Mt. Wahsington bunchberries

Images from
this date

What You

Progress Map

Other Images

Contact Gonzo!


Aug 24 , 1983 Wednesday (346.1 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

This morning Mr. Hardy drove me back to the trailhead in Crawford Notch, where I had left off the night before. The road through Crawford notch ran beside the Saco River, which had to be crossed before beginning the ascent of Webster Cliffs, the beginning of a section of the White Mountains known as the Presidential Range. This area is noted for its amazing views, tough hiking, and bad weather. The climb out of the Notch had an elevation gain of 1500 feet in just one mile! Most of the climbing up to this point usually covered no more than 1000 feet in a mile. By the third mile into the day's hike I was passing over Webster Cliffs on my way toward Mt Webster. The cliffs provided breathtaking views down into Crawford Notch and across the notch to the mountains from which I had come. I stopped many times to photograph and take in the scenery. Scenery like this is what the trip is all about.

I began to approach the summit of Mt Webster even though I stopped repeatedly at the views provided by the Webster Cliffs just before the summit. Upon reaching the summit, I began the gradual ascent along the ridge that would ultimately culminate on the summit of Mt Washington after passing over or around many peaks, all named after presidents of the United States. Only Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains surpasses Mt Washington in elevation. From Mt Webster I traveled just over a mile and stepped onto the top of Mt Jackson. Each stop along the way seemed to provide a view more impressive than the one before. I could see the rocky cone of Mt. Washington projecting above all the rest on this beautiful morning.

One and a half miles beyond Mt Jackson, I stopped at Mizpah Hut, the place I had scheduled to stay tonight, but rescheduled last night after going somewhat farther than I had anticipated. There were few people at the place, but eventually I located one of the hut crew and was able to obtain a weather forecast. The prediction seemed quite agreeable - highs in the 50's with 2 mile per hour winds, clear and sunny. Can't get much better than this, especially in the Presidential Range.

Not far beyond the hut, I came across a sign that informed me that I was about to enter an area that contained many miles of continuous above treeline hiking, and that this particular area was known to have the worst weather in the world. What! Today seemed so nice. But apparently the weather could change very rapidly since at least three weather patterns converge near Mt. Washington causing wildly fluctuating weather patterns. I continued on, happy with the weather that I was experiencing as I gradually stepped out of the scrub growth onto the "barren" rocky above treeline trail. I had only four more miles to get to Lake of the Clouds Hut, where I had reservations to spend the night. At the summit of Mount Pierce (4310'), the trail begins a 12.7 mile section of trail that is almost entirely above tree line, with little protection from wind and rain. Mt. Pierce is also known as Mt Clinton, and this name is used more, even though Pierce is the official name. The trail had been following the Webster Cliffs Trail up to this point. Just beyond, it becomes part of the Crawford Path all the way to Mt. Washington.

As the trail approaches Mt. Eisenhower, a loop trail continues to the summit, while the A.T. skirts the summit on its eastern side. My path, the A.T., lead me through some scrub growth. I will have to go to the summit on some other trip. Mt. Eisenhower had been named Mt. Pleasant until 1972 when the name was changed to honor the past president.

I passed just west of the summit of Mt. Franklin, and then past Mt. Monroe. The trail bypassed their summits as well. If I had not been so dead set on doing the "whole" trail without deviating, I could have had even more views today. As it was, the views into the Dry River Wilderness to the East, and toward Mt. Washington were some of the best I had seen on the entire trip, so I was satisfied at the time.

Coming around the east side of Monroe, the outline of Lake of the Clouds Hut came into view and there was still plenty of daylight and good weather to be had. I checked into the hut, but asked if there was work to be had that I might stay the night for free, but was told there was nothing to do. I asked one of the hutboys if there was a daypack that I could borrow for the afternoon as I made the hut my basecamp and set out to explore. Thinking that the weather could change by tomorrow, I decided to climb up the remaining mile and a half to the summit of Mt. Washington and get the view during this magnificent stroke of luck that I had received with the weather. I practically ran up the remaining trail having no weight to hold me back besides a camera, water bottle and some snacks. The freedom of no pack was like a freedom from my ball and chain. The entire route was just one big rock hop. One rock to the next, there is virtually no soil but what remains in obscure areas with delicate vegetation hanging on for dear life.

