Summer Presidential Traverse

Well if you have been following along on our Facebook or Twitter, you know I spent the weekend traversing the presidential range. We decided to do a hut to hut traverse which typically makes the journey fairly smooth and relaxing. No need for stoves, tents, sleeping pads or sleeping bags. They even give you a big breakfast and dinner each day. I had never stayed in one of the huts and I found out the ups and downs of them. More to come on that topic. DX3A3161 We started the first day on Howker Ridge. We originally eyed the popular Valley Way, but we wanted something a bit more remote, something new. The first 2 hours went smooth despite the 90 degree heat, heavy packs, and relentless flies. After hoofing it for what seemed to be a long time, we got a view of our position on the ridge and Madison’s summit. We weren’t even half way! We dropped back into the trees and began the steep up-hills and the maddening down hills of Howker Ridge. Climb 500 ft, drop 200 ft and repeat. Our morale dropped off noticeably after that first view, and by treeline, we had to make a choice. Head up and over Madison as originally planned, or cut across Pine Link and hope we make it in time for dinner. We chose the latter and it’s a good thing we did! Turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, broccoli, bread, soup, and pumpkin pie!DX3A3147 After dinner, we took a trip over to Star Lake to watch the sunset on Washington. We shot some photos (seeming we lugged nearly 20lbs of camera gear with us), and headed back to the hut for some more photo-shoots. The next morning we had a great breakfast and set off without packs to tag Mt. Madison. Without the burden of our heavy packs, we climbed the 0.5 mi to the summit in 18 minutes. The day was turning out to be a great one. We descended, grabbed our packs and set off for a long day on the ridge. We made good time to the summit of Mt. Adams. We were rewarded with a long “break” of downhill and relatively flat walking over to Jefferson’s summit cone. We didn’t stop on this section at all and hit the summit of Jefferson in under 2 hours from Adams. The heat of the day was upon us. The sun was high in the sky and it was about 60 degrees on the ridge. We were determined to beat the impending showers that were forecasted for the afternoon. We headed off for Mt. Washington. As we neared the summit, the folks riding the cog railway got to watch us get nailed by a very brief hail/rain shower. As we got closer to the highest point on our trek, the clouds rolled in. There were very few people on the summit for a weekend. We got our summit shots and ducked into the observatory for some chili. The timing was perfect as the sky opened up with heavy rain and lightning while we watched safely inside. We checked the radar and saw this storm was only a precursor of what was to come. A huge band of storms was in the near future so we packed up and made a dash for the Lakes of the Clouds hut 0.8 miles away. It was a photo-finish to the hut. For the last 10 minutes of the race we got wet with light rain, but as soon as we got inside the storms hit hard and again we watched the hail, rain, and lightning. We were to learn later that the summit of Washington received 100+mph winds, hail, and was struck by lightning twice during the storm. DX3A3226We ate a great dinner again (Stuffed Shells, salad, bread, soup, and brownies). The storms had passed so we headed outside for some post storm sunset photography. We felt ambitious despite our 8+mile day on the ridge, so we decided to watch the sunset from the summit of Monroe. It turned out to be a great idea as it allowed us some solitude from the crowded hut. We spent at least 40 minutes on top and began our descent to the hut for some much deserved sleep.DX3A3221 Breakfast was again, great. With the difficulties mostly behind us, we were off on the trail by 8AM. We had already hit the summit of Monroe so we traversed around it and onto Franklin and Eisenhower. The ridge beyond Monroe is less rocky and a lot of downhill. We topped out on Eisenhower and pushed on to Pierce. We hit the summit of Pierce by 11AM. From here, as planned, we descended Crawford Path to the Highland Center. We were sitting in the shade, on the lawn by 12:45, happy to be down, but also sad that it was over. My overall impression of the huts are this: There is definitely something to be said about saving weight by not bringing a tent, stove, meals, sleeping bags etc. You can stroll in, have a great meal and a warm/dry place to sleep. It makes traveling light and fast easy and makes the traverse a bit more leisurely, especially when it pours like it did the second night. With that said, you still can’t beat camping. The huts were great, but the crowds they attract really take away from the solitude you head into the mountains to find. There were several times I wished I had brought the tent instead. When it was pouring and lightning, I was happy to be indoors. It was an awesome experience to travel hut-to-hut, but I think I will stick to the old fashioned backpacking. DX3A3270