After last month’s failed Presidential Traverse, I did a lot of analyzing and planning for a second attempt. I knew that I’d have a relatively free week with my son at camp, so I watched the weather closely and decided that Friday would be the day to try it again. With a little help from my father in-law, I even had a car spot arranged.
My goal for the day was to finish the whole traverse, not for a “fast” time. For me, this meant keeping my pace slower than normal for the first half or so, conserving energy so that I’d finish as strong as I’d started. I went at a relaxed pace, not worried too much about keeping a schedule, but just being aware of where I was in relation to the whole day’s journey. Later, when the footing was better and it was mostly downhill, I knew I could pick up the pace especially if my energy levels were good. I also knew hydration and nutrition would be keys to my success this time, so I made sure to have plenty of fluids to take up Valley Way and that I was drinking enough. I made sure to have 2L of water, plus 1L of gatorade with me, plus a variety of sweet and salty snacks. While some people don’t want to haul that much liquid up Valley Way, that doesn’t work for me. I am happy to carry the extra weight because I can relax and hike knowing that I have enough water, especially since I know I drink quite a bit of water. My plan was also to take a 5 minute break every hour, which worked very well, with a longer break for lunch or a late lunch.
I got up very early Friday morning at 2:30a, and we were on the road at 3:00a. I now have a greater appreciation for those of you who get up early to drive to the White Mountains from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and anywhere else far away! We dropped my car off at the Mt. Clinton Rd. parking lot, and drove around to Appalachia, where I started up Valley Way at 5:00a. It was just becoming light and although I had my headlamp out, I didn’t use it. I knew the trail and as I hiked up, the sun started to illuminate the trail so I put away the headlamp on a break. It took me about 2 1/2 hours to get to Madison Hut, but I felt good, so I dropped my pack and made my way up and down Madison. Back at the hut, I refilled the water, made more Gatorade, ate a snack and was ready to head up Adams.
The name of the game here was slow and steady not pushing myself, this wasn’t a Carpool Challenge, after all. I also wanted to enjoy the day – the weather was perfect and the views just amazing. It was sunny, yet cool, with a slight breeze, perfect for hiking. Up and over Adams and and then I descended down to Thunderstorm Junction for another break. By this point, it was 10:00a, and although slow, the pace was good and I felt good. Continuing on, I arrived at Edmands Col in time for the next break, which was a good place before starting the climb up and over Jefferson. After five minutes, I started up and over Jefferson, and was back at the Gulfside Trail in time for my next break.
The next challenge was Clay. The weather was still nice, and from about Sphnix Col over through Pierce, I had a cloud over me, with sun everywhere else. This was a blessing, as it kept the air temperature cooler and prevented the sun from blazing down on me. I decided to go around Clay and for the first time, close to break time I started to feel a bit of fatigue. I was hoping it wasn’t the start of a downward spiral, but after a break at the Jewell Trail junction, I felt much better was ready to continue. By this point Washington was in my sights, and I felt good again.
Around the Great Gulf, over the Cog tracks and up the rocks and I was on the summit of Washington. Washington was very busy, so I went over the summit, used the facilities, got water, made Gatorade and headed down to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It was here, at 3:00p, I took my longest break. I got a bowl of soup, got fresh socks, and got recharged for the rest of the hike. I knew my pace was pretty slow, although consistent up to this point, and it was now time to pick up the pace and finish the hike. I left the hut at 3:20p in good spirits and ready to go.
I hiked up to Monroe and looking out at the summit, got to see a glider make lazy circles over Ammonoosuc Ravine, and then over Mt. Washington – very cool to see. From Monroe, I could see pretty much the rest of the hike, and set off.
The footing was much better than the Northern Presidentials, and I was about to pick up the pace a lot, quickly going over Franklin and heading to Eisenhower. Somewhere between the junction of the Eisenhower Loop and the Edmands Path and Crawford Path, I lost my black fleece, which I didn’t discover until I was at the summit. I went back a little way to look for it, but didn’t see it. It was a cheap lightweight one that I’d had for years, so I left it – maybe someone else can put it to good use. From Eisenhower, I could see my next objective and after a snack, I headed over to Pierce. Once I was at the Webster Cliff and Crawford Path junction, it was a quick run up and back to the summit and then down the Crawford Path to the Crawford Connector.
The Crawford Path seemed to go on forever! My feet on the bottom were hurting at this point, but I was determined to finish up. Finally, the side path for Gibbs Falls appeared and I knew it wasn’t much further. I set a goal of being at the car before 7:30p, and I was excited to make to to the car easily by 7:23. The whole traverse took 14:23, with about 1:25 of that being breaks. Not a fast time, but a respectable time, as book time for the hike is 14:09.
I finished the traverse, which was the whole goal of the day. I was greatly blessed with beautiful weather, strength and endurance to finish what I started. I’m glad I tried the traverse again, with lessons learned from the first attempt which resulted in much better results! Special thanks goes to my father in-law for a very early morning drive to the White Mountains for the car spot!