Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lowes Bald Spot (Pinkham Notch) March 23, 2013

Lows Bald Spot (2,875') via Old Jackson Road (AT) March 23, 2013  Updated 7/3/2019

Mileage:  4.4 miles RT

Elevation gain:  825'

Trailhead:  Trailhead is directly behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Route 16 just south of Gorham.

Lesson learned:  March winds can blow you over!

(Lows Bald Spot is a bump about halfway up the side of Mt. Washington offering close-up views of the Presidentials.)

Rich and I revisited the Lows Bald Spot in July; our summertime experience was a bit different. Summer comments in red.

Hiked with Rich.   We were working as trail information volunteers at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on a spring weekend when all of New Hampshire was bathed in sunshine. 

Except for the notch. 

It started snowing the night before, and by morning about 6" of new snow had fallen and was still coming.  When we awoke the clouds were dark and hung low, the wind was fierce (topped out at 109.1 mph on the summit by 9 a.m.) and any enthusiasm hikers and climbers had that morning was smacked out of them as soon as they parked and got out into the wind.

This is how Mt. Washington greets spring.  I figured our afternoon break would have us curled up by the fire in the library of Joe Dodge Lodge reading, listening to the wind outside.

After a morning of helping hikers and climbers map out a "Plan B" (no skiing Tucks or summiting today), Rich announced that Lows Bald Spot would be our destination that afternoon.

I am so ready for spring and sooooo over hiking in snow.  Particularly deep snow on trails that hadn't been broken out.

But Lows Bald Spot is a local favorite and one we recommend to Pinkham Notch visitors, which we did liberally that morning so I knew others went before me. I wouldn't have to break trail.

About a dozen hiked this trail before us but you'd never know it!

It was still snowing and blowing when we got on the Old Jackson Road trail at about 12:30.  The wind wiped all tracks of hikers before us and drifted the snow into our path.  Since Old Jackson Road trail is part of the Appalachian Trail, the frequent AT blazes make the path easy to follow.

I'd just waterproofed my old windbreaker and it seemed to be keeping me dry.  About a mile in the trail turns left and steepens by a brook.  The map is deceiving; it looks like the path is a straight line. In fact the last time we hiked Lows we crossed that brook, heading straight and came out too far down on the Mt. Washington Auto Road. This is easily corrected, just walk up the road until you see where it crosses (good signage).

In summer it's easier to see that crossing the brook and continuing straight isn't the right way.  

Left of the sign and the brook is a steep set of rock stairs. It got our blood pumping. As we neared the auto road we could hear cars and motorcycles, and there is more than a hint of the smell of hot brakes!

Summer shot of the stairs just before the brook.

The snow was still coming and as our elevation increased so did the ferocity of the wind.  We hit the auto road with just a hint of blue sky overhead.

Crossing the auto road in winter is such an experience. Notice the tracks of the snowcoach.

Here is a shot of the same area in summer. Watch out for cars!

Lows Bald Spot lies just beyond the auto road crossing.  A sign indicating "5 minutes" is posted before the very steep climb up to the knob.  I've never seen this wording on any sign in the Whites.  I guess they figured the faint of heart would see the final scramble and give up on the trip!

Lowes Bald Spot "5 minutes."
And up we went to the top.
Going up in summer, stay right on the scrambles. 

There's a PIN at the top!

Stubby spruce dots the top, buried in snow.  The magnificent views were covered in gray clouds.  We saw nothing and heard nothing except for the howling of the wind. It was hard to stand up straight and a few times we ducked down to keep our ground.

Just a BIT windy!

No wind and lots of view on this summer day!
 A few photos later we headed back down.  The wind lessened as we descended; our tracks going up had disappeared in the snow. 

There was one small spot just past the auto road that I had trouble negotiating in snowshoes (icy, steep, awkward) but other than that we blew down that trail toward Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. 

I revisited that awkward spot in summer and it's still ugly, with craggy rocks haphazardly piled on each other.  There is a walk around to the left (going up), probably created in winter as this part of the trail actually isn't so bad to negotiate when dry and clear.

That ugly "iffy spot.

