The forecast for last weekend was initially iffy, but we certainly know not to be concerned too far out. As the weekend approached the forecast improved daily. By the time Friday was here there was nothing but sunshine and blue skies on the horizon. Amazing! We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with Ma and Pa at the mountain house on Friday night so that we didn't have to make a super early drive on Saturday. Unfortunately the Friday afternoon traffic was the worst we've ever seen, but that's now just a memory and certainly didn't spoil a great weekend. The frustration of the drive was alleviated by a dinner at the Gypsy Cafe - one of our favorite spots, and a secret that the bike weekend crew seems to have not figured out.
We slept well Friday night and were up early. Crag Camp holds 20 people, and like the other RMC sites doesn't take reservations. We wanted to get up there early enough to ensure we had beds for the night. It was a spectacular morning in the mountains and we were greeted by the beautiful field of lupines across from the house.
The plan was to head up from Appalachia with a car spot at Lowe's so that we could come out on the Castle Trail on Sunday (as long as the weather and our legs cooperated). We were going to stop at the Water Wheel for breakfast, but when we got there the place was already packed and we opted for some coffee and muffins to go instead. Dani showed up just as we were heading out and we all headed over to Appalachia together and had breakfast there. Kim and HuiYeng had also brought everyone coconut and custard buns from Chinatown and we had one of those to go with the muffin. Delicious!!
Ready to start...
...along with LOTS of others.
Not surprisingly the lot was already full at 8:30 and people were parking along the road. We got packed up and headed out. It was already warm in the woods as we made our way up the Airline and Short Line.
Starting up the Airline
Everyone looks happy to be out!
Whatcha' got in that big pack Pa, a pizza??
Checking out the route
Taking the Short Line
The lower sections of this route are all easy grades and the miles go by quickly. The problem is, the elevation gain has to come somewhere...
HuiYeng catching the views
Following the brook
Dani looks motivated!
Only 0.8 left (straight up)
We made great time getting to the Spur Trail and then the work began. 1300' up in the last 0.8 miles. The trail is generally nice though with good footing (and the RMC trail crews are working on some new rock stairs near the top to replace the old log ladders). We stopped about half way and cooled ourselves off in the brook.
Pa does a head freeze
Pa looks cooler - now it's HuiYeng's turn
How cold was it HuiYeng?
Everyone looks refreshed
Just one more crossing
I seem to have a hitchhiker
It seemed like the last climb was taking a long time, but we arrived at Crag Camp by noon and had actually made good time. When the views opened up as we neared the top, we got a taste of what we were in for this weekend.
First views appear. Beautiful!
Crag Camp ahead
There were a few others ahead of us, but the eight person bunk room was still open which gave us a private room for our group of seven (Jen was heading up later in the day after teaching a climbing class). We met Jack, the caretaker, and paid our $13 per person fee for the night. What a great deal!
Our (almost) private group bunkroom
Relaxing in the dining room
The views here definitely don't suck!
Crag Camp history
Wow! Nice to know we'll be warm tonight
View from the porch. I could just sit here all day
The room out back...
We all got settled and then took a walk over to the spring that's about half way across the trail to Gray Knob to refill our water. Last summer when were stopped at Crag Camp the water line was right behind the building. Jack wasn't sure what had changed, but the 1/4 mile walk for the caretaker with multiple larger water jugs several times a day can't be a fun chore.
The spring down the trail to Gray Knob
The trail back to camp
We sat for a while and had our lunch. Pa had brought pizza to share (so there WAS a pizza in that big pack after all) which was a real treat. After lunch we took our now near empty packs (another treat) and headed above treeline.
Packs are gone - now out for a hike
Crag Camp perched on the edge of the ravine
We stopped on the way up for the short diversion to Knight's Castle. What a spectacular spot!
Madison and JQ Adams
Madison over King Ravine from Knight's Castle
Kim on Knight's Castle
We continued up the Spur Trail and discussed plans for the rest of the day on our way to Thunderstorm Junction. There was just a light breeze and the temperature was about as perfect as you could want for a day in the northern Presis.
Heading above treeline
Up into the clouds. Hey, where did the clouds come from??
Uh oh, Lightning Guy is following us!
Madison and JQA
Mt Adams ahead. Not going up today though
Checking out the day's later destinations
Approaching Thunderstorm Junction. Abigail Adams in the background (left)
The plan for the rest of the afternoon was to bag the sub-peaks of Mt Adams, including John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams and Abigail Adams (aka Adams 4) - a regular Adams family festival! My knees had still been complaining from the Wildcats/Carters hike a few days before, and the idea of going up and down the uneven rocks on these peaks just didn't seem like a great idea. As much as I'd have liked to head up with the rest of the group, I decided it was a better idea to wander around on the Gulfside and just enjoy the day and the views while the others did their peakbagging. Certainly not a hardship on a gorgeous day like this.
First target JQA...
Heading down Gulfside from Thunderstorm Junction
Arrow points to Crag Camp perched on the edge of the abyss
The rest of the group heads up JQ Adams
Approaching JQA summit
On the peak!
HuiYeng conquers JQA
Adams disappears into a cloud. Bet I know who's up there ;-)
The summiters return from JQA
Heading back on Gulfside - more peaks ahead
Back to Thunderstorm Junction
Mt Jefferson from Gulfside
Jefferson and Washington hiding in the clouds
Cloud hovering over Thunderstorm Junction. Not an omen today though
Sentinel on the path
I headed back around as they were reaching the summit of Sam Adams. Looked like fun up there.
