Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Kearsarge/Pierce/Waumbek end to Winter and a Starr King start of Spring - 3/18-3/20

Once again flexibility with plans paid off. We had been planning a weekend in the mountains last weekend but with the iffy forecast we canceled at the last minute and then rescheduled for this weekend. Great move! We wound up ending the winter and welcoming the spring with three straight days of amazing hikes.

Thursday 3/18 - Kearsarge North

The journey started with a better than hoped for drive north through weekday Boston traffic. As we approached the NH border the skies cleared and there was to be little but blue skies and sunshine to be seen for the next few days. On the way by Chocorua lake we stopped for the classic winter view. Good sign of things to come...

The plans for the day were in flux all the way up. As we approached Conway we finally decided on Kearsarge North. Turned out to be a great choice (not that there were probably many bad ones that we could have made that day). We got to the trailhead a bit before noon and were greeted by mid-Spring warmth. The trail was in great shape and we finally had our first taste of hiking in snow since Liberty in January. We used the Microspikes for a while but with the soft snow and postholing from a couple of hikers before us we quickly switched to the new MSRs. We were dying to try them out anyway. The conditions were perfect for the snowshoes and we wore them the rest of the day. Arriving at the tower at around 3:00 the clouds had rolled in but didn't hurt the amazing 360 views. 

While we were on the summit we got a message from our friends Tim and Val suggesting that we all hike Mt Pierce the next day. Sounds like a plan! We spent a while on the tower (which was actually too warm to stay inside of) and then headed back down. We celebrated with a beer and dinner at Moat Mountain Inn (where we also stayed). Perfect end to a perfect day.

Friday 3/19 - Mt Pierce

Friday morning dawned with crystal clear blue skies and the promise of an amazing day in the Presi's. On the way to meet Tim and Val we stopped for the first look at Mt Washington from the overlook in Conway. 

And then again from the overlook in Crawford Notch.

We met Tim and Val at Highland Center and headed up the Crawford Path. Plenty of snow from the start and the Microspikes gave way to snowshoes even earlier. The trail was in very good shape again with postholes here and there (including a couple that we contributed before getting the snowshoes on). We wound up taking the now well established bushwhack over the south ridge since it was better packed out than the trail. Some creative meandering through the spruce and scrub got us to the ridge without much problem and we immediately were greeted by the Gray Jays, The 'whack had more than one advantage.

(Photo courtesy of TimC)

We arrived at the summit to find blue skies, 50 degree temps and 0mph winds. What a final winter day!!! 

After a long lunch break that we didn't want to end we headed back down the Crawford Path in an attempt to get it better established for the next hikers. No problems going down. After saying goodbye to Tim and Val for the day we headed back for dinner at Flatbread. Perfect day #2 in the bag.

Saturday 3/20 - Starr King and Waumbek

For the last day of winter we chose what we thought was a less common destination. Turns out that many people who were finishing their winter 4Ks had the same idea. It was another perfect day with even warmer temps than the previous two. On the drive to Jackson we caught the early morning eastern views of the Northern Presi's from Pinkham Notch.

It was a beautiful hike up the Starr King trail and part way up we were surprised to find that there was even a sign telling us where to go for the first day of Spring!

The Starr King trail was also in good shape (but getting pretty slushy by the time we came down). On the summit we were again greeted by a pair of Gray Jays that seemed to have followed us from the day before. The clouds had moved in by this time but we still got the unique view of the Presi's that only come from this vantage point. 

While we were having lunch on Starr King we met many of the hikers on their way back from Waumbek and heading for the trailhead to beat the 1:32 deadline. None of that for us though. The trip over to Waumbek was a beautiful walk through the forrest and we enjoyed our last peak for this trip. We arrived back on Starr King just in time to celebrate the arrival of Spring on the summit!

On the way back to Conway we stopped for a beautiful view of the Peabody River as it transitions from Winter to Spring.

Saturday night we enjoyed a great dinner at Moat with Tim and Val who came back to N. Conway to hang out for the rest of the weekend. Sunday morning we got back together for a fantastic breakfast at Peaches (which is now my favorite NH breakfast location). With the weather taking a turn for the worse (in comparison to the previous days anyway) and our legs tired and sore but happy we headed for home. Can't think of a better way that we could have spent a few days saying goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring!

The complete albums from all three days are here:
Kearsarge North
Mt Pierce
Starr King and Waumbek