For about a week or so, my husband had been thinking of taking a day off to go hiking. We had been watching the weather, and Tuesday looked to be the best day. Since I was his hiking partner for the day, I worked out some changes carpool schedule for the children and we were off for another hiking adventure. I say, “adventure”, because we both weren’t sure what the day was going to bring. The last two times we hiked together really ended up being adventures: a hike to Zealand hut in the pouring rain of hurricane Earl and arriving to dinner like a pair of drowned rats in October and having to pick our way very carefully down a solid, wavy river of ice that was the trail as we descended South Hancock in December. These things don’t happen when we hike solo or with other people. Although it really isn’t funny, we couldn’t help but wonder what strange thing would happen on this hike.
We chose, or rather I chose, Mt. Pierce with a possible trip to Mt. Eisenhower. I chose this hike for several reasons. One, the weather was predicted to be absolutely beautiful. After last summer’s trip to Pierce which was totally socked in with no views, I had made up my mind that I would not go back up there unless I had a good day for the views! Two, my husband had not hiked either of the these two mountains yet, and I hadn’t hiked them in winter. Three, the hike was not too long and if we weren’t doing so well, or the weather was too fickle we could easily hike right back down the Crawford Path to the car and wait to hike Eisenhower on better day.
This hike turned out to be an unforgettable day. For good reasons. We arrived at the Mt. Clinton road parking area, and although Mt. Clinton Rd. itself is gated off and not plowed, you just have to follow what is plowed to the parking lot. Once geared up, we started off on the Crawford Connector around 9am. Quickly we came to the little bridge and turned onto the Crawford Path at the junction. We could see patches of bright sunshine in spots through the trees, and blue sky overhead, all promising good views. The trail was very well packed, almost sidewalk like, so we decided not to use traction.
At the Mizpah Cutoff junction, we caught up to two hikers who started on the trail as we arrived at the parking lot and had a nice chat, they were headed to Pierce, too. After the Mizpah Cutoff, the views started to open up on the left, which was exciting because we could see the views were going to be good! Soon enough we were at the junction of the Crawford Path and the Webster Cliff Trail. Here we put on traction, I chose snowshoes and my husband chose the crampons. My snowshoes have better traction than his, so he felt more comfortable with the crampons than his snowshoes.
We quickly covered the last little bit of trail to the summit, arriving at 11:15a. The 360 degree views were stunning! We could see mountains in every direction! What was even more amazing was that there was little to no wind! We spent some time taking photos, videos, eating snacks and chatting with the other two hikers who we had seen before.
We checked the time and decided then to head over to Eisenhower. We figured it would take about an hour and a half, arriving there by 1:00p, with plenty of time to enjoy the summit and get back to the car. The path to Eisenhower was broken out and easy to follow, although there were a few spruce traps to carefully step around. We arrived at the junction of the Eisenhower loop and Crawford path and started the switch-backed climb up to the summit. There was a mix of snow, ice and rock, for which traction is needed. While I felt totally secure in the snowshoes and never felt that I was going to slip or have poor traction, my husband did have the advantage in being able to maneuver a little bit easier since he didn’t have to deal with the platform of the snowshoes. We arrived at the summit at 12:45p, to breathtaking views, little to no wind, and no other hikers, seeing no one on the way to Eisenhower. We spent about a half an hour just enjoying the summit by ourselves, taking pictures and then eating snacks, and readjusting gear and clothing layers for the trip back.
We were a little sad to leave because it was a really magical experience, with the perfect weather, the peace and quiet, and the beauty of the mountains cloaked in winter snow and ice. Reality, of course, is that you can’t stay, especially with the weather changing overnight. We met a group of younger guys on our way back, as they were headed over to Eisenhower. They had camped at Nauman tentsite the previous night and were now enjoying their day on the peaks. The trip back to the car was pretty quick and by 3:30p we were back at the car, getting ready to head home. On the 302 headed toward Twin Mountain, we were treated to a great view of Mt. Washington and the surrounding peaks, plus the moon was visible, too! We turned around to go back to the scenic view area in front of the Mt. Washington hotel to take a few last photos.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day in the mountains and it was certainly a hike neither of us will forget! For good reasons!