Here there be chickens

Saturday, July 16 dawned. . .well, it dawned.  The weather was nice in the Mount Washington Valley at 05:00.  The forecast was for sun and temperatures in the high 80’s.  (In the valley.)

The higher summit forecast was also decent.  It called for temperatures in the 50’s with winds below 20 MPH and “peaks in the clouds.”  That’s weather-speak for fog.  All in all, a standard July day on Mount Washington.

I departed before sunrise in an effort to hit the trail as early as possible and maximize my available time.  The Seek the Peak folks were planning a party at the trail head at 06:00, but I planned to be long gone by then.

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This is Berk. She is Mrs. Mack505’s mascot and was dispatched to assist me on my hike.

Berk and I were the only ones at the Ammonoosuc Ravine parking lot.  We started out at 05:40, and we met three other hikers who had started from the Cog Railway parking cutoff. We leapfrogged on the trail for a while, but we never saw them again after Gem Pool.

The trail to Lakes of the Clouds seemed shorter than last time, perhaps because the mountain was no longer trying to kill me.  I went through all the usual emotions: this isn’t bad, OK maybe it’s tough, what was I thinking?, I’m going to die, and finally I CAN DO THIS. A shade less than 2 1/2 hours brought us to the door of Lakes just as breakfast was ending.  Channel 8 was setting up a shot, and a crowd flowed out of the hut.

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The fog had begun in earnest.

Above the hut, the going is rocky but not too steep.  I didn’t mind the crowd as visibility was limited.  We hiked single file across Crawford Path, trekking from cairn to cairn.

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The USFS is serious.

Another hour brought the summit.  One moment we were plodding along in the fog; the next a large building appeared.  5.04 miles, 3 1/2 hours, and there we were.

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We arrived early and didn’t have to stand in a long line to take a picture.

It’s done.  I made it to the top, and all before lunch.  Before second breakfast, actually.  I left enough time for a leisurely descent, but I decided to cheat and take the Cog back down to my car.

Next year will be ascent AND descent.

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