Mt. Washington via Jewell Trail for “Seek the Peak”

First off, I want to say congratulations to everyone that helped make “Seek the Peak” such as wonderful event. We enjoyed our time on the mountain and had a wonderful time that the events put on. So, thank you. We will definitely to do it again next year. And to all those that donated, thank you!

I recommend this event for any hiker looking to be part of something, this is a great event to take part in. You can check out more about “Seek the Peak”, here

Here’s a quick rundown of the event;

The night before your supported hike, you get to pick up your goodie bag if you meet the minimum goal of $200.00, similar to that of a runner’s packet for race, but this goodie bad is loaded.

Goodie Bag from Seek the Peak
Goodie Bag from Seek the Peak

 

When you pick up your bag,  you will have the opportunity to spend time at the Mt. Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center, have some food and meet with seasoned hikers to help you decide what trail is best. It’s a great Kick-Off Party. You will be asked about which trail you plan to take and reminded to sign in and sign out at the trailhead with the “Seek the Peak” personnel.

The after-party is the same day of the hike and located on the east-side of mountain in the  Mount Washington Auto Road entrance. This is the place with free food, raffles, vendors, etc. Just remember to bring you wristband that you receive when you pick up your goodie bag. 🙂 We didn’t spend too long there, since we had our daughter. After a long day of hiking, it was time for downtime and bed.

We decided to travel up the west-side of the mountain to the summit via “Jewell Trail”.  The Jewell Trail is one of the longest trails up Mount Washington. You can find some more information on the trail, here.  It is one of the easiest trails up to the summit, but we find it also the safest. An added benefit is that we have hiked this path before if poor weather or clouds came in, we had a good understanding of the terrain.

The trailhead starts across the tracks of the Cog Railroad.  This is one of the other benefits of hiking this trail, if needed you can take the Cog Railroad down to your car. It is a little pricey, $45 per person, but worth it. Just remember to bring some cash with you. There is an ATM, but it does run out of money. 🙂  The Cog Railroad is another great piece of history for the Mount Washington area.  Here is a link to their website. You can use that site for directions to the trailhead.

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The Cog Railroad, Jewell Trailhead

One of the big changes, that I love with using this trail is that parking for hikers is now free. As you approach, the Cog Railroad you will see a sign for “Hiker Parking”, use that. If you drive up to the Cog, you will have to pay for parking. You can looking at a 3 to 5 minute walk depending on your pace to the trailhead.

Again, the trailhead starts across the tracks, look for a staircase going down and cross the tracks. Just look out for trains. 😉 The first thing you will have to do is cross the Ammonoosuc River. It’s easy, just use the bridge.  You will start climbing rather quickly, but at a moderate incline. Around the first mile, you will cross over Clay Brook.  The climbing up is rather easy, it’s a good workout but not strenuous.  When you start your first switchback, you are about half-way to breaking the tree-line.

Heading up the Jewell Trail
Heading up the Jewell Trail


As you approach, you will know you are about to break the tree-line when you see a nice little area on your left with a log bench and small fire pit. This is a great location to stop and take a break. 

Break time for Mom & Nap time for M
Break time for Mom & Nap time for M

I may look pretty tired, but I am actually getting focused for when we break the tree-line. I have a love-hate relationship with spending time above the tree-line. Minus the direct exposure to weather, I have a little trouble with heights. Yes, I know one would figure I would find another hobby. Well, that’s not me, I am the person that takes my fears head-on. This is one way to do it and its step one in the process of reaching my goal.

When you break tree-line (around mile 3) you will get to see Mount Washington to your right, it looks like it across the way, it is, but you have a few more miles of climbing before you are standing on the observation deck.  For your second view,  you can turn around and see the Cog Railroad, where you started.

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View back down to the Cog Railroad
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M & me with Mount Washington in the distance

This section of the trail is rock to rock, with some small areas of earth path. Keep to the trail by following blue trail markers and cairns, also read your trail signs.  The Jewell Trail will “end” and you will follow the Gulfside Trail (AT =  Appalachian Trail). There is a nice large flat-ish area after the Jewell Trail ends and you pick up the Gulfside Trail its about 0.3 miles from the end of the Jewell Trail.  Below, is the trail junction sign, this is where we let M out to play for a bit.  Excuse the bee, M decided to bring it along this with “Navigational” Pony this hike.