At the summit there are many buildings, too many as far as I was concerned. This was no longer a wilderness experience, people could actually drive up an auto road to the 6228' summit, or take a cog trail if they chose to. There was a weather station, The Tip Top House (an old Victorian resort from days gone by), and a new visitors center with cafeteria, museum, and its own small post office. I stopped at the post office to see if my package had arrived. It had, but I would pick it up tomorrow. No sense in carrying everything down and then back up tomorrow morning. Of course, while in the civilization at the top of the mountain, I called mom and talked for ten minutes (cost $6.15). What a hoot! arriving at the top of the highest peak in New Hampshire and being able to make a phone call! I reported where I was and told her that according to my counting, this was the 101st day on the trail! (It was actually the 102nd day) And a beautiful day it was for an area known for having "The worst weather in the world". The temperature was 47 degrees fahrenheit, with only two mile per hour winds! Clear as a bell, allowing me to see for miles and miles. They say that you can see the Atlantic Ocean from Mt. Washington, but it is so far away, I would not know it even if I saw it. Three days to Gorham, the next maildrop. Mom informed me that the old boots were sewn up and resoled - ready whenever I needed them. (note from Mom)

I left the summit, this time heading south, back towards Lake of the Clouds Hut, where I would spend the night in the dungeon since they said they did not have work for me. I had gone down probably about half way when the next hiker I saw, I immediately recognized as Winston Lumsdon "The Great Appalachian Trail Athelete, the southbound black thru-hiker. There was no mistaking him, first off he was black. As far as I knew, the only black thru-hiker on the trail. I knew he was a thru-hiker just by the way he looked. It does not take long out on the trail to develop an eye to distinguish a regular hiker from a thru-hiker. As a matter of fact, the eyes are not the only organ that can detect a thru-hiker. The nose is quite reliable as well. I introduced myself and immediately became charmed by this anomaly. Winston was an older man, retired professor he said, from Tuskeegee University. He claimed to be a pilot from the Tuskeegee Air Base, and although I think he was telling the truth, you kind of wondered how exaggerated it really was. He carried a couple of old plastic milk jugs tied to his pack that functioned as his water bottles, although at the time I don't think they were filled. I would hope they were not filled - the weight would have been tremendous. They jostled around as he hiked, making an interesting sound, and I found them to be a curious aspect that set him apart from other hikers. He and I hiked back to the hut together and talked along the way.

Back at the hut, Winston talked with the hut crew and somehow with his charm talked them into giving him the leftover pancakes from breakfast. He was such a conman that he even convinced them to warm them up for him! What a guy. After that he started working on lodging. He had his routine down, and in no time had convinced them into letting him spend the night in exchange for kitchen cleanup duty. I immediately asked if I could get in on this deal as well, and this time was accepted. I was in the presence of a professional. We helped the crew prepare some of the food, but our job mostly was with cleanup. When the meal was over and the dishes began to be brought back for washing, Winston announced "I is the Goreman" in a thick black dialect as he scraped the uneaten food from the plates into the garbage. I washed the dishes as he completed his "gore" duty. We had a blast.

Later that night one of the hut boys set up a large telescope outside where the stars numbered into the billions as the sky remained clear. The moon was bright and may have been a full moon as he set up the device to look at the craters. I had my first view ever of Saturn as it quickly passed from the center of the view piece to the edge and the out of view. We looked at Globular Clusters as well. All would disappear from view just as fast due to the earths' rotation. Jupiter came and went as well. Todays' visibility was estimated at 90 miles. 10.5 miles to Lake of the Clouds Hut, but almost 14 with the side trip up Washington and back. The day could not have been nicer.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

Next From the Beginning