We watched the weather for the last week of countdown and kept our fingers crossed. Of course we know how unreliable weather forecasts are (those from the OBS excepted of course ). Last year the forecast 2 days prior to our 5 day hike was for solid rain and we had 5 straight sunny days! Brian Clark's extended forecast went out on a limb for good weather for STP and was he ever right!! Brian, you are now the official perennial STP forecaster.
Driving up from RI on Thursday in driving rain and severe thunderstorms made us nervous about the days to come, but when we got up on Friday morning in Pinkham this was the view. Not a single cloud! Things are looking up!!!
After getting our daughter packed up and headed off to the 100 Mile Wilderness with the AMC teen group we took a nice warmup hike - Liebskind's Loop which does a nice 3 mile loop from PNVC up the Old Jackson Road and across a couple of ledges with beautiful views up the notch and up Mt Washington. Friday night we drove down to Flatbread Pizza for the registration. Great pre-event event. Got to meet a few of the forum folks and some friends we'd met in the huts last summer. The first familiar face was Emma (who was waiting outside with Judy) - I'd know that one anywhere!
Saturday morning we decided to get an early start to beat the crowds. Got to Pinkham at around 6:00 and were on the trail at 6:30. The weather was perfect again - two days in a row! We had decided to go up Lion's Head and down Tuckerman's (unless someone convinced us otherwise). We headed up Tuckerman's trail and had it mostly to ourselves. Just before reaching the Lion's Head junction we took a break and while sitting there a group came by and said "hey, a flag - forum member?". It was Storygirl - the flag system was a great idea! At the junction of Lion's Head we ran into Brad, Charlie and Corey who were heading up the same way. We hiked part way up with them - great getting to hike with some of the folks from here.
Going up Lion's Head was a good choice. The trail was awesome and the views even better. This was the view from the first lookout ledge we came to.
And next the views up to Lion's Head itself.
Rounding Lion's Head we got the first views of the summit across the Alpine Garden. Just beautiful!
We enjoyed the walk through the end of the Alpine Garden and the scramble up the rocks of the summit cone. Caught up to a couple of other STPer forum members near the top.
We skipped a summit photo since there was a long line (including those who drove up which should be illegal!). Seeing the OBS in person for the first time was the biggest highlight of the day so far.
First thing we did was head in for the tour. The crew was great and showed us around everywhere. Was unfortunately so engrossed that I forgot to take pictures in most of the areas. Did get one of Nat in the gear room. Will have to take many more next year.
The high point of the day (literally and figuratively) was standing on top of the tower - on top of the world and head in the clouds!
Hung out on top for almost 2 hours checking out the OBS, the museum, the Tip-Top House and soaking in the views. Forgot to get out on the deck at the right time for a webcam shot. Another thing to plan better next year. Finished up our stay by tagging the summit now that the line was gone.
Started down at about 1:00 and kept our plan to go down the headwall. We had met some guys on the way up that said that they had done it the day before and that it was "steep, wet and scary" - great.
It turned out to be steep and wet but not scary at all (even with acrophobia like mine). Near the top we met Kevin, Judy, Emma, Rockin' Rex and Madison who we hiked down with. I already said this in another post but need to repeat it here. This was definitely the highlight of the whole hike. I've never had so much fun getting my butt kicked by a small dog and an 8 year old boy. Emma and Madison - you're amazing!
You need to look ahead to see Emma - leading the way as always.
The snow arch may have collapsed a few days ago but it was still awesome getting to stand next to the remains (with Rex and Madison).
Got down to HoJo's at about 2:30 - obviously based on trying to keep up with Emma and Madison. One last look across Hermit Lake up to the headwall before we headed the rest of the way down. No more pictures after this point. I either got tired or just forgot.
The turkey dinner Saturday night was excellent. Good food, friends and fun. Didn't win any prizes in the drawings but it felt like we'd won the grand prize by just getting to participate in this great event. Met a bunch more forum folks and OBS staff at the dinner. The forum table was a really good idea, but next year we need to get even more of us together. We got Doug and Hunter - our friends from the huts last year - to join us for dinner. They are multi-time STPers and have been reading the forums (and hopefully have now been convinced to join in). Great seeing familiar faces again.
We can't wait to get back to do STP again next year and our daughter has already informed us in no uncertain terms that she's coming with us next time. Just what I need - another person with young knees that I can't keep up with
This was actually our first hike up Mt Washington (we skirted the summit going across the Presidentials last summer). It couldn't possibly have been a better first experience. Now all we had to do was get to bed early so that we could get up at 5:00 the next morning to head to Franconia Ridge to start our next 4 days of hiking. But that's a story for another thread...
The complete photo gallery is here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman42/SeekThePeak2008