 

Trail Junction Sign, located of playtime
Trail Junction Sign, location of playtime
Area for playtime
View from playtime area to Mount Washington
M practicing with Dad
M practicing with Dad

There are few paths you can take to get to the summit. We took the Gulfside Trail then followed the Cog Railroad up to the summit our first time. This time we followed the Gulfside Trail, crossed over the Cog Railroad and connected with Crawford’s Path and up to the summit.  The views looking out from the trail are amazing.

View over my left shoulder
View over my left shoulder

As mentioned, you can hike along the side of the Cog Railroad or across over the tracks. Just be aware of the trains.

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Cog Railroad
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Cog on its way down

At the summit of Mount Washington there are various locations to see and do, such as, the Tip Top House,  Sherman Adams Building, stop by the Observation Deck, of course get your picture at the summit post. The Sherman Adams Building is where you will find a gift shop, cafeteria, Post Office, bathrooms, location to purchase your cog ticket (if needed).  Some areas at the summit are under construction, but this does not affect what they have to offer. You can find more out at this link.

Here are some images for the summit

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Crawford Path Marker
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Mt. Washington State Park Map

 

Just a closing note, inside the Sherman Adams Building you will see a wall that lists out the causalities on Mt. Washington. You may start your hike on a clear and sunny day, but half way through or during your time at the summit a front or low clouds may come through. Please, check here for Mt. Washington summit weather. You can also find a weather report twice an hour on New Hampshire Information radio station, 95.3 FM.

No matter what, be prepared for anything, have plans and routes for bad weather or injury.  Be smart, you don’t want your name added to the list. Plan smartly.

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Causalities of Mount Washington

 

 

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Mount Jackson, Mizpah Hut and down Crawford’s Path, White Mountain Hiking, NH.

Another weekend…. another hike with my two favorite people. We spent our 4th of July at the Mt. Washington Resort.  It is full of history, fun, great service and food. The weekend was worth every penny.  Our visit there will be in another post.

Again, we had a late start for our hike.  We are two-for-two on late starts, I am hoping it will not be a trend for this year. At least, this time it was for a good reason. J needed new hiking boots and EMS (Eastern Mountain Store, located in North Conway, NH) had them ready for us on Sunday at 830AM. We did an in-store pick up via EMS’ website. Thank you, EMS for keeping it simple and efficient. The other nice surprise was a new kid carrier by Deuter — the Kid Comfort III. It’s everything we need and all the upgrades from the Kid Comfort II, we were wanting. I will do another write up soon all. I have read too many poor reviews of the pack because people do not know how to use it and set the straps correctly.

On to the task at hand…. Mt. Jackson, located in White Mountains range of NH. Here are some facts about the mountain.

There are a few places to park, but the best place depends on your plan for the day. The up and back route to the summit (Jackson or Webster) or the Webster – Jackson loop trail, you will be coming back to the same location you started. This means you can park close to the trailhead or across the street at the Crawford’s Depot/Visitor Info parking lot. The other location is up at the Highland Center, which is a great if you are coming down the Crawford’s Path.  Actually, if you don’t mind the short walk from the trailhead (about a quarter mile) I would suggest to park at the Highland Center. The Highland Center has bathrooms, food and drink, lodging, trail notifications, hiker log book, etc. Its a nice hiking center in Crawford’s Notch.

We have had breakfast, lunch and dinner there and surprisingly, it was very good food. They offer discounts for AMC members and those lodging at the center.  My free advice is to plan your route and your back-up route then pick your parking location.  Just beware when crossing Rt. 302, I know you are not a child, but Rt. 302 curves through that area and drivers don’t have a good line of sight for people crossing the road.

When hiking Mount Jackson or Mount Webster you will start in the same location on the path called Webster-Jackson Trail. I know, pretty creative name. 🙂  Make sure you are not taking the Saco Lake trail, which starts by crossing the bridge.  Jackson-Webster Trailhead is the trail after the Saco Lake. That is if you are coming from the Depot/Visitor Info or Highland Center. When coming from Silver Cascades and the Flume Cascades it will be the first trailhead you see.

The Webster-Jackson Trail will probably be wet rock, mud and puddles. We hiked the trail two days after rain. It’s all passable, so no need to pack a boat and paddle. It does dry out when you get to the spilt of the trail. At the trail spilt, left leads to Mt. Jackson and right leads to Mt. Webster. Before the trail splits, there are some good inclines all rock and a nice cliff to view your progress up the mountain.

