Saturday’s hike with Summerset was a combination of trail bagging and peak bagging (her, the grid, me, NH48x2 and NH48x4) in the northern Presidentials. With a forecast for reasonable wind and summits in the clear, we opted to grab some lesser traveled trails from the Appalachia trailhead. Going sequentially, here are some notes on the more interesting bits of trail.
Inlook is immediately steep and rough after the brook crossing. It ascends rapidly to slabs with looks “in” to Adams. This was my second (Summerset’s first) ascent up Inlook. And, bummer, we didn’t get to see much in the early morning. Still too many low clouds. There were views from Dome Rock, and we could tell that the forecast of clear summits was coming.
From Inlook, we headed over Kelton trail, which is a pleasant, mossy ramble with almost no elevation change. It’s a nice break before rough trail continues on Brookside before the junction to Watson Path.
We began our ascent of Watson Path at the junction with Brookside, meaning we have a few tenths yet to go to bag the rest of it. Watson Path is, like Inlook, steep and rough. We ended up at treeline before too long, marked by the familiar “Alpine Zone” and “These are real mountains; people die up here in bad weather” signs. We’d been layering and de-layering as we went, and opted to pause at the signage for some food and to layer back up. The low cloud layer we’d been just underneath was moving quickly, so we expected to get hit with wind as we headed towards the Madison summit.
Once above treeline, Watson Path was a little hard to follow. The cairns are small, and the bright sun was directly in our eyes. But with patience, hands over our eyes, and diligent seeking for piles of rocks not made by nature, we got to the summit of Maddy with little trouble. By this time, all summits were in the clear, and we had great views all around. There was also some rime ice.
We dropped from Maddy summit down to Osgood Junction with the intention of bagging Parapet.
Parapet is one of those trails that has been bothering me for years — a sliver in my mind I could only remove by actually hiking the trail. Summerset agreed that she also wanted to bag it, so despite a slower-than-typical day for us to that point, we went for it.
Now, by rumor, Parapet has been described to us in various ways. Not nice. Not a lot of fun. And other negative terms. I even recall a Madison Hut croo member describing it as, “I don’t know why it’s on the map. It’s awful. It’s barely a trail. Don’t go over it.”
So, with anticipation of a miserable run around the side of Madison, we proceeded across Parapet. My take? Not that big of a deal. I’ve been on other rugged or challenging trails such as The Link between Caps Ridge and Castle, Desolation over the north face of Carrigain, and Nelson Crag trail descending from Washington. Parapet is in and out of scrub and over boulder fields. It is rough. It is narrow. But you can walk on top of the boulders for almost all of it. There are a few spots where you need to scramble around or do a little butt slide to get past an awkward area. But overall, the hype is overblown.
The trail is well-marked with large cairns on the Osgood end particularly. The signage is a bit confusing on the Star Lake end, so keep your eyes peeled for small cairns, or you’ll wander into the weeds among the many large boulders strewn around the area. There’s a sign that points away from Star Lake indicating “The Parapet,” but I’m still mystified as to what feature was actually meant by this. I’ll dig into the book and try to sort it out. There is definitely no trail in that direction, but rather several prominent — but unmarked — rocks. Parapet Trail actually continues around Star Lake Trail headed towards Madison Hut, so keep looking at the several signs in the area if you’re concerned with bagging every tenth as a dedicated redliner.
In summary, if Parapet is on your trail bagging list, I don’t see any need to dread it. They won’t be fast tenths, but the views across to the Cats and Carters are nice, and there are some pleasant places to just sit, look, and ponder. Be prepared for some dexterous footwork and slow going, and you’ll be just fine.
The ascent to Adams summit via Star Lake Trail is steep, but a generally decent footpath. I expected worse. Overall, it was easy to go from rock to rock and climb steadily. The very top of the trail is a scramble through rock clefts. Look for cairns and worn blue blazes on the rocks.
The rest of the day…
…was mostly unremarkable. Airline is well-traveled, and a great way to get back to Appalachia if you never have, which I have done in the past. On a clear day, there are many tenths you spend above treeline with spectacular looks into King Ravine. We followed Airline from the Adams summit down to Upper Bruin, and took that down to Valley Way. From there, we followed Valley Way all the way out, glad for some easier miles as the trail turned tourist-y and easier on the feet.
Considering the day wasn’t that many miles — somewhere between 10 and 11, I think — my quads were weary at the end. The day’s route was quite rocky, steep, and rough, and my legs didn’t get much of a break. While it was a great day out with many spectacular views contrasting rime ice with fall colