My wife and I made a trip to the White Mountains the weekend of August 3rd, 2018 for a hike of the Southern Presidentials. We planned to stay at two Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts and hike about 14 miles. The weather ended up being lousy for most of the hike but we got some great views on Sunday as the skies cleared. I'll go over our itinerary, gear list and general thoughts as a way for others interested in multi-day hikes to get a sense of what's required. A huge thanks to the resource http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/, without which the hike would not have been possible.
The problem with some multi-day hikes is that you don't end the hike at your car. This means you have to do some automobile acrobatics, shuffling cars between start and end points, or get a ride. I opted to get a ride from a guy named Bruce who's been shuttling hikers for 14 years. Call the AMC Joe Dodge Loge or Highland Center for a list of people who can shuttle you for a small fee. The AMC shuttle runs on a schedule and did not meet our needs.
Our hiking speed was about one hour behind the AMC Book Time. We don't hike often, this was our first trip to the Whites this year, so I expected us to go a bit slower and take more frequent breaks. Knowing the book time and our position on the trail helped us estimate our speed and when we would need to start hiking in order to reach our destination on time.
You can skip the following novel and head right to the Itinerary, which has both my Estimated and Actual times, and Gear List of stuff we brought and wouldn't bring again.
We're about 4 - 5hrs away from the White Mountains and needed to get started early so we could get to our first hut. The first order of business was to drop off our dog for boarding. We got up early to get her there for 06:30 and hit the road to Joe Dodge Lodge.
We arrived an hour early so we called Bruce and he was able to pick us up. There was some confusion about which trailhead we needed to be dropped of at. We wanted the Webster-Jackson Trailhead but he dropped us off at a different point, thinking we wanted to go up Mt. Webster. I used Elephant Head as a landmark and he knew the place. Had we not double checked the wrong trailhead would have added 2 miles to our trip and probably made us late for dinner.
It was 12:00 when we arrived at the Webster-Jackson Trailhead, Crawford Notch, Route 302 near Elephant Head and started hiking. We took the side trail to Elephant Head which gave us a lookout over Route 302 and the AMC Highland Center. It wasn't worth the extra .5 miles.
The hike was 4.3 miles with an elevation gain of 2,150 feet and a book time of 3:15. We took the Jackson Branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail to Mount Jackson, followed by the Webster Cliff Trail to Mizpah Hut. It was fairly easy, except for a brief scramble up to the summit of Mount Jackson. The summit has excellent views in all directions. The trail is in good condition and we took a couple breaks, one to eat our trail lunch a flatbread PB&J.
There was light rain that continued throughout the day and it was overcast. We didn't use the gaiters I bought for the trip or any of our rain gear. It was too muggy for any of that and we were already soaked to the skin from sweat. There was no drying off that day it was so humid.
After taking in the view at Mt. Jackson we hiked to Mizpah Hut and got there at 16:30 soaking wet. It was good to change in to dry clothes and we were tired out. Dinner was OK. The chicken was a little dry, a theme to be repeated at Lake of the Clouds Hut, but the lemon cake dessert was great.
I woke up early Saturday morning and treated myself to some coffee in the dining room at Mizpah. Wakeup call was at 06:30 and we were serenaded by one of the Croo with a song on the guitar. Breakfast was good and we prepped our gear to start a day of hiking to Lake of the Clouds.
The weather report was dismal, rain all day with a chance of thunderstorms. We decided to push on through and hope there were no thunderstorms. Based on our previous days hike we expected it to take about 5hrs to get to Lake of the Clouds. We didn't want to be eating lunch on the trail though, weather being was it was and the exposure we'd have on the ridge between Mt. Pierce and Lake of the Clouds.
At 08:10 we started our hike in the rain. It wasn't a hard rain, just constant. We wore all our rain gear this day, except rain pants, and used our pack covers. The hike from Mizpah to Lakes is 5.0 miles with an elevation gain of 1,650 feet and a book time of 3:45. We followed the Webster Cliff Trail to its end, summiting Mt. Pierce in the process, and then took the Crawford Path to the hut. The trail is almost continuously exposed from the summit of Mount Pierce onwards; there are patches of scrub before reaching Mount Eisenhower, none after that.