The cliff is called Bugle Cliff, the walk is about 0.1 miles (if that) away from the trail. The cliff overlooks Rt. 302, you can see the Highland Center along with the Mt. Washington Resort and Bretton Woods.  It’s an awesome location for fall hiking pictures, you will capture the fall foliage, perfectly. Here are some images from the cliff…

Cliff outlook, Rt. 302, Highland Center and Mt. Washington Resort
Cliff outlook, Rt. 302, Highland Center and Mt. Washington Resort
Mom and Daughter on the Cliff, Kid Comfort III
Mom and Daughter on the Cliff

The cliff is about a half to three quarters mile from the split.

Here is an image to help you get an idea of the climb to the trail spilt.

Rock stepping up Webster-Jackson Trail
Rock stepping up Webster-Jackson Trail

At the spilt, we took the Jackson trail, which is about 1.1 miles from the summit.  You will face climbing that is not for novices. It’s a good climb with rocks and log steps, but the final 750 ft is true climbing and the incline is at its toughest. You will be climbing up rock facings. There are locations to place your feet and hands and at times there will be no helping points. At those points, your own strength and balance will be needed. Just know what you can handle and what you are capable doing, if you have to turn back, do so.

This is the incline report from our hiking Garmin GPS.

Mt. Jackson incline report
Mt. Jackson incline report

On the Jackson Trail, we crossed over the Silver Cascades. Depending on the season, this crossing can be tricky or not passable. After a good rain, the cascade will be running higher than normal. There are several locations to cross, so pick your location and cross. Hopefully, you do so without getting a boot or two wet. 🙂

As you continue upward, you will start to face, rock and log steps with a few switchbacks. Ironically, the song “Stairway to Heaven” was on repeat in my head during this part of the climb. It’s rather fitting, so just keep stepping up. You will know you have reached the last switchback when you come across your first warm-up climb onto a rock facing.

And yes, it is just a warm-up, the rock facing right after is your biggest challenge. Both are doable. At the second rock facing climb, I ended up moving a rock, so I could step up on the rock then onto the rock facing  and use a nearby tree to pull myself up. Remember, I am carrying a 41lbs pack and it moves.  With the guidance of J, I ended up turning so my back so I was using my legs to push up and onto part of the rock facing.

After, those two climbs, its all rock facing to the top.  The summit is just around the corner. Either walk right on up or do some hand-over-hand climbing. I did the latter, since M gets a kick out of it. Plus, it was windy, about 35 to 45 mph. In the winy condition, I find it easier to be closer to the rock.

The view waiting for you at the summit is amazing….

Mom & M at the summit of Mt. Jackson
Mom & M at the summit of Mt. Jackson
Webster Cliff Trail Post
Webster Cliff Trail Post
Whistle Practice, still needs to learn how to blow harder but we are off to a good start.
Whistle Practice, still needs to learn how to blow harder but we are off to a good start.
Mom and Daugther at the summit Mt. Jackson
Mom and Daughter at the summit Mt. Jackson
Mt. Washington is the clear for once!
Mt. Washington in the clear for once!
Checking my gear with Mt. Washington in the background
Checking my gear with Mt. Washington in the background

After our lunch break and re-coup time. We decided it was best to take the trail to Mizpah Hut then down Crawford’s Path. Our first plan was to hike the loop, but with the high winds we decided the best and safest route for us was to take the path to Mizpah Hut.

The descent from Mount Jackson using the Mizpah hut is the easiest of all three trails (Webster Cliff Trail, Mount Jackson Trail and Mizpah Hut). A few minor rock facing descents and into the forest you head. The trip to Mizpah Hut is rather simple and not too exciting. After your climb up Mount Jackson, it is a walk in the woods. (No pun intended) You will pass over some bog bridges and rolling hills nothing hard on the legs. It’s a nice break after your climb and before you get to Crawford’s Path. The hike to the Hut is a little over a mile. Mizpah Hut does offer lodging, bathrooms, drinking water and food at mealtimes. There is a location for tent camping, too. The hut takes reservations for lodging then its a first come, first serve. If you are using the Mizpah Hut plan accordingly.

