I had a free afternoon to hike on Wednesday, and since I didn’t have a full day I wanted a quick loop hike. Looking at my spreadsheet, I realized that I had never been to Field or Tom in the summer and hadn’t been up to Field in 5 years. I visited Tom in Oct. 2006 and Jan. 2010, and Field in Nov. 2006. I also realized I had never gone up the Avalon trail or visited Avalon, either. The decision then was easy: a loop hike up to Field via Avalon Trail, stopping at Avalon along the way, then over to Tom and back down to Crawford Notch.
I got to Crawford Notch around 12:30p, and not surprisingly for a bright summer day, it was busy. I parked across the street from the train depot by Saco Lake and headed across the street to the start of the Avalon Trail. As I hiked, some of the trail and scenery looked familiar, but some things didn’t. That’s the difference between hiking the same trail in three different seasons and with a large span of time between visits. I certainly remembered the sections of trail that ran along the brook and the second stream crossing, although the first stream crossing was not quite how I remembered it. The grade is mostly easy up to the junction of the Avalon and A-Z Trails, where I took a left and continued toward Avalon on new-to-me trail, the remainder of the Avalon Trail. Well, that half mile up to Avalon is where you gain quite a bit of elevation! Since it was already early afternoon most people were descending, so I politely stepped aside to give them space to descend safely on the rocks and to give myself a breather. The trail leveled out and I was at the spur trail to Avalon and a few minutes later on the summit of Avalon, viewing what I could see of Crawford Notch through the haze. It was a hot and hazy day – I could barely see Eisenhower and not see Washington at all. I could see the train at the depot – I had heard the whistle as I hiked up the trail – and I could see my car parked far down below.
After a quick break, I was on my way for the next destination: Field. Field is a little less than a mile away, plus another gain of elevation. This section of the trail alternated steeper sections with more level sections, which made it a bit easier. Moving along, I came to the junction of Avalon and Willey Range trails and took a left for the final little bit to the summit of Field. I do remember this last little bit up to the summit, and then the cairn is right in front of you. There are only a few viewpoints at the summit, and through the haze, I could just make out the Mt. Washington hotel in the valley.
After cooling off a bit and getting a snack, it was time to head over to Tom. The first part was a nice easy section down toward the intersection of the Willey Range and A-Z Trails. This was a nice as it was all shaded and a gentle down hill. Once back on A-Z, I took the quick half mile spur trail over to the summit of Tom and the northern outlook. Things were a little less hazy, but I know there are great views here. When I was here on a crisp October day, the views to the Southern Presidentials and Washington were crisp and clear. I didn’t see any Grey Jays, either, who on that same October trip, almost took a sandwich out of my hiking partner’s hand and even nosed into her pack.
With the summit visited, it was time for a quick exit hike. The A-Z trail was just about how I remembered it – that mile between the Avalon junction and the Tom Spur is steep, but I was going down and that wasn’t a bad thing! Quickly enough, I was crossing the railroad tracks and back at the car by 4:30p.
It was a hot hike – I even ran out of water on the way down – but I enjoyed it. It was interesting to hike a trail I had never been on, and to see a familiar trail in a third season. The weather still promises to be hot tomorrow, but we’re hoping to beat the heat a bit and hike up Carrigain.