The light rain turned into a downpour, flooding the trail. We were soaking wet inside and out from the rain and our gear trapping our body heat and moisture. The Crawford Path became the Crawford River. All the careful rock hopping we did early on ended when we could no longer stay out of the water, soaking our boots. The trail slippery and made it slow going. We slipped several times along the rocks on the trail.
AT 09:00 we summited Mt. Pierce, by 11:00 we summited Mt. Eisenhower in pouring, driving rain. The rain and wind lessened some coming down Eisenhower. When we arrived at the Monroe Loop at 12:00 we were so tired, wet and upset we bypassed Mt. Monroe. All we wanted was to change clothes and get some soup at the hut if available. We headed straight for the hut and arrived there at 12:30, our expected time. The rain had stopped and we changed into dry clothes. We tried drying our boots outside the hut as it was very windy. Everything else we hung inside our bunkroom since we were first there. Thankfully, they had soup so we warmed up with a bowl, had a cup of tea and dried out.
By 13:00 we were rested and dried out a bit. We had planned to summit Washington but we didn'tdo any more hiking that day. Conditions were good, partly cloudy and no rain, but we weren’t in the mood for it.
Dinner was at 18:00, the famous AMC turkey dinner with all the fixings. I don't know how, but the Croo killed the turkey and dried it out to leather. Worst bird I ever had. Even my knife couldn't cut it. To add insult to injury the pumpkin pies for dessert were also burnt.
We took part in the Croo's program for the night where they talked about all the ways the huts make themselves self-sustainable. By 20:00 we saw beautiful sunset and the skies were clear.
Sunday brought cloudy morning skies. Somehow the Croo screwed up oatmeal but the remainder of breakfast was OK. We packed our things and got started at 08:10 on the Crawford path to Camel Trail. Our hike was 4.5 miles with 3,001 feet descent and an estimated time of 3:15. We took the Camel Trail to Davis Path to Boott Spur. Then we followed Boott Spur to Tuckerman Ravine Trail (approx 2.9 miles). Tuckerman Ravine Trail was undergoing some constructions so we were detoured down the ski trail to end at Joe Dodge Lodge / AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
We lost all track of time after starting our hike and the following times are estimates. The views were lackluster in morning due to being in the clouds. It was in the 50s and breeze when we started so we started with our rain jackets. By the time we got to the Davis Path it warmed up and we shedded layers. Due to the early morning cloud cover we could not see “The Lawn” or Mt Washington. Later on it became partly sunny and breezy.
At 08:45 we climbed Boott Spur (pile of rock), making good time because it's all very flat between Boott Spur and the Lakes Hut. It was windy and the views cleared up allowing us to see Tuckerman’s Ravine. We used cairns guide our way from the hut all the way to the tree line after we coming down Boott Spur. There were great views of Pinkham Notch coming down Boott Spur. It was very steep and we carefully picked our way down the slope. This trail is all exposed and is not suitable to hike in really bad weather.
At the Boott Spur Link we stopped to apply some first aid to our feet and eat a snack. We were starting to or already had blisters and brought out the moleskin and second skin from the first aid kit.
By about 10:30 as we were descending we started to see people heading up for the day. There's a great outlook on Boott Spur where you can see Tuckerman’s headwall and Hermit Lake. We met another couple and traded cameras, taking each other's picture.
Below tree line the trail was still wet from the previous day's rain. During our descent my wife twisted her knee on those wet rocks and then slipped, fell off crude bridge landing on her wrist. The wet rocks and injury added an additional hour to our descent.
The last .5 mi or so of Boott Spur was diverted to the ski trail while Tuckerman’s is under construction. We finished the last .5 mi in a steep, muddy, hot trail. I had trouble walking down and my wife was in pain every time she took a step.