Mizpah Hut
Mizpah Hut
Mizpah Hut
Mizpah Hut

After our little break at the hut, we continued on the Mizpah Cutoff for 0.7 miles until we connected with Crawford’s Path. Again, this trail is rather easy and it can be a bit wet.

Once you hit, Crawford’s Path it is 1.9 miles to Rt. 302. Crawford’s Path is pretty rocky. The climb down can be a bit rough depending on how tired you legs are. When you reach Gibbs Fall, you still have 0.2 miles to the end of the trail.  Crawford’s Path ends/starts across the street from the parking lot of the Highland Center.

This was a longer loop, 7.83 miles, than what was planned, but its a very nice climb and walk down. The Mizpah Hut is a location for hikers to regroup and meet up on the trail.  Below is the loop, we took. You can see the distance between where we started at the Webster -Jackson Trail and where we ended, Crawford’s Path, is not that far apart. We parked at the Highland Center, since we knew we were going to use their facility.

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Hiking with an Infant or Toddler

There are numerous items to consider when hiking with an infant or toddler. The ranking of an importance is based on each unique family. My family and your family are different, but there are general needs that I hope this article will help to get your family better prepared for your hike. This article is not meant to scare or derail a family from hiking with their child or children. There are many things to consider before heading out the door to climb a mountain and each item should be weighed and considered in detail.

Depending on where you hike, your pack load will be different. My family has hiked in New Hampshire along the White Mountains and Kangamangus, in Virginia in the Shenandoah region, on various plane crashes off untraditional marked paths, and the Black Mountains of NC. I am sure the west coast of the US and other areas, such as, in the Colorado Mountains, the conditions are different. Each area has its own obstacles. I am writing this article based on the worst weather and terrain changes that we have faced throughout our hiking. As a parent and for our family, we plan for the worse case scenario. I hope it will never come to pass, but we rather be prepared for it than not. Without further adieu… let’s get down to business.

First item to consider, if you are a single parent, who will be your hiking partner. Hiking alone with an infant or toddler carries the same classic precautions as SCUBA diving alone. In other words, it is not advisable to do so. There are too many variables that can take place and doing it alone the probably of error is higher. Without a partner, you and/or your child’s survival is at stake. For example, in the White Mountains, the weather can change in an instant, it can and has snowed in August. Also, hiking above the alpine zone, which various by location can make weather conditions worse and terrain more difficult to navigate.

The next question to answer is who will be carrying the child and any additional items in that pack? This is not a gender topic. This is a question of what works best for your child. In our family, I, the mother, carry our child. My child needs to be close to me and we can communicate without seeing each other, but our child needs to see her father. You can always change who carries them, but for us mom does the carrying up and down the mountain. It’s what serves our child’s needs the best. And as her mother, I am physically fit to carry her, which brings me to the next item to consider.

Fitness. How in-shape are you and your hiking partner? You do not have to be a pro athlete, endurance fanatic or a gym rat, but you can’t decide to hike up a side of mountain with your child on your back after spending years on the couch or at your desk staring at the computer screen. I say you can’t, but there are those that have and I am sure there will be more. I am 100% sure the few days after the hike they are in some pain. Hiking with an infant or toddler is strenuous activity, its nothing like running a few times around the block or walking around the neighborhood. There are many trails where you will be walking over roots, crossing over a stream/river/brook, stepping up on rocks, walking on rock facings and at times rock scrambling. It is tough work and if anything happens you need to be prepared to care for the situation. Being in shape helps make the whole hiking experience more enjoyable.

Being in shape is part of the battle. You will need to be familiar with your trail understanding the Hiking Terrain Terminology and color codes in very helpful. This will assist you in making informed decision about what paths to take and the ones to avoid. Those contour lines are not to make the map look pretty. The closer they are together the steeper it is. Always bring a printed map of your hike along with you in a plastic zip lock bag or another map protector, in case it rains and to help protect it against your sweat. Yup, you will sweat.

Always pack two First Aid kit. One for the adults and one for your child. Hiking with your child means carrying band aids, gauges, medical tape, etc. that fits them. In addition to the kits, pack Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil with dosing instructions for your child’s age and weight. When you are tired and hungry,  dosing instructions may be hard to remember. Don’t forget to pack any prescription medication, always pack an extra day or two. Winter hiking usually means a longer rescue period than that of the summer. Pack a blanket incase one is injured. Pack a compass, as in, the old fashion type, know how to make one, and if possible a GPS made for hiking. But do not strictly rely on your GPS device. One item I highly recommend, is RoadID, the information carried on it makes any rescue much easier. For its cost, membership and number of lives it has saved — Definitely, worth it. Several of these items, I will address further in a later.