As we entered the more sheltered stretch we heard the loud roar of the wind directly above us but experienced just a gentle breeze. The wind was racing over us, pushing toward the Wildcats.  We were protected from it.

We got back to the visitor center about 3:00.  It was a windy, fierce, gray day; cold with no views.  Only in the Whites would you hear those words followed with "an awesome hike!"

Clingmans Dome, Tennessee (State High Point #9)

Clingmans Dome (6,643') via the Appalachian Trail July 2009 (REVISITED 2019)

Mileage:  6ish miles RT

Elevation gain:  uncertain (probably 1,500')

Trailhead:  Not wanting to hike the whole 7.5 miles to the Dome, we drove along Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap, TN, found a place to park, and hopped over the bushes on to the AT (which runs parallel to the road).  

Note:  This highpoint is a "drive up" as well.  The summit is .5 miles from the parking lot via a paved path. There is no fee. To reach the parking lot take US-441 to Great Smoky Mountains National Park/Cherokee, North Carolina. The summit is situated on the NC/TN state line. You'll be driving quite a distance within the park - very beautiful, and there is signage for Clingmans Dome, parking at the end of that road.  Clingmans Dome Road is closed December 1 - March 31.

Hiked with the Riches (Rich my husband and Rich my brother-in-law).  The AT crosses the access road in several places a few miles before Clingmans Dome, the high point of Tennessee.  The structure resembles a flying saucer with a ramp. 

The AT crosses Clingmans Dome Road in several spots.

We found a crossing a few miles before the monument.  After we parked in a dirt turn-out, we hopped the bushes and started up the trail.  There were just a few hikers out, mostly weekend people (one guy with pots hanging from his neck - so much for traveling light!).

BIL Rich on the AT

It was crowded that day and a bit cloudy so we didn't stay long (the views are skewed by pollution; a perpetual haze in the distance). 

Long, crazy ramp leading to the top!

View on a cloudy day.

We retraced our route back to the AT and headed down to where we parked our car.  When we reached the spot where the trail crosses the road, we'd gone too far and had to walk back up the road to the car. 

If interested in hiking to Clingmans Dome, click here for a list of popular hikes.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia (State High Point #8)

Brasstown Bald, GA (4,783') via Jacks Knob Trail (State High Point #8) July, 2009 (REVISITED in 2019).

Distance: 6 mile RT

Elevation gain: 1,780'

Trailhead: From Atlanta, take route 19 North to GA 180 eastward to the 180 spur. The trail crosses GA 180 at Jack's Gap, near the 180 spur.

NOTE:  This highpoint is a "drive up" as well.  The fee is $5 per person and the summit is a .6 mile walk up a paved path.

Hiked with Rich. This portion of the Jacks Knob trail hike starts where it crosses the road just below the Brasstown Bald access road, running parallel to the access road (we did not hike the entire trail - just enough to feel we hiked to Brasstown Bald). There are switchbacks up the hill toward the parking lot.

The monument in the distance.

Eventually the hill plateaus and for a short while we'd thought we lost the trail.  We could see the parking lot and the monument. We went left, found the trail and wound up at the far corner of the large parking lot.

The trail spills you out on the upper right corner of the parking lot.

We had to cross the lot to get to the entrance to the monument.  We walked along the paved sidewalk up to the building.

The tower of the structure. 

The USGS marker is on the stairs in a locked section of the tower.  I asked to see it and a ranger opened the section for me.

It was a gray day so we took in the view for a minute and headed back down toward the parking lot to hop back on the trail. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt. Jackson (WINTER 4K 4/48) via Webster-Jackson trail March 10, 2013

Mt. Jackson (4,052') via Webster-Jackson trail March 10, 2013

Mileage:  5.2 miles RT

Elevation gain:  2,150'

Trailhead:  Trail starts across from Crawford Depot on Route 302, about 8.5 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302 (Twin Mountain), 0.1 mile after the Highland Center. 

Lesson learned:  Third time's a charm.