At 14:00 we arrived at Joe Dodge Lodge and I almost threw up from exhaustion in the parking lot. I had drank all 2L of water on the trail emptying the water blatter about 1mi from Joe Dodge lodge. In retrospect we probably didn’t rest enough or didn’t eat enough in our rush to hike down.
We stopped for lunch at J-Town deli in Jackson. They have great subs, you can dine in or out. They are part general store, carrying a wide array of items.
It was 19:20 by the time we got home, almost an hour and a half later than we expected. Our delay in getting off the mountain and traffic had set us back.
The following are my raw notes and comparison of my estimated and actual times.
Start Friday 8/3
06:00 Leave. Drop Daisy off. Driving to Joe Dodge Lodge.
06:30 actual leave/drop off time
12:00 Arrive Joe Dodge Lodge, leave for Crawford Path Trailhead. Leave RAV4. Get a ride from Bruce to Webster-Jackson Trailhead
11:00 Arrived early, called bruce and he picked us up. Dropped us off at wrong trailhead but knew how to get to elephant rock.
13:00 Arrive Webster-Jackson Trailhead, Crawford Notch, Route 302 near Elephant Head.
12:00 arrived trail head and started hiking.
13:30 Start Hiking Webster-Jackson and Webster Cliff Trails. Depending on weather.
12:10 arrived trail head and started hiking. Took detour to elephant rock, not worth it.
(One Way: 4.3 miles, 2,150 feet, 3:15) Jackson Branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail to Mount Jackson, followed by the Webster Cliff Trail to the hut . This route is fairly easy, except for a brief scramble up to the summit of Mount Jackson, which has excellent views in all directions.
15:30 Summited Mt. Jackson. Just about book time. Took a break to eat a sandwich.
Light rain. Rain became steady as we approached Mizpah, not hard. Didn’t use gaiters/pack cover or rain jacket. Soaked from sweat. So humid.
17:00 - 18:00 Arrive Mizpah Hut
16:30 Arrived Mizpah wet.
18:00 dinner was ok. Chicken was dry but ok. Dessert, lemon cake, was great.
Couldn’t see anything, cloudy. exhausted. Went to bed.
06:30 Wakeup call
07:00 Breakfast was OK.
08:00 Start Hiking From Mizpah Hut To Lake of the Clouds Hut
08:10 started hiking. Rain. Not too hard, just constant. Put on pack covers, rain gear, gaiters, no rain pants.
(One way: 5.0 miles; 1,650 feet; Book time 3:45 h:mm) Follow the Webster Cliff Trail to its end. Take the Crawford Path to the hut. Summit Mount Eisenhower and Mount Monroe. This route is almost continuously exposed from the summit of Mount Pierce onwards; there are patches of scrub before reaching Mount Eisenhower, none after that.
Rain turned into a complete downpour. Soaking wet inside and out, rain gear trapped heat/moisture. “Stewing in our own juices”. Trail conditions bad, flooded. Trail became a river and couldn’t stay out of it, feet soaking wet. Trail slippery, Steph slipped a couple of times.
09:00 Summited Mt. Pierce
11:00 Summited Mt. Eisenhower in pouring rain. Rain lessened some coming down Eisenhower.
12:00 Arrived at the Monroe Loop, bypassed Mt. Monroe and headed straight for the hut.
11:30 - 12:00 Arrive Lake of the Clouds Hut
12:30 Arrived, Lake of the Clouds hut. Demoralized, soaking wet. Rain had stopped. Changed into dry clothes. Tried to get boots to dry outside of hut, very windy. Was able to hang everything since we were first in the room. Got choice bunks. Ate hot soup, tea.
13:00 Summit Mount Washington
(Round trip: 3.0 miles; 1,300 feet; Book time 2:10 h:mm) The easiest way of climbing Mount Washington is as a two day trip, with a night spent at the Lakes Hut. The Crawford Path to the summit is a good trail, with reasonable footing and grades. It is, of course, totally exposed to the elements, but when the weather is good the views are exceptional.
13:00 rested and dried out. Did not summit any peaks. Conditions cleared but we weren’t in the mood for it. Boots soaking wet.