Samuel Adams - next target
The group on Sam Adams summit
Looking for the tap. Sam Adams draft please?
Looks like fun. Kinda' wish I was up there
I head off on the path to Crag Camp while the rest head to Abigail Adams
Cairns lead the way home
Madison with it's head in the clouds
Clouds recede as the afternoon shadows grow
Enjoying the flora along the trail in solitude
I arrived back at Crag Camp, traded my boot for sandals, and sat out on the porch waiting for the others to arrive. They came in only about 20 minutes after me and they all said how much fun they'd had on the Adams family. We all had found the perfect ways to enjoy the afternoon. Everyone got out the snacks they'd brought and we dug out a few beers that had found their way into our packs somehow. Unfortunately Kim and HuiYeng had forgotten theirs in the fridge that morning, but we all shared what we had for the moment and put in our order with Jen (who was hiking up later) for more. We enjoyed sharing some of our snacks with Ella, who joined us on the porch. I really love it that the RMC allows dogs here!
Ella greets us back at camp
Watcha' got out there? Any snacks??
Nat models the Crag Camp evening attire style
By this time the sun was setting and we all headed down to the ledges to enjoy the light show and have our dinner. We didn't really want to be antisocial, but given the choice of the dining room (which is certainly really nice) and the edge of the cliff, it was an easy choice.
Watching the sun go down from the ledges below Crag Camp
Fading light over King Ravine
Crag Camp from the ledges
Soon Jen showed up with the rest of the evening libations and the party began in earnest. We stocked up and headed back down for the rest of the show.
Jen arrives with the libations!
Alpenglow lights up the mountains
Peaceful end to the day
After the sun went down and dinner was done it was time to celebrate Kim's birthday. We had brought brownies and candles and HuiYeng had brought an amazing lemon roll cake from Chinatown. I'll never know how she got it up there in one piece! Happy Birthday Kim! So glad we could be along for the celebration!!
Lemon roll - birthday cake #1
Celebrating with the birthday girl
We hung out on the ledges for a long time, enjoying the stargazing and the remaining libations. We eventually had to reluctantly drag ourselves up and go to bed. Before turning in though, we had a final bedtime snack. In addition to that pizza in his pack, Pa had brought up hotdogs and chili and Jen had picked up a pack of rolls along with the beer. It was almost midnight so we didn't bother with the chili, but a dog before bed really hit the spot!
After the long day we'd had we all slept really well (or at least I did). I had planned to be up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the valley from the ledges. When I opened my eyes at 5:30 the room was already filled with light and I knew that I had missed it. I pulled my clothes on and headed down anyway. I wasn't too disappointed with what I found.
Morning undercast creeps into King Ravine
Nothing better than waking up above the clouds
What a gorgeous sight! One of my favorite parts of staying at the high mountain huts is the morning undercast that is so often present. There truly is no feeling quite like waking up above the clouds. Nat soon joined me, and I went back up to make coffee and then returned to enjoy it in this most amazing place. We also enjoyed the incredible coconut and custard buns that Kim and HuiYeng had brought for everyone. Save the Eggs Benedict for another day!
Coffee is on
The towering inferno. It was actually twice this size at one point!
Good morning Ella
Prayer flags in the morning light
Burning off the undercast
Can't think of a better spot to begin the day
We finally headed back up to pack and make our plans for the day. Pa and Dani had decided to hike down to tend to commitments at home, and Kim, HuiYeng and Jen were planning to hike back up to Jefferson and down the Castle Trail. As much as we wanted to experience that trail, we decided that it was better to save for another day, and we headed down with Pa and Dani. We said our goodbyes and gathered on the deck for our group photo. I'm still not sure how HuiYeng got the timers on all three of those cameras set at the same time.
I wonder if this little guy spent the winter in our back yard. He's certainly happy to be here!
Group shot before we part ways
Me, Nat, Pa, Dani, HuiYeng, Kim and Jen
My knees complained mightily on the steep upper section of the Spur Trail. This is the only part of two multi-day hikes in a week that isn't great. I told the rest of the group to go ahead and even gave the keys to Nat so that they could go get the car if they were down well before me (which I was sure would be the case). Once I got below the steep section though, I found them all waiting at the brook crossing with their boots off, soaking their feet. I joined them and we took a long break and enjoyed the cool. The rest of the way down we were all on cruise control and before we knew it we were back at Appalachia. Dani had a cooler of ice cold beer in the car and we happily had one last beverage to cool off and celebrate a fantastic weekend.
Last hurrah for these stairs on the Spur Trail
Heading home down the sunny path
This past week in the mountains has been a true blessing. From a solitary hike and a private hut stay at Carter Notch, to a weekend with wonderful friends and an above treeline celebration, I can't think of a better way to spend four days. I think it's going to be while before we get back to the mountains (probably not until Seek the Peak at the end of July), but that's OK. June and July in Rhode Island is not a bad thing!
Thanks to Kim, HuiYeng, Pa, Dani and Jen for making this another truly amazing weekend! Already looking forward to the next one...
The full set of pictures and slide show are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/114856685929776719960/CragCampWeekend61612#
Here's the route including the hike to and from Crag Camp and the rough loop over the Adams family on Saturday. JQA is omitted since there is no trail close to the summit to include on the map. Lowe's Path goes near the summits of Sam and Abigail. Click on the maps (or any photos) for larger views.
Route Map. Crag Camp indicated by arrow
Crag Camp and Adams family loop