Finally - a pleasant hike up Mt. Jackson!  Hiked with Rich and Sandy today. This would be my last winter 4k for the season and what a day it was.  Temps were in the 50s and the sky bright blue with just a few wispy clouds.  

My first hike up Jackson was years ago on a cold, icy November day - not fun (click here for that posting).  

Hoping for a better Jackson experience, I hiked it last fall and tagged the summit in dense fog, fighting the wind (click here for that posting).  

Was I ever going to have a nice day on this peak?  

Trail was seriously broken out (seriously).

The three of us started up the trail around 10:40. We wore our microspikes (a recent trip report recommended snowshoes so we brought them along).

Smith and Dickerman describe Jackson's summit cone as tricky in winter; "may require crampons." I'd brought mine just in case.  

Three small steep areas before the Webster trail junction were worn icy by the many hikers taking advantage of the weather on this glorious weekend.  These were the only trouble spots.  

This short hike had us breathing hard and we switched to snowshoes as we neared tree line (a good move as the snow softened).

Jackson's summit peeking out above the trees. Not a lick of wind.

Hiking at treeline can be surreal (photo above).  I remember this stretch of path that cold gray day in November.  The trail was a sheet of ice, a steep half-pipe up the rock slabs.  The wind whipped, the skies darkened and I felt so vulnerable - like my body's warmth could be snatched away from me, leaving me hypothermic.  

But not today. Today I walked in sunshine on a carpet of soft snow doing the Queen's wave to the Sugarloafs and other peaks below.  

I barely noticed when I got to the slabs, though I could see the final push and the summit just ahead.  The snowshoes grabbed where the microspikes may have fallen short.  I kicked my crampon into the snow and shot up to the top.  

Going down was tricky but the snow was sticky!
To my left Mt. Washington glistened.  A group of hikers were resting in the warm sun; several feet of packed snow raised them above the spruce.  I watched them when they left to see how they descended the steep summit cone, then went back to enjoy the views.

The last time I visited this summit I could barely see the trail junction sign!

We took photos, we had our photos taken. The gray jays flew by and landed on our fingers.  We rested, had lunch, posted to Facebook while sitting on the summit - I couldn't imagine doing any of this during my last three hikes (too cold and windy). This was the winter hiking I was hoping for. I'd sign up for more of these!

Mt. Washington stately in the distance.

It was a little hairy going down the steep summit cone but that was because I kept planting my poles at an angle.  When I put weight on them they'd fly out of the snow pitching me forward.  Eventually I manned up, stood up and got down the steep stuff.

Going down went fast; we stopped a few times to enjoy our surroundings.  Then off to the Moat for a beer.

I'm glad to have hiked this peak in the good weather.  It offers minimal distance and elevation gain for maximum views.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

High Point, New Jersey (State High Point #7)

High Point, NJ (1,803') via Appalachian Trail (State High Point #7) October, 2008.

Distance: 2 miles RT

Elevation gain:  less than 300'

Trailhead: High Point State Park, Route 23, 8 miles NW of Sussex, NJ.

Lesson learned: High point monuments need maintenance.

Hiked the high point of New Jersey with Rich, Rhiannon, and Isabelle (Rhiannon's pug). This high point, aptly named "High Point," has a tower at the top which visitors can climb for maximum views.  
It was a beautiful fall day though the colors had gone by for the most part.  We parked our car at the visitor center and quickly found the Appalachian Trail, which would take us to about 1/4 mile from the tower.

Taking a break. Monument in the background.
We passed through some forest and field and soon came to the cut-off to the monument.

Looking up from very close.

The monument was closed for the season so we couldn't enjoy the view from the top.  In fact, there was evidence of vandalism on the door and it appeared the state was working on revitalizing the structure.  

Base of the monument (notice the door on the right).

There were many visitors at the site that day.  We took a few photos and headed back to our car.  

The High Point monument is a stately structure worthy of revitalization and I imagine the area has received a sprucing up since our visit.  

Jerimoth Hill (RI), Mt. Frissell (CT), Mt. Greylock (MA)

Jerimoth Hill, RI (812), Mt. Frissell, CT (2,380') and Mt. Greylock, MA (3,491); State High Points #3, 4, and 5, July, 2008.