Since, we are talking about planning. Let’s discuss the topic of planning what to pack for your child. This depends on the age of your toddler. For example, an infant cannot regulate their own body temperature which means you need to pack various types of clothing for them. Keep in mind, the higher you climb the cooler the weather becomes and the longer the trip. If your hike takes you into the Alpine Zone you will most likely be above the tree line where dwarf trees and other smaller plans live, so you and your child will be exposed to the wind, rain/snow and the sun. This means plan to pack sunscreen and probably a long sleeve shirt and pants to guard against a sunburn and wind burn. I suggest packing clothing that can dry quickly if wet and clothes that will help keep your child warm. Again, be cautious and prepared for the worst weather in the hiking region.

In addition to clothing and the basics, water and food, you will need to pack diapers and wipes. Yes, that means changing a diaper on a rock, bed of leaves, dirt area, etc. So, what do you really need? Let me answer, your question by opposing a few other questions. Honestly, how good of a diaper changer are you? Does your child get an upset tummy easy when stressed? How long is your hike and how many diapers does your child go through in 8-12 hours? By answering those questions, you can pack to what fits your family the best. I have at least a day and a half worth of diapers depending the length, terrain and season of the hike. As for wipes, we carry with us a “travel case” full of them or one of those portable ones you find at local grocery or drug store. Wipes are so versatile so its great to have extra. Since, we change our little one anywhere we find an open area we do not carry a mat sometimes we use a packed towel or jacket depending on the open area. Lastly, there are no trash cans on a hiking trail and I do not recommend littering. So, placing the diaper in something you can carry down the mountain is helpful. We use a Glad kitchen bag scented with Febreze for trash we create.

I know what you are thinking, where are you going to pack all this and carry our child. There are numerous kid carriers with room to store items and some have water bladders. I suggest getting into a store that specializes in child carrying and outdoor activities or at a place that meets one of those requirements. This is a topic that requires its own article, which is what I will write about next. Choose your carrier wisely, know what type of hiker you are or one that you plan to become. No matter what, make sure you test out as many as you can, put your child into each one and place each one on the carrier(s). Make sure to walk around the store to test it out, bend down a few times, step up and step down if you can.

No matter the brand of carrier you go with, you will need to make a few extra stops along the way. All carriers at a certain point will cause some sort of circulation restriction for you child. It’s always good to stop and let them out to stretch and walk around. Plus, it will give you a break and time to recoup. This means adding some extra time on your hike. You will be happy you planned for it. Also, make sure you add some extra time if you plan to summit, so everyone can enjoy what you all have accomplished. Take some pictures!

Lastly, a few items to consider for the end of the hike and the day after. Pack your car with a change of clothes for everyone. There is nothing like a fresh clean clothes after a hike that includes comfy shoes. Plus, a diaper or two. Keep a cooler with water and snacks for the end of the hike. Depending on your drive back home, pack a thermos with coffee or tea. Before you leave for your hike, I recommend stocking the frig with healthy foods. Your body will need to recover and heal itself, keeping healthy foods loaded with vitamins, proteins, fats, etc. will help during your recovery time.Your recovery time is directly related to your fitness level.  Again, this is based on the length and terrain of your hike. But without doubt, comfy shoes are a must.

These are a few items of a long list that should be considered when hiking with your infant/toddler. Each and every family is different and so is every hike, but we all love of child/children, we want the best for them and want to be around when they are older. Hiking comes with its own risks. There are various rescues made throughout the year, so take the time to plan your hike. Plan for worst case scenario in every area. You may hike 100 times before the worst comes true…. at least you will be prepared.

In closing, Conrad Anker, said it best about George Mallory’s climb to summit Everest in 1924, but it is something we all as hikers and climbers should take to heart…..”being a good climber is knowing when you’re at too much of a risk and it’s time to turn back.” No hike nor climb is worth a life. There is always tomorrow. I say that with a handful of hikes in which we turned back due to weather, injury, an upset child, fatigue or difficulty. We were disappointed, but were able to redo the hike.