As one his hiking goals for this summer, my son wanted to finish off the Presidentials that are on the 4,000 footer list. After hiking Washington in June, the only two left were Madison and Adams. This week we had the opportunity to hike both of those in one trip. We planned to hike up Valley Way, possibly hike Madison the same day, stay at Madison Spring Hut and the next day to hike Adams and then descend to the car.
After a bit of a struggle to get out of the house – you know, water bladders not cooperating, getting 5 minutes down the road and having to go back to get the hiking poles and that sort of thing – we were on our way. Thankfully, the ride to Appalachia takes a while and by the time we got there, we were ready to hike.
The weather was sunny and nice, but I knew that there were bands of rain passing through the area. Valley Way was the trail of choice, as it is protected just about the whole way to hut. We moved along, but did get caught in one small band of rain, just enough to put on a pack cover, but not full rain gear. As we got closer to the hut, we could start to see around us and it was much easier to keep track of the weather. I could see another band of rain coming closer. At this point, we were just a few tenths of a mile from the hut, but I urged my son to keep moving. I explained that I wasn’t trying to rush him to be mean, but it would be a good idea if we could get to the hut before the rain began. He picked up the pace and we arrived at the hut just as the rain did. It passed through quickly, and we used the time to set up our bunks and to shift gear from one pack to other. The idea was to use the smaller pack for the trips to the summits and to leave the larger pack at the hut. The sun returned briefly and we went out for a quick trip to Star Lake for a few pictures.
Back at the hut, we could see a much larger and darker cloud coming towards us. This cloud brought heavy rain, hail and fog. With that weather arrival, we canceled our plans to hike Madison that afternoon and settled down to play cards and read books for a few hours before dinner was served.
All through dinner, the fog stayed and late hut guests continued to arrive, wet, but thankful to be in a warm, dry place with a hot meal. Right after dinner, the storm passed and the fog lifted, letting us have a beautiful sunset! The weather the next day was promised to be much better, so we went to bed with the anticipation of having some great views and good hiking weather.
Since our smaller pack was ready the previous day, packing up the larger pack was a quick matter in the morning and right after we were done with breakfast we were off for our first summit of the day: Madison. We went up the Osgood trail, the first people up to the summit that day. At first it was easy to see the trail and cairns because the sun was still behind Madison, but as we (and the sun, too) climbed higher, the sun was right in our eyes. We had to shield our eyes to find the next cairn and the trail.
Eventually we came to the summit and enjoyed the beautiful, clear views all by ourselves. After our chocolate and photos and hanging around for a bit, my son decided it was time to descend. It was perfect timing, too, as we passed a lot of the groups coming up from the hut on our way down.
After a quick stop at the hut, we headed out to Adams, our second summit of the day. We took the Gulfside Trail all the way to Thunderstorm Junction. When I visited Adams earlier this month, we went to the summit via Airline and descended via Lowe’s Path to Thunderstorm Junction to pick up Gulfside again to continue around towards Mt. Jefferson. I was curious as to what that small section of Gulfside was like between Airline and Thunderstorm Junction. It is a nice piece of trail – the grade is gentle to moderate and some portions have had extensive rock work done to where it is almost as smooth as sidewalk. We zipped through that section easily, and it was a nice break from having to carefully pick through the boulders. We got to the junction, took a left and after some more boulder hopping, we arrived at the summit of Adams and celebrated another summit.
Now for the long trip to the car! We descended the same way we came up, with my son stopping to do a little trail maintenance and improve some of the fallen cairns on the way down the Adams summit cone. We ate lunch at the hut, picked up the other pack and descended down Valley Way.
It was a long descent, but we kept a pretty good pace, considering the terrain of the upper section. Soon we were back at our car and on our way home, arriving in time to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner!
Grateful for the beautiful weather and views, we enjoyed our trip very much. My son did a nice job with all the terrain and elevation changes. With the Presidentials finished, that’s one goal accomplished for him this year, and now he’ll work on the rest of them! We’re still hoping and praying that the weather will be good for one of us to finish the 48 on Carrigain next weekend.