Wednesday, August 15, 2007

10-mile Mt. Jackson Hike

Mt. Jackson is one of New Hampshire's 48 4,000+ foot mountains, and the next target in my peak-bagging quest (there's no way I'll do all 48 this summer, though.)
It's been, I guess, 3 weeks since I've hiked, and I felt that a little: more winded going up, more discomfort in quads and toes going down. However, I'm happy with today. The sign at the trailhead said Mt. Jackson's 4,054-foot peak was a 4-mile hike, but the guidebook and website called it 4.7. In addition, the parking lot I used was 0.3 mile away, so I am giving myself credit for 10 miles, my longest mountain hike to date.
And yes, yes, yea, I was on the Appalachian Trail, the Webster Cliff Trail section. I timed my hike to start when I thought thru-hikers might be going along that stretch, guessing from where they would have been likely to spend the night. I armed myself with double-size muffins and whoopie pies for them, assuming it was a while since they'd had anything like that. I hoped to hike with them and get input on trail-running shoes vs. hiking boots, tarp vs. tent, Gore-tex vs. $1-ponchos from the 7/11, and most of all, how it's all going. But I saw nary a one, until my return trip, when I crossed brief paths with a northbound middle-aged man who was bent on making tracks. He'd left Georgia April 19, a month later than most, and at that rate would be making Mt. Katahdin a month ahead of the earlier starters. He didn't want a muffin.
It was a tough hike. Steep. Rocky and rooty. At one point, I met people coming down, and warned them that the trail ahead of them, where I had come up, was going to be tricky going down. They thanked me politely, graciously keeping to themselves that I hadn't seen tricky yet.
Here are a couple of views from a ledge about halfway up.
That's NH 302 at the bottom, and the Willey House, part of Crawford Notch State Park. The road above it, I think, is a railroad.
From a different angle, same ledge. Although I took this shot myself, I found the exact same shot afterwards on a website. Apparently I'm not the only one who liked that view!
About 3/4 of the way up, I encountered the near-vertical rock climbs. I'd stand and wonder, "How in the hell am I going to get up that? And how in the hell am I going to get back down?" The answers: Question #1: Hand-over-hand and on my knees. Question #2: On my butt, reaching to the next foothold with my feet.
I had Journey along, and although I worried about how she would negotiate the rocky climbs, I needn't have. She's as sure-footed as a goat. I'd let go of her leash, have her sit-stay at the bottom (or top) of a climb, clambor over it myself, then give her the OK to follow. She skipped up or down like we were running on the shoulder of a flat road. It worked out well.
Here we are at the summit:
Lichen-covered boulders at the summit (above treeline) with a far view of the White Mountains in the distance:
Another thing about Journey: she can always find the trail. Yes, it's marked, but sometimes it's still not exactly clear to me which way to go. However, Journey goes to the right spot unerringly, even when she's never been there before. Maybe she's sniffing out the trail where others have been.
Although she wanted to chase every chipmunk and squirrel, she shied back when a garter snake peacefully crossed the trail. My son has told me that all mammals share an instinctive fear of snakes. Except, I guess, for mutants like me.
Today's "You Can See Yourself In It" metaphor-for-life lesson:
Sometimes I'm so intent on watching my footing that I forget to look where I'm going, and miss scenery as well.
An earlier one, conceived on a different steep rocky trail:
It's good that when it's all uphill there are rocks and roots. We may curse them as stumbling blocks but they give substance for a foothold.
I left the muffins and whoopie pies in a cooler someone had deposited near the trailhead of a nearby AT section. It had ice in it, and a watermelon (or what was left of it; many had partaken, by the looks of the rinds in the garbage bag the donor had provided. My cakes were individually-wrapped so I'm hoping the melting ice didn't soak them.


Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Looks like a beautiful hike, and lucky you to have such a great companion to enjoy it with!

Kristen said...

Hi Ellie,
I'm writing you here to ask if I might use your Jackson summit photo for an AMC blog post. I write the Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog for the Appalachian Mountain Club, and your photo would be a great illustration for a post I'm putting up about the geology of the White Mountains. I would be glad to link back to your blog, if you like, or to credit you as the photographer. You can reach me at

Thanks! Kristen Laine