18:00 Dinner could have been better. The turkey was dried out to leather and the pies were burnt.
20:00 saw beautiful sunset. clear. Went to bed around 20:30 - 21:00.
06:30 Wakeup call
07:00 breakfast was ok.
08:00 Start Hiking
08:10 Started hiking Crawford path to Camel Trail.
(One way: 4.5 miles; 3,001 feet descent; Estimated time 3:15 h:mm) Hike Camel Trail to Davis Path to Boott Spur. Follow Boott Spur to Tuckerman Ravine Trail (approx 2.9 miles). Hike Tuckerman Ravine Trail going East to Joe Dodge Lodge / AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
Lost all track of time after this. Views were crappy in morning, could not see “The Lawn” or Washington, they were in the clouds. Partly sunny. Breezy. Started hiking w/ rain jacket as it was a bit cold, windy. Took it off on Camel Trail.
08:45 (Maybe) Summited Boott Spur (pile of rock), made good time because it was very flat.
Windy, good views. Views cleared when we got to Boott Spur. Could see Tuckerman’s Ravine. Used cairns to travel from Hut all the way to the tree line after we came down Boott Spur, a few miles. Great views of Pinkham Notch coming down Boott Spur. Very steep, lots of rock picking. All exposed. Would not hike in bad weather.
10:30 (Maybe) We were descending and started to see people. Great outlook coming down Boott Spur, could see Tuckerman’s headwall and met some people who took our picture.
11:00 (Maybe) Boott Spur Link. Steph remembers being hungry but it wasn’t lunch time. Could have been 11:30.
Steph twisted knee on Boott Spur when we got below tree line, then slipped, fell off crude bridge and landed on her wrist. Mike almost threw up in the parking lot. Drank all 2L of water, ran out of water on the trail about 1mi from Joe Dodge lodge.
Probably didn’t stop enough, didn’t eat enough.
Boott Spur diverted to Ski Trail while Tuckerman’s is under construction. Finished last .5mi in mud. Could barely walk, Steph in pain going downhill.
12:00 Lunch and drive back home
14:00 Arrived at Joe Dodge Lodge.
14:20 Got lunch at J-Town deli in Jackson, great subs.
18:00 Arrive Home
19:20 Arrive home, traffic and we left later than planned.
Every trip I do a gear review of what worked and didn't work.
Ok Osprey Aero 65, Deuter 36
Didn’t use, not sure it’s needed. Small, gray daypack
Warm enough 50deg sleeping bag, steph
crappy, would like to replace w/ travel sack. Cotton travel sheet, mike
Ok Pillow case, 2
Didn’t use but would keep Floss, 1
Used Toothbrush, 2
Used Small, travel toothpaste, 1
Used Deodorant, 1
Didn’t use, wouldn’t bring again Bar soap and travel case, 1
Didn’t use, might bring again facecloth, 2
Didn’t use, wouldn’t bring again Wipes, small travel pack, 1
Used, must bring sunscreen
Didn’t use, wouldn’t bring again Bug spray
Must bring. Would try to consolidate asprin, find smaller bottles.
Personal first aid kit
Ace bandage/athletic wrap
Blister second skin
Mike would have brought zip-aways, cold at night Shorts
Short sleeve wool shirts, 3
Mike should have brought a mid. midlayer, 1 steph
Just right amount, Mike. Steph glad she brought 6. Socks, 4 (mike); 6 (Steph)
Unclear if this helped Steph. Blue rain jacket too hot, Mike. Rain jacket
Didn’t use. Rain pants
Must have. Hat
Worked OK until we had to wade through the Crawford River. (Trail flooded) gaiters
Mike should have brought PJs Pjs (Steph only)
Mike shouldn’t have brought two books. Book (mike, 2)
didn’t use Handkerchief, mike
Just right. Protein bars, 8
Water bottle, small, steph
Didn’t eat, but should still keep. Emergency food. Beef jerky
Good number. Didn’t eat 2, that’s OK. Pb & J flatbread sandwiches, 8