After about a half-hour's rest in the hut, I was ready to go out and climb Mt Monroe. Knowing that I was going to come back down the same way in order to hike the portion of the Crawford Path that parallels the Mt Monroe loop (which is a protected alpine zone that is supposed to have abundant mountain wildflowers), I left my backpack at the hut while I made the climb. Views were excellent as the weather was clear and the sky a brilliant blue. However, the winds were extremely strong, especially where there were no rock formations to break their force. I passed numerous patches of diapensia and lapland rosebay in bloom, as well as the ubiquitous bunchberries which seem to grow everywhere and at all elevations in the White Mountains.
When I returned to the hut and put my pack back on, I figured that the rest of the hike would be more-or-less a walk in the park. After all, the trail was relatively flat and it was all but downhill from here. The Crawford Path is in the lee of Mt Monroe and I expected it to be at least somewhat protected from the fierce wind.
How wrong I was! If anything, the tempest was even stronger down here than it was up on Mt Monroe. The route of the Crawford Path, in the col between Mt Monroe and the ridge coming down from Mt Washington on the other side, was a regular wind tunnel. I had to fight to keep from being blown over at each strong gust. At one point, I met another hiker coming from the other direction. We passed each other like two ships in a storm, each of us silently struggling to steer a straight course through the gale without colliding. At one point, I stopped to take a picture of some alpine azalea; I had to take several shots before getting one where the camera wasn't buffeting around so much that the image was blurry.
At the Mt Eisenhower Loop junction, I quickly decided to skip the loop over the summit and sidetrack the mountain and the force of the wind by staying on the more sheltered Crawford Path. I was absolutely beyond tired at this point, the constant battle to stay upright at each wild gust sapping my strength. The route I chose hugs the east side of the summit cone by navigating through numerous large boulders and patches of scrub. I avoided the wind, but struggled through the rough terrain;
Things eased up a bit after passing the south end of the Mt Eisenhower Loop. Here, the Crawford Path enters a much more sheltered section, passing through thick patches of scrub along a more gentle path. I was positively ecstatic when I reached Mt Pierce, knowing that I was finally drawing near to my Valhalla, Mizpah Spring Hut, where I was ready to collapse in my bunk for the rest of the day.
A nice rest and a hearty supper quickly put me in a better mood. And to top it all off, the hut wasn't at all crowded; I even had a bunkroom all to myself that night.
After a good night's sleep and a warming breakfast, I was even more refreshed and rejuvenated, more than ready to tackle the blowdowns on my trail. My new pruning saw, which I bought just before my last trip, greatly speeded up the work. My old bow saw didn't cut nearly as well, and was constantly getting stuck. There were still a few blowdowns left on the upper part of the Mt Clinton Trail between the hut and the Dry River Cutoff, but I eventually reached the end of this once massive blowdown patch.
Below the Dry River Cutoff, there were still blowdowns, but they were at least sparsely scattered along the trail instead of being piled one on top of another. I took frequent rests, relaxing on logs or leaning against rocks, simply trying to enjoy the day and the still beautiful weather. Had there been blackflies, this would have been quite impossible, but they weren't out and the silence, broken only by the breeze feathering through the treetops and the tinkling of water trickling over rocks, was a sharp contrast to the previous day's wild wind and arduous hiking.
Lakes of the Cllouds (both the bodies of water and the their namesake hut) and Mt Washington from the Mt Monroe Loop trail