Lows Bald Spot (2,875') via Old Jackson Road (AT) March 23, 2013 Updated 7/3/2019
Elevation gain: 825'
Trailhead: Trailhead is directly behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Route 16 just south of Gorham.
A few photos later we headed back down. The wind lessened as we descended; our tracks going up had disappeared in the snow.
Mileage: 4.4 miles RT
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!|
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!"