ike_from_loop_jcn

Mt. Jackson (4052')
Mt. Pierce (4310')
Mt. Eisenhower (4780')


2003 June 21

When we reached our second summit, Mount Pierce, and got our first look at the ridge from Pierce to Eisenhower, we realized we had made an inferior choice. Although a bit warm for hiking (the sun was really beating down on us), the weather was otherwise perfect with clear views. The problem was there were far fewer vantage points between Jackson and Pierce than we had expected. We stared at the much higher and wide open summit of Eisenhower with it's above tree line ridge trail and wished we had chosen to hike a Pierce-Eisenhower loop instead, especially on a day like this one . . .

It was only Elleing and I on this hike. We wasted little time finding the trailhead and got going up the Webster-Jackson Trail. We passed a spur to Elephant's Head which is a cliff of obvious shape visible from Route 302, but decided to forgo the extra 0.4 miles. When we came to Bugle Cliff about a half hour into our trip we took a break and a quick look over the cliff into Crawford Notch where we parked. It was the view of the parking lot that jogged my memory. I had forgotten to stick my season pass to the windshield of the car. After a series of expletives and self-deprecating remarks, I accepted the fact that a $40 ticket awaited since we weren't about to hike an extra hour to correct the error. Slightly disgruntled, I packed the camera away and we continued on.

bugle_cliff_view elephant_head

We reached the Jackson Branch about 50 minutes into the hike. The trail up to this point had rolled up and down a bit, but now got noticeably steeper. Still, the grade was fairly mild. A couple snakes and frogs cleared the trail as we made haste up the mountain and the summit soon loomed into view. After a short but steep scramble up some rocks, we reached the summit in time for lunch, but it never happened. The views from the summit were great and there were plenty of nice areas to park ourselves, but the flies forced us away. The summit was so infested that we left as quickly as we had arrived. With lunches in our packs and 2 hours on the trail, Elleing and I made tracks with black flies on our tail.

frog on_jackson_summit jackson_peak_view

Since we were making good time, we decided to eat at Mizpah Springs Hut which is the white speck on the side of Mt. Pierce just to the right of us in the Jackson summit pic. The white speck on the side of Mt. Washington is snow. Apart from a few open areas, the trail was mostly wooded. This didn't matter much to us at the time with the flies behind us and lunch ahead of us. The trail had easy footing most of the way, so we got there quickly. We arrived at the hut 45 minutes later and were happy for the break and to get out of the sun for a while. Mizpah is a really nice hut. It's partly made of stone and takes advantage of solar power. More importantly, there were no flies inside. We took a 1 hour lunch before hiking the steepest section of our route.

jackson_from_webster_cliff_trail mizpah_springs_hut

The climb to the top of Mount Pierce is very steep, but it's not too long. We made good time up the steep section and reached the summit in 30 minutes. The flies on Mount Pierce weren't as bad, so we took a short break here. The views were better than Jackson with more open area and a higher elevation. Mount Washington was getting closer and some snow could still be seen in the ravines. We stared at the large, open summit of Eisenhower and thought back to what we just hiked. We had already succeeded in reaching our second summit as planned, but it didn't seem fair that on such a clear day, we had spent so much time in the trees. Sure, we could hang out on Pierce for quite a while and enjoy it, but that was hardly any consolation with hikers bounding up and down the open ridge trail to the 4761' Mount Eisenhower summit. Well, it was still early and being the first day of summer, there was plenty of light left. We had overstocked on water at the hut and had several PowerBars. We had what we needed and decided to at least start walking towards Eisenhower.

elleing_on_pierce shawn_on_pierce

Once we hit the trail to Eisenhower, we had renewed energy and reached the next junction in 40 minutes. The hike was more enjoyable and the views much better as we went. The trail, part of Crawford Path, drops off Mount Pierce for a while and then starts a 700' climb to the summit of Eisenhower. Crawford Path started life in 1819 and was converted to a bridle path in 1840. For a while, taking a horse-drawn carriage to the summit of Mt. Washington was considered the only civilized way to do so. It's the oldest continuously used trail in America. Consequently, the grades are reasonable until you reach the Eisenhower Loop which branches off to the summit while Crawford Path continues to Mt. Washington. From this point, we trekked for 15 minutes up the steep but forgiving trail to the summit. It was well worth it.

eisenhower_360

We would highly recommend Eisenhower over Pierce or Jackson or a Pierce-Eisenhower Route over a Pierce-Jackson Loop. It's a bit longer, but the views are better. The summit is wide open for 360 degrees. The formidable backdrop of Mount Washington is only a few miles away. Crawford Path is a steady climb but easy on the feet. We were very glad we pushed on and were very glad there were no bugs. With a cool breeze blowing over the summit, we put on pants and long-sleeve shirts. We ate and drank a bit and then crashed on a grassy area to avoid trampling alpine plants. There were about 10 people on the summit when we laid down. When we got up, we were alone. With an hour of rest in us, we took a moment to enjoy the solitude for a moment then started back down Crawford Path all the way to Route 302.

ike_north ike_south ike_west snooze_on_ike.jpg

We stopped at Gibbs Falls for a moment about 20 minutes before our hike ended and bumped into an old man hiking alone. This tall guy with a dented nose wasted no time in telling us the history of the area and his life. This was fine since it squelched the complaints of fatigue that we had just begun in abundance as is usually the case when we near the car. He told us about Mr. Gibbs and his water powered hotel and how Mount Washington used to be ascended by horse via Crawford Path and other trails. Apparently, this guy hikes to Mizpah Springs Hut 2 or 3 times per week and has quite a history with AMC and the White Mountains. Of course, since he's supposedly a direct descendant of English clergyman Roger Williams who settled Providence, RI in 1636 that should come as no surprise. He commented on my digital camera then spoke about the progression of technology in his journalistic career of more than half a century. He finally asked if I had read, "blah-blah-blah." When I said no, he said, "Well you should. I wrote it." Later, I posted a question about his identity in a hiker forum on the Internet and someone suggested who it might have been. I confirmed it. Turns out we were hiking our last mile with Nick Howe, author of "Not without Peril", a well-known book about people who have died in the Presidential Range, the area we were in.

gibbs_falls gibbs_waterworks Not Without Peril Nick Howe

Eight hours after we left, we arrived back at the car. I walked around to the front expecting to see a fluorescent orange ticket wedged beneath my wiper. No ticket. I stuck the season pass on the windshield right away. We changed clothes and went to Fabyan's for a quick dinner. I hadn't been there in a long time and was reminded why when we got our food. Whatever. Having hiked three summits in one day for the first time, we were too hungry and happy to care.

We hiked 11.6 miles and 3300' in about 8 hours. This was a long one for us and we felt it, but the route and conditions weren't as tough as some. The day we hiked Cliff Walk at Monadnock in the sweltering heat was worse and our 12.7 mile (4100') hike of Flume Gorge, Flume, and Liberty still tops the list. We passed a lot of very tires hikers coming back from Eisenhower and I'm sure a lot of it has to do with preparation. We had lots of food and water, good shoes and clothing, and plenty of time, so the hike went well.

Route: Webster-Jackson (1.4), Jackson Branch (1.2), Webster Cliff (2.6), Crawford Path (1.2), Eisenhower Loop (rt: ~0.5), Crawford Path (4.3), rt302 (~0.4)


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