Fall is Coming! Mt. Monroe, 9.6.13

Another school year has started and since the weather was just about perfect on Friday, I couldn’t resist a Carpool Challenge.  Due to the forecast, I decided to go high and try a peak I hadn’t tried before in my Carpool Challenge rotation, Monroe via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.  With parking at the Cog railway station, the trip was just under 6 miles to the summit and back.

Anticipating that I’d be cutting it close and possibly driving straight to Concord, NH from the trailhead after the hike, I left the house a little early to try to be on trail by 8:00a.  I also factored in having to deal with getting the parking pass at the Cog, but I shouldn’t have worried about that.  There was a nice old gentlemen directing traffic and collecting hiker parking fees when I arrived at the Cog.  I happily paid my $5.00, and headed up the hill and into the woods.  The morning was crisp and cool, more cool than I’d been in a while, with the temperatures in the low 40’s.  I quickly warmed up, and the hike to Gem Pool went by quickly as I enjoyed the morning light in the ravine.  I hadn’t hiked this trail since last summer, so it was nice to hike somewhere I hadn’t been recently.

Lovely Gem Pool and cascade.

Lovely Gem Pool and cascade.

After a break at Gem Pool, I shed the fleece, since I’d be starting the steep mile between Gem Pool and Lake of the Clouds Hut.  It would be way too warm for the ascending I was about to do.  Up the rock steps I went, pacing myself, knowing that if I went too fast, I wouldn’t enjoy the views as they opened up because I’d be huffing and puffing!  I was warm enough from the ascending until I got to the edge of the scrub near the hut.  At that point the fleece went back on, as the wind out of the west had picked up quite a bit – in the 25-30mph range – and the air temperature had dropped.

Getting a glimpse of the undercast to the west from higher up in the ravine before treeline.

Getting a glimpse of the undercast to the west from higher up in the ravine before treeline.

I skirted the hut and headed up for the summit of Monroe.  Part way up, I had to stop to put on the hat and gloves I brought along for just such a weather occasion.   Truly out in the open with no rocks, scrub or hut to protect me, it was pretty cold and windy!  I wound my way along the path up the summit cone to the summit at which I took a few pictures and then hid out of the wind behind some rocks for a few minutes to prepare for a quick exit.  On the way down, I noticed that the puddles were frozen.  Must have been colder over night!

Frozen puddles - winter is on the way!

Frozen puddles – winter is on the way!

I quickly made my retreat back down to the hut, where I enjoyed a nice hot chocolate and a snack.  I hadn’t been in such windy, cold conditions since last winter and I was glad to have packed the extra pieces of gear.  Snack over, it was time to head down.  I made my way down the slabs, and saw quite a few hikers heading up, including the familiar faces of BigEarl and Sue.  We chatted for a few minutes and the went on our separate adventures.  Down the slabs, down the rocks, and down some more rocks,  I arrived back at Gem Pool and then hiked out easier trail back to the parking lot.

Classic photo of Washington from the summit of Monroe.  All the sedges are brown, another harbinger of colder weather to come.

Classic photo of Washington and the Lakes of the Clouds from the summit of Monroe. All the sedges are brown, another harbinger of colder weather to come.

I was pleasantly surprised that this Carpool Challenge was a success.  I even had enough time for a quick stop at home before heading down to Concord.  That’s part of the challenge though, trying to be quick enough to meet the time requirements of the day.   I thoroughly enjoyed the morning, thankful for a safe trip and beautiful weather which was cool enough for hiking, but also cool enough reminded me that the change of seasons is not too far in the future.

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