I had a dual purpose for this trip. My first
goal was to hike up to Mizpah Spring Hut to retrieve my trail maintenance tools.
They had been locked up in the hut's basement all winter because I
hadn't gotten back up there before the hut was boarded up for the season.
I knew that an AMC crew would be working on opening up the hut for the
season because the AMC huts manager, Eric Pederson, said that I could get in to pick up my tools. My second
goal was to climb Mt Pierce
and/or Mt Eisenhower. I didn't have any plans to work on my trail
because I figured (rightly) that the snow on the Mt Clinton Trail would be too deep
and probably unbroken.
What I didn't expect was that the Crawford
Path and Mizpah Cutoff would be as bad as they were. By about 3000 ft,
the snow had become fairly deep and was extremely slippery. Even my
snowshoes didn't provide enough traction to make the going easy. Still,
things weren't all that bad below the Mizpah Cutoff. At least the
broken-out path was accurately following the trail. Beyond the Cutoff, I
was certain that the tracks were off course at times; I don't remember
ever passing the sign for the Webster Cliff Trail to Mt Jackson.
Still, I made it to the hut all right,
entering through the back door as the front door was a good six feet
below the snowpack. Inside, the hut was a madhouse of activity and
clutter. Unopened supplies fresh from the helicopter were stacked three
and four boxes high atop the dining room tables. The floor was littered
with even more cartons and there was barely room to move around,
especially since at least a dozen people were busily shuttling armloads
of equipment up and down the stairs.
After rounding up my tools and eating a
power bar, I decided to test the Webster Cliff Trail heading up to Mt
Pierce. It didn't look too promising, but I at least wanted to give it a
try. Shortly in, at the first hint of the steep ascent, I was stymied in
my attempt to mount a short rise. No matter how hard I tried, my
snowshoes would simply not dig in. The surface layer of newer snow was
not adhering to the base layer, and I just kept slipping back down. My
microspikes probably wouldn't have helped much either, and without
snowshoes, postholing would have been an issue. Realizing that the route
up would only get steeper and more slick, I decided to call it quits and
I didn't give up completely however, and
still hoped to make it at least as far as Mt Pierce. So I headed back
down the Mizpah Cutoff to the Crawford Path and then started following
it back uphill. Things were going okay for a while until I met a couple
who had just turned around. They warned me that the tracks I was
following split up ahead and that the right-hand tracks merely looped
back after a short distance. Taking their advice, I followed the
left-hand tracks. But as I plodded steadily onward, I was also growing
increasingly confident that my predecessors were not on the right
track, which I felt was further to the north. Also, the Crawford Path is
generally rather wide and easy to follow; but these tracks often ran
between spruce trees barely a foot or two apart. I kept going for a
while though, hopeful that they would eventually veer back to the
correct route. But as time wore on, I was sliding around way too much,
often dangerously close to suspected tree wells. Safety dictated that it
was time to turn around.
Walking, sliding, and occasionally falling
back down the path, I made it back to the Mizpah Cutoff and retraced my
earlier route down to the Highland Center. Near the bottom, I met up
with the two hikers and their dog who had stamped out the errant path.
They had never made it to Mt Pierce because, as I suspected, they were
too far to the south. But they did manage to work their way to the
Mizpah Cutoff near the hut. From there, they gave up and headed back
down. At least I wasn't the only one having difficulties that day.
By the time I reached my car, I was sick of
snow but not of hiking. In fact, I was yearning for a chance to hike a
snowless trail. So after stowing my pack in the car and resting for a
few minutes, I decided to follow the Around the Lake and Red Bench
Trails around Ammonoosuc Lake and to the Red Bench viewpoint, as they
were trails I had never been on before. The small but scenic Ammonoosuc
Lake had once been the site of the Crawford House boat docks. From the
Red Bench, their were nice views up to Mt Washington.
Fox in the Highland
Center parking lot. This fox seemed quite tame, and may have been
looking for a handout before he slowly walked away. Perhaps people have
been feeding them.