For the Flags on the 48, I had plans to hike Mount Carrigain with a group of hikers that were planning the trip on Facebook. Unfortunately, due to the Sawyer River Road closure, the hike jumped from a ten mile round trip trek to fifteen miles. For me, that was just too long and I wasn't sure I would be able to keep up or even make it. So I changed my plans and decided to hike Mount Pierce. I recruited my cousin, Jen, to hike with me. I was really excited about this because I hadn’t seen Jen in many years, much less hiked a mountain with her. It would be a great opportunity for the two of us to catch up. This would be her first 4,000 footer and it was my job to try to get her hooked on hiking the White Mountains…and dare I say, get her to pursue the 48!
Jen, excited to hike her first New Hampshire 4,000 footer!
We left my house early, around 5:15 or so. After a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, we were on the highway and heading north. It was fun to point out the different mountains to her as we drove by Tecumseh, Moosilauke and the Franconia Notch, before hitting the Crawford Notch. We hit the trailhead early, about 8:30 and started at the Crawford Connector off from Mount Clinton Road.
Love this sign!
The kiosk at the trailhead was pretty informative. It explained a lot of the history of the trail, probably the most notable detail being that it is the oldest, continuously-used hiking path in the United States. My favorite sign, however, was a large yellow sign that warned hikers of the dangers that could be found on this path, especially above timberline. This sign made us feel like bad asses! The actual trail sign for the Crawford Path was a bit disappointing though. It was made out of a composite material rather than traditional wood. This, to me, seemed very out of place. I was not a fan at all.
I'm definitely not a fan of these new composite signs!
The Crawford Connector trail was short with minimal elevation gain. It wasn’t long before we crossed over Gibbs Brook byway of a nice bridge, and came to the actual Crawford Path. After another short distance on the left of the trail, there was a short spur path that led down to the banks of Gibbs Brook, where Gibbs Falls was flowing nicely. We stopped and admired the falls for a bit and then continued on. The Crawford Path was fairly easy and the grade was moderate and steady. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, we had reached the Mizpah Cutoff junction. Here, we met a few nice hikers that had spent the previous night at the Mizpah Hut. We snapped a few photos and then continued on the Crawford Path.
Signs on the trail that Fall is in the air!
The upper portion of this path, below the Webster Cliff Trail, was again moderate in grade. The scenery was nice as it passed through a hardwood forest with a green, mossy landscape. After a bit of climbing, the trail leveled off and there were some restricted views on the left. The wind picked up a bit and we knew that was a tell-tale sign that we were getting close to the summit. The trail opened up and Mount Eisenhower and Mount Monroe were in front of us. Mount Washington, in the background, was unfortunately buried in clouds.
Views north, up the Crawford Notch toward the Mount Washington Hotel
From this point, we had only a short walk to the summit. The summit itself had a large cairn and two USGS Benchmarks. The skies were clear for the most part except for Washington’s peak. There was one problem, however. We hiked the mountain much faster than I had anticipated. We had made the hike in two hours and were in fact, an hour and a half early for the flag to be raised. We ate lunch and contemplated staying for the flag to arrive. After 40 minutes or so, we started to get chilly and decided to head down.
Glabrous Sandwort on the summit
Jen and I on the summit of Mount Pierce! #10 for me, #1 for Jen!
For the descent, we headed down the Webster Cliff Trail until we hit the Mizpah Hut. We decided to take a quick break here. It was the second hut I had been to in the Whites, and Jen’s first. From here, we headed down the Mizpah Cutoff to meet back up with the Crawford Path. At this junction, we headed back down the way we came up. We met a lot more hikers on the way down, than we did on the way up. One group alarmed us a bit. It was a family heading up, with a five year old. They were probably 0.75 miles from the trailhead, seemed to be having a very difficult time and asked us if they were close to the top. I was surprised by the question, being so near to the parking area and I asked, “to the top of what?” (and I promise I was not trying to be a smartass). The lady in the group replied, “to the top of Mount Ethan-Allen”. I was totally taken back by this response and explained the two nearest destinations the trail would bring them to was Mount Pierce or the Mizpah. After leaving them to continue hiking, I couldn’t help but think, these are the people the warning sign on the kiosk was trying to caution.
The Mizpah Hut!
The USGS Benchmark...Love these things!
We finally made it back to the trailhead, hopped in the truck and headed home. This hike was great for so many reasons. We didn’t get to see the flags or the National Guard helicopter that was making flybys, but there is always next year, and every year after for that. I was able to rack up another 4k, and Jen bagged her first one. I successfully got her interested in hiking all 48 and she's already making her plans to head to her second peak next weekend. Most of all, I spent some quality time with my cousin. We had a great hike and were able to catch up on some missed time. I wish her the best of luck with her 48, 4,000 footers and hope to hike with her again soon!