Washington + Monroe
Throwing my little brother in off the deep end
What to do when your little brother visits New England for the first time? Bringing him up the tallest of the 4000 footers, but not before summiting a couple other very tall peaks? Why not. I will preface this post by saying that while my brother, Hunter and I did some very occasional big hikes growing up, he is by no means a regular hiker, and yet he was a CHAMP, crushing these 14 rocky challenging miles. Props to the little bro.
Since it was Labor Day weekend, we knew all the popular peaks would be crowded, so we decided to take the “back way” up to NH’s tallest peak – up Glen Boulder and down Boott Spur – a similar route as when we did Isolation last year, and on our failed attempt this winter (see post). Though it’s longer than coming up the Ammonoosuc side, this way has some incredible views, and more importantly to me, very view people. And a bonus for this time of year: wild blueberry bushes are going nuts!
The climb up to Boott Spur on Glenn Boulder trail is steady and moderate. Once above treeline, views back down toward Pinkham Notch are excellent, and Glen, the boulder herself, greets you about halfway up the steep rocky portion. The trail dips back into a mystical-feeling forest for a surprisingly long stretch. Moss and ferns and general overgrowth mixed with a wash of fog lend to the atmosphere that there might just be elves living here.
Though not an official ‘4000 footer’, Boott Spur is impressive in its own right at almost 5,500 feet. But we still had a ways to go before hitting the real Presidentials. We took Camel Trail to Lake of the Clouds, and what an epic trail it was, following huge cairns across the boulder field through the mist.
At Lake of the Clouds, we met up with the holiday weekend crowds. We found a spot to eat our sandwiches on the rocks in the lake, then made a quick stop in the hut to show my brother the cozy wonder that are AMC Huts on the top of mountains (super jealous of the folks who get to work and here). Then we made the short ascent to Monroe and were treated to excellent views of the southern Presidential Travers. How I wished we had that in the plans for the day… but alas we turned around and joined the parade up to Washington.
We broke away from the masses (again, props to Hunter) and found ourself at the summit before we knew it as the fog revealed first the tower then the weather station. What a surreal feeling to emerge like so on the summit of Mount Washington, complete with its long wait for a summit picture, visitor center, and gift shop. We decided to skip the summit line as it was actually pretty chilly and there wasn’t a view to see anyways. We headed down the stairs and through the parking lot (it was so foggy, it could have easily been Ben and Jerry’s we were at, and not the top of a mountain), and down on the Tuckerman’s Ravine side. I had never been down Washington this way, and when we emerged from the fog, I noticed so many other cool looking trails than what we had in store for today, especially around the rim of the ravine.
We followed a line of huge cairns back to the summit of Boott Spur where we turned down the trail of the same name for a steady quad-strengthening journey back down to Pinkham Notch and eventually onto some well-earned pizza and beer.