficult terrain. I hung back and tried to get some photos of Dave climbing the Caps so I could impart some idea of the difficulty of this trail. I've never found the scrambling to be that difficult, though it is occasionally a challange on the way down. At least the views are worth it. We pressed on and finally made it up to the junction with the Cornice trail. We stopped for a rest and some food, and came to the decision to head for Clay rather than Jefferson.

Bretton Woods    Great Gulf and Washington    The Author

Once we cleared the ridge the wind picked up greatly, and we bundled up. From the junction all the way to the Gulfside trail we were buffeted and battered. Once on Gulfside things settled down a bit, and we had a much milder trip to the summit of Clay. We occasionally ran into the swarms of black bugs that covered the rocks, they weren't really flying, perhaps it was too early in the spring. There were a few patches of snow off the trail, but the trail itself was clear. I dropped pack at the summit of Clay and wandered over to the south summit and felt the solitude of the mountains. Granted, Dave was over at the north peak, there were cars on the Auto Road, and the Cog was running up and down, and the summit buildings were full of people, but it still felt grand.

Standing water on Clay    Spring blooms    Madison    Jefferson and Clay

After a bit more wandering we ate lunch on the summit and looked down into the Great Gulf. There is one spot, just north of the top, where you can get a great view down to Spaulding Lake. There was still a bit of snow in the Great Gulf, not enough to ski on but inviting none the less. We packed up, mooned the Cog RR, and headed down. We both decided to pass on Jefferson, neither of us cared to run up there again so we just headed back. I stopped in Sphinx Col for some great photos then we headed down. It was a great day, wonderful weather for the spring, pretty much no other hikers, and hearty conversation.

Summit of Washington    Trail junction

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