Distance: see below

Elevation gain: see below


Jerimoth Hill, RI: Drive east on CT 101, crossing the Rhode Island border. Continue to the broad top of a hill and park on the highway shoulder at a sign on the south side of the highway that says “Jerimoth Hill States Highest Point 812 Feet.”

Mt. Frissell, CT: The trailhead can be tricky to find with not much for signage. These directions were found on the website: Route 41, Sheffield, MA, south of Egremont, MA. Mt. Washington Road is off of Route 41. Take Mt. Washington Road up the mountain (it will eventually flatten out). Pass Mt. Everett State Reservation on your left and then a short distance later Mt. Washington State Reservation on your right. Mt. Washington Road becomes East Street which becomes a dirt road. Follow this road to the Connecticut/ Massachusetts border. Directly across the street from the road sign and border marker is a small grass parking area.

Mt. Greylock, MA: I believe we took the Cheshire Harbor trail off West Mountain Road in Adams, MA. There is a parking area and signage.

Lesson learned:  Double check the state sign you're holding before the picture is taken!

We'd done the high points of Maine and New Hampshire and the Mountain Mommas were headed to Vermont to do Mt. Mansfield (the high point of that state) later in the summer so I figured this would be the year we'd knock off the New England state high points.  

Norm and Charlotte had already visited Jerimoth, Frissell and Greylock and offered to be our "guides."  We picked a weekend of frenzied driving and picture taking, in fact it was billed as a "ride, hike, ride, hike, ride, hike, ride" weekend!

Jerimoth Hill, RI.  

Distance: few hundred yards down a path.  

Elevation gain: negligible.

We started in Portsmouth NH, driving as a caravan the two+ hours to Jerimoth Hill.  This high point used to be the most difficult to visit as it was privately owned and the owner valued his privacy  - to say the least.  Things have changed and on this day it was a matter of parking and walking the few hundred yards in to the high point.   

As you can see by the photo below, I grabbed the wrong sign for the photo.

This is the way to the high point of Rhode Island.

We took some pictures, got back in our cars and headed for Mt. Frizzell, several hours' drive west.

Mt. Frissell, CT

Distance:  2.6 miles RT

Elevation gain: about 600'

Following the directions to the trailhead wasn't as difficult as we'd thought.  There's a good description of all the Mt. Frissell trail options at Ellozy's page (my favorite resource).  It was around noon when we got to the trailhead and made quick work of the ascent, going over Round Mountain, which had some nice views.

Charlotte reaching the summit of Round Mountain.

The Connecticut highpoint is on Mt. Frissell but the actual summit of Frissell is located in Massachusetts.  We took some photos at the high point (marked by a cairn). 

The right sign for the CT high point!

This high point is located on a tri-state corner and we took the short walk to the post and had some fun with it.

Back down from the hike, we headed to dinner and lodging close to Williamstown Center, MA. The motel was actually located in Vermont  (a seedy place that smelled of pine cleaner - would not recommend staying there).

That night a fantastic thunder storm ripped through the area.  

Mt. Greylock, MA:  

Distance: 6.6 miles

Elevation gain: 2,100'

The next day we headed to Mt. Greylock, our final hike of the weekend.  Our friend Barb from Connecticut joined us.  The day was hazy and there were thunderstorm warnings. We parked in the grassy lot and headed up the Cheshire Harbor and AT trails to the summit. The pace was easy and grade and footing moderate (click here to find more on Mt. Greylock trails).

The woods were thick and green and I don't recall much for views until we got to the top. This has to be the prettiest high point in the northeast!  

Mt. Greylock has three summit markers and we did find two of them, along with the AT markers.

There are amenities at the summit (Mt. Greylock's summit is accessible by car) but everything was closed as the road was under repair.  

We enjoyed the solitude, the pretty tower, the nicely groomed grounds. But the skies were darkening so we ducked back into the woods and toward our cars. We got there just as big drops of rain started assaulting us.  We drove home just ahead of the big storms.

This was one fun weekend!  I would recommend the Highpointers Club for more information on state high points.