As the event approached the word from the MWObs observers looked grim. The forecast for Saturday was not looking good and there was a chance that the event might not happen for the first time in its 13 year history. We drove up on Friday morning and arrived in North Conway to a sweltering 95 degree afternoon - reminiscent of the 100 degree day two years ago. We got lunch at Flatbread (our favorite N.C. eatery) and then met Kevin and Judy at the registration event. We had hoped to perhaps get in a short hike on Friday to warm up our legs, but it wasn't happening in this heat. We instead headed to Moose Brook and set up camp and then headed back to the swimming hole by Stony Brook Rd on the Peabody river. It was a great way to escape the heat.
An omen (based on the Saturday forecast)?
Cooling off on a hot afternoon
That night we had dinner at the campsite and then went out for a walk. We'd never explored beyond the sites and Kevin mentioned that there was a snowmobile trail that went to a spot with nice views. He was definitely right. If the weather was going to get ugly tomorrow there was certainly no evidence yet.
Moose Brook sunset
Moriah on the horizon
On Friday night we got the message from the Obs - the STP participants were being asked to not hike on Saturday due to the weather conditions. Heavy rain, very high winds, frequent lightening and large hail. OK, that's enough for us. We've all been to the summit of Mt Washington enough times that we don't need to risk life and limb to do it again. Time for plan B. We didn't actually have a plan B at this point, but there were plenty of options. Kevin suggested Pine Mountain in Gorham. A close drive, easy hike in the still very hot temperature and an easy escape if the predicted weather kicked in. The bonus was to be a great view of where we would have otherwise been hiking.
There are multiple approaches to Pine Mountain and we chose the Ledges Trail that goes from the road to the Horton Center to the summit. The parking area is about half way between Rt 2 in Gorham and Dolly Copp campground on Pinkham B Rd. The hike is about a mile or so of road walk and another 0.6 miles on the Ledges Trail to the top. Perfect for a day like this.
Time to leave the road
Walking the ledges
We were quickly out on the first set of ledges below the summit and got all the views that were promised. What a beautiful spot! The clouds were looking a bit ominous, but there were still breaks of sun and blue sky. So far, so good.
Presi views from the Pine Mtn ledges
Judy taking it all in
Cloud cap on Mt Washington
Carters and Wildcats
Sun on Washington
Nat heading up the ledges
Nat , Kevin and Judy
Old fire tower foundation
We left the summit and headed over to Chapel Rock. This is the location of the Horton Center (a UCC camp) outdoor chapel. They hold services here in a place as beautiful as any cathedral.
Pulpit above the notch
On top of Chapel Rock
Presis over Pine Mountain
Heading into the clouds
I didn't really feel like heading back down the ledges and suggested that we continue through the Horton Center and down the road and the others agreed. It was still a nice walk and we got to check out the yurts and other features of the camp - including the bell. Perhaps we didn't need to check out everything...
Horton Center yurts
It would be fun to ring this!
Oh, guess we shouldn't
We were back at camp in the early afternoon (after a stop along the Peabody river to check out the views) and escaped to the pond in Moose Brook to cool off. After hanging out for a while we headed over to the Seek the Peak after party for the traditional turkey dinner and a few hours to visit with the rest of the friends that we hadn't seen yet. In the end, the extreme weather that had been expected never materialized. There were severe storms all around the region, but Mt Washington was spared - much the opposite of a typical day. I'm glad that the observers and the STP organizers erred on the side of caution. This mountain is no place to get caught in extreme weather. We were also happy for the nice evening for the party and the promise of a beautiful day on Sunday. Although that was now the official hiking day and would have been a great day to be on Mt Washington, we already had other plans (and another story). We were happy to still be able to support the MWObs and thanks to our wonderful friends contribute another $1200 to the cause. We truly appreciate everyone's support!
Mt Washington over the Peabody River
What a spot for a house! (arrow center)
At the STP party