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.