Monday, September 5, 2011

2011.09.04 - Mt Monroe

Last week we did not hike and it was tropical storm Irene's fault, or was it the generator supplier's fault?  You might need to check my previous blog to know for certain (Darn Irene).

On our list of hiking 'wants' was a visit to the AMC's Lake of the Clouds hut.  So we planned a trip where we would pass the hut while on our way to Mt Monroe (elev. 5,384').  We decided to travel up the night before where we spent the night at the Bretton Arms (on the Mt Washington property).  The Bretton Arms dining room has some of the finest food you can get anywhere.  You will pay dearly for it but their chef is amazing.

The next morning, after a great breakfast at the same restaurant, we departed and arrived at the trailhead around 8:15 AM. This hike leaves a larger parking lot (with bathrooms -- always important for a hiker to know the bathroom status) just below the Cog Railway station.  The total distance of the hike we did (which we cut short a bit due to weather) was 7.0 miles.  Eight and one-quarter hours later I will tell you that was the longest 7-miles I've ever hiked.  In all fairness, I spent lot's of time stopping to take pictures (I took well over 100 on this trip) and allowing the traffic to pass both up and down.  Yes, it was Labor Day weekend and hiking the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is a bit like hiking on I-93.  I was expecting a toll at some point.  NH could solve some of its budget woes by adding a toll on this trail.  Alright, I'm exagerating but this is a popular route to Mt Washington and that was exacerbated by the fact that it was a holiday weekend.

That said, if you love water and water falls, this is the hike for you.  It could be that the sound of rushing water and the aggressive flow of the waterfalls on this trip was greater than normal because the White Mountains were hit only a week ago by tropical storm Irene.  I would assume however that the water flow down the center of the Ammonoosuc Ravine is reasonably strong in all but the driest of weather.

I cannot tell you how much damage was done by tropical storm Irene in this ravine.  I still cannot believe what I saw.  The photos below don't really do it justice. I could have easily put 25 more pictures in this post that all show the destruction. 

It was 3.1 miles to the hut and then another .4 of a mile to the summit of Mt Monroe.

This storm damage was found early in the hike and often thereafter.  This was the first water crossing (Franklin Brook).  A new path had been blazed around to the right of this photo because of this log jam.

I always love these signs.  We are 1-mile into our hike in the middle of the forest.  Should I call for a reservation now?

The water was flowing rapidly.  You can see additional storm damage on the left.

Look a this photo closely.  The entire bank on the opposite side of the Ammonoosuc River in this area is completely washed away.  All that is left are the roots of the trees.  You've got to believe that this entire section of what was the top of the river bank will fall into the water at some point.

The next few photos show more of the storm damage.

Here is a portion of the trail itself that was washed away.

It was amazing how much of the trail had been under water only a week earlier.  The evidence was everywhere.  From the debris in the trail to the sediment that had been left behind as well as the grasses that were flattened from the water flow.  Many of these trail sections were 10-20 feet higher in elevation than the current water level and 150'-200' or more from the current path of the river.  Just how much water flowed down this ravine a week ago?

A reasonably clear area of beautiful flowing water.

More of the trail that was washed away.

A particularly beautiful fall over a scalloped shaped rock.

More devastation, is it still necessary for me to say that?

We catch our first views of the ravine ahead of us and I zoom in on some of the waterfalls.  Beautiful, simply beautiful.

 Am I supposed to walk across that log?

Well, not really but, this is a spot where the trail had washed away and it is a straight drop to the river about 15' below.  There is a small ledge you can walk on (to the left below the log) and the log acts as a railing.  It is actually rather safe if you are careful and the log was a great idea for what is likely a temporary solution.

Never have I hiked where there are more waterfalls.  This is but one of many to come.

This photo and the next several are of an area that is a small distance off of the main trail at the foot of a gorge.  Here the water is falling about 600' at an angle of 45 degrees or more.  There is both a left and right flow of water meeting at a rather large basin.  It was a stunning place to be and we sat and had our first substantive break while taking it all in.  That was good timing as it was here that the climb really steepened.  You see, we had to climb alongside this ravine at just about the same rate of ascent.  It was like spending the next two hours on a stair stepper.  Enjoy a few more photos of these waterfalls.

The morning sun glowed perfectly on this upper portion of the falls.

Though you cannot see the train in this shot, the ridge in the distance is where the Cog Railway climbs Mt. Washington.

We are nearing the col between Mt. Washington and Mt. Monroe.  For those of you asking:
col - A saddle between two mountain peaks, from Latin collum, "neck."
I didn't know either so I looked it up.  I have so much to learn about hiking...

The imprint of the clouds on a mountain side always impresses me.  I'm a simple person!

We reached the Lake of the Clouds hut, took a break and have begun the ascent to Mt. Monroe.  Here I am looking back at the hut from the Mt. Monroe summit trail.  The Lake of the Clouds hut is the highest in the AMC hut system at just over 5,000'.  It is an extremely popular stop over for both day hikers and through hikers.  We met hikers doing the entire Appalachian Trail who where stopping here for the night.  On our way down we also met several families who were expecting to spend the night at the hut including one family of five with three kids whose ages ranged from 4-7 years old.  And these kids were happy to be hiking!  That was impressive!  God bless that family for introducing their children to these natural wonders this early in life!

It was clear, or not so clear, that we were going to have no view at the top of Mt. Monroe.  Both Washington and Monroe were in and out of the clouds the whole time and it was just our luck that we were "in" the clouds when we reached the summit.  We intended to do the Mt Monroe loop which would bring us down the other side of Monroe and then loop around the backside on the Crawford Path.  The clouds and the expected afternoon thunderstorms (which did arrive later) caused us to cut that portion of the hike thereby shortening this hike from 7.8 miles to 7.0 miles.

Two lakes -- is that why its called Lake of the Clouds hut?

This week's vegetation photo is of a rock.  Okay, so not every week is a 'vegetation' photo.  The marble on this stone was as white as freshly fallen snow.  It was really stunning.

Yet another fall we had not seen on the way up.

One last photo on the way down.  This particular area of the Ammonoosuc River was simply devastated.  There were trees down everywhere. Yes,there is a beautiful river under this bed of trees and branches - somewhere.

As Sue said earlier in our hike, "Something angry blew through here."


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