Once again we made our July pilgrimage to Mount Washington in support of the Mount Washington Observatory and their annual Seek the Peak fundraising event. Although we like to support the Obs each year the event has become a lot more to those of us who have attended many times over the years. It is a gathering of old friends that we don't see near often enough, a time to share the trail and many laughs, a meal together and more laughs, and an all around good time. Camping, hiking and eating together forms bonds which are not easily severed. Through the years and events we have made many long-lasting friends, and each year it is a joy to see them all.
This year was no different. Again we made the reservations early in the year for our favorite spot at the shelter in Moose Brook State Park, and again we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. We were joined by two of our oldest hiking friends at the campsite for the weekend, and we enjoyed great above timberline hike together on the day of the event. Due to various nagging injuries plaguing each of us we planned a little cheating for the day. We drove the Auto Road to the Cow Pasture and made our hike from there without an ounce of guilt.
From the Cow Pasture we headed towards the junction of the Nelson Crag Trail and the Huntington Ravine Trail, then down to the Alpine Garden Trail junction on the edge of Huntington Ravine. Many fondly refer to Mount Washington as 'The Rockpile", and indeed, it is an apt name, but at this time of year I like to think of it as "The Rock Garden". If you have ever strolled the alpine zone in June or July you know what I am talking about. Although from a distance the slopes may look no more than a jumble of crumbled rocks of varying shades of gray and covered with a green moss, or patches of impenetrable krummholz, the low-lying stunted spruce which struggles to exist in this harsh place, upon closer inspection you will find that between the jumbled rocks lies clumps of beautiful, wild and fragile blossoms of many shapes, sizes and colors. This is Mother Nature's Garden, and there is none more pure!
We stopped at the edge of Huntington Ravine and made a short rock-hop to the top of "The Pinnacle" where an incredible view down into the ravine and up the northern wall to Nelson Crag can be had. This is not for the dizzy or faint at heart! We shook our heads that "The Crazies" liked to climb ropes up these shear walls. Much later in the day we came across two such "Crazies" as they made their way above the ravine, loaded with rope and equipment. I asked, "Which route did you climb? and the reply was, "Pinnacle Gully", the very one we had been looking down earlier. I mentioned how we all thought that looked crazy. One of the climbers replied, "I'm looking at picking my way over all these boulders to get to the summit and I'm thinking, "You hikers are crazy!"
We headed south along the Alpine Garden Trail. There were countless blossoms of Mountain Sandwort and Mountain Avens. Large patches of Rattlesnake Root could be found as well. Here and there I could find Harebell, but not in abundance yet. I found some new ones I didn't know, and have named but one of three, hoping for some help. As we crossed the Lion Head Trail we hiked a small section of the Alpine Garden Trail that Val needed for her red-lining. We had just missed a throng coming over Lion Head as we passed the trail, and as we approached Tuckerman Junction we could see another throng approaching from the ravine. As a small crowd began to gather and turn to ascend the next part of Tuckerman Ravine Trail, we turned ourselves in the opposite direction and headed south against the oncoming traffic from Boott Spur along the Lawn Cut-off.
As we reached the Davis Path we turned again, this time west across the Bigelow Lawn. Initially we headed towards Mount Monroe and Lake of the Clouds Hut, but the path began to bend north towards its junction with the Crawford Path, about a 1/2 mile below the summit. At the junction with the South-side Trail, Judy and Val back-tracked along the trail for more red-lining while Mark and I sat at the junction and tried to collect tolls from unsuspecting hikers. While we were there a hummingbird took interest in Mark's red shirt and gave him a good buzz. When the girls returned we made the short, sweet hike to the summit along the Crawford Path from there as the throngs were arriving from the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.
At the summit we took our summit picture with Mtn. Mike, then dodged the masses and slipped downstairs to the hiking staging area for a pee and a quick bite to eat before heading upstairs to the entrance of the Obs. We ran into numerous friends along the way who we assembled on the tower with for more pictures before heading down to the living quarters to raid the cookie jar. Before long we were heading out the back door, passing the masses gathered to get back on The Cog for their descent and taking our first few steps down the Nelson Crag Trail back to our car. It was a great hike above tree-line and we all laughed that we had such an enjoyable hike in the Northern Presidentials without hardly breaking a sweat!
We were soon off the mountain and back down at camp where we caught a quick shower before returning to the base of the Auto Road for dinner and festivities. As always, (in the words of Arlo Guthrie) "We had another turkey dinner that could not be beat!" provided with expertise by the fine folks at Hart's Turkey Farm. Amazingly Mark and I stood with FORTY other hikers who had raised over a thousand dollars each. After the festivities we retired back to camp where we settled down in front of a good (eventually) fire, each with a favorite libation. The talk was deep, and lasted deep into the wee hours as it always does while old friends catch up. Sunday morning we parted our separate ways, glad for the time we had spent together in this tradition again this year!