Thursday, July 22, 2010

A bad day in the Whites, is better than a good day in the office! Mount Jackson and Mount Webster Failed Attempt

What can I say? Today was a bad day in the White Mountains for Jill and I. You see, we are on vacation and we have planned out each day. The first portion of our week was spent in Bar Harbor, ME, where we hiked in Acadia National Park (posting of this later). The last portion, we planned out with local activities. Today was our hiking day.

We decided to take advantage of the low crowds of a weekday and drove up to the Crawford Notch to hike the Mount Jackson/Mount Webster Loop. We have been wanting to try this hike for quite a while now. It seems to be a pretty short hike for the great reward of summiting the two southern most Presidentials. In all, it is approximately 6.3 miles in distances and is supposed to have incredible views.

As I try to do for all of our hikes, I got the maps (AMC and Map Adventures) and the AMC White Mountain Guide out to prepare ourselves for the hike and to understand what milestones we could expect on the ascent. I try to do this because it helps break up a hike into smaller legs. Instead of knowing you have "x" miles ahead of you to the summit, you can instead anticipate only a fraction of that to a brook or some other trail feature.

For this hike, ascending the Mount Jackson branch, I was able to map out six milestones before the summit, three of which were brooks. It is interesting to point out that two out of the three brooks that I found in the Guide, did not appear on either of my maps (they were Small Mossy Brook and Flume Cascade Brook). So, after I was done with my research for this hike, we were ready to go.

The weather forecast for today was good. It was supposed to be mostly sunny, with a possibility of an isolated shower in the North Country. Driving north, this was the case. We had our sunglasses on and were soaking in all the morning had to offer. As many people continued their week driving to the rat race, we were heading up to be one with nature. We were going to climb two mountains and realize as we always do, how beautiful New Hampshire is. This was of course, until we hit the Crawford Notch.

It seemed that there was a very nasty storm cloud or system hanging over the Notch. Particularly, over Mount Jackson and Mount Webster. We assumed the weather forecast was correct and this would move out and burn off. So, we geared up and went upward. The trail was nice, as it alternated between steep rock and then steady earth. It was very wet in places and you had to be careful where you stepped. We learned from another hiker that it had down poured in the Notch for six hours the night before, which explained flooded trails. Regardless, we continued on, optimistic it would pass.

Hiking was fun, even with the wet conditions. Soon, the drops hitting us from above seemed to not come from the tree runoffs anymore, but from the sky itself. It started to rain more steadily. We didn't think much of this and kept hiking. Besides, we were sure this was going to pass...right? Soon, we came to the familiar roar of a brook or river. This surprised me at this point, because the next brook crossing was the Flume Cascade Brook, and this was one that isn't even published on the maps! How big could it be?

As we got closer to the roar, we noticed a few hiking parties standing on the Brook's bank. The hiker's faces were frozen with bewilderment. As I looked down at the Brook, I could see what their expressions were focused on. This small brook had turned into a raging river. Unfortunately for us, there were no rocks peaking over the stream of water to hop over on. At that exact moment of realization, the sky opened up and it began to down pour. We walked up the brook and then back down, trying to find a good place to cross, keeping in the back of our minds that we would need to cross it again on the descent. Also, we knew the Silver Cascade Brook was further up and was supposed to be larger, as it is published on maps.

Knowing our limitations and knowing that it is more important to stay safe, Jill and I turned back (along with the other hiking parties). We were extremely disappointed and bummed for the rest of the day. However, I don't regret the decision. The Whites can be unforgiving if you don't respect them. One wrong move or slip on that brook and one of us could have been injured pretty badly.

So, it was a bad day for us in the White Mountains. We left Crawford Notch under cloud cover and rain, and drove into Conway under total sunlight. We did not summit any mountains. But I've been thinking all day, that this bad day in the Whites, was better than a good day in the office!



  1. This last picture makes us look like huge wimps and it appears that the leap across is not at least 9-10 feet away on slanted rock - oh and if you fell bye bye you go down the cascade!

  2. Yes Hunny, you are right. The picture does not do a good job giving the stream depth. It was too wide for us to cross safely...and then cross coming back too.

  3. Nice blog - failure happens to all of us. The mountains are more powerful then we are.