Monroe, Franklin and Eisenhower – 12/26/2015

Mt. Eisenhower and the southern Presidential Ridge from Mt. Monroe, New Hampshire
Mt. Eisenhower from Monroe

I had planned to hike Pierce and Eisenhower via Crawford Path, but when I noticed that Mt. Clinton Road was still open (usually closed the first day of winter or earlier), I drove over 2 miles of frost heaves for the Edmands Path trailhead.  I’d switch out Pierce for Monroe and add Franklin – 3 summits with great views.  Pierce doesn’t compare to its friends on the southern Presi ridge in the view department.

It didn’t feel much like winter on this hike – until treeline it was downright warm, somewhere in the 40° area.  I didn’t even think about traction until the waterfall just before treeline.  It wouldn’t have been smart to try to cross this with bare boots today – very slippery.

A frozen waterfall near the tree line on Edmands Path to Mt. Eisenhower, New Hampshire
Approaching treeline – time for spikes

The trees in this area were covered with interesting rime ice – little spikes that for some reason reminded me of “Spinies” from the original Super Mario Bros. game.  I probably never would have thought of those again in my life if it weren’t for these trees.  Weird how the brain works.

Spikes of rime ice on trees near treeline, Mt. Eisenhower, New Hampshire
Spikes of rime ice

At 2.9 miles, Edmands Path reaches Crawford Path.  Crawford coincides with the Appalachian Trail here – blazed in white and marked with many a cairn.  The wind kicked right in, and it got cold.  Not normal late-December-in-the-Whites cold, but cold.  Out came the Nano and on went the hood.

I love a walk along the ridge of the Presidential Range by myself.  I think this was only my second time.  And I do mean by myself.  I had passed a few groups on the way up Edmands, but didn’t see anyone else until Mt. Franklin.

Franklin is a weird thing.  From most angles, it doesn’t appear to be it’s own mountain.  The summit of Washington does offer a good perspective that proves the weird thing deserves a name, though.  Either way, I like it.  I stopped for a few minutes here to admire the view back toward Eisenhower.

It only took 10 minutes to get from Franklin to Monroe.  I was moving quickly and there wasn’t much ice on the trail.  Nobody on this stretch either, until the summit.  And there were only 4 people there.  I found this surprising since it was so nice out and there are probably lots of people trying to burn off holiday meals right about now.  Hey, I’ll take it.

Two hikers descending Mt. Monroe toward Lakes of the Clouds below Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Hikers descending Mt. Monroe toward Lakes of the Clouds

There are so many peaks visible from Mt. Monroe.  Today the light was falling especially nicely on Mt. Isolation – somewhere I have only been once and plan to return to this winter.

A view of Mt. Isolation from Mt. Monroe, New Hampshire
Looking down on Isolation from Mt. Monroe

I wanted to get back to the junction with Edmands Path quickly, and shoot up the Eisenhower Loop to the summit, but I found myself stopping constantly to take in the views or find interesting designs and patterns in the ice on the trail.

A view to the south from Crawford Path, New Hampshire
One of the many fine views on Crawford Path
A small rock sticks through the ice on the Crawford Path, New Hampshire
A rock in the ice on Crawford Path

I finally made my way to the Loop.  Coming over from Franklin, Eisenhower looks like it’s going to be a huge climb from the col, but it goes quickly – or at least it did today.  I’ve done this in the heat of the summer and it was a whole different ballgame.

I always enjoy the summit of Eisenhower – it’s a White Mountain classic.  Completely rounded, with it’s huge summit cairn in the dead center.

Huge summit cairn on Mt. Eisenhower, New Hampshire
The mighty Eisenhower summit cairn

Today the alpine plants surrounding the summit were a beautiful crimson, tipped with rime.  Perfection.

Alpine vegetation in a crimson coloring, tipped with rime ice on Mt. Eisenhower, New Hampshire
Veggies with rime

Other than some very tricky footwork near the frozen waterfall, the descent was a breeze.  I had forgotten how warm it was down below – the layers came off quickly once I was back in the trees.

It’s tough to beat a good day on the Presi’s.  I can’t wait to get back up there, and hopefully true winter conditions will have arrived by the time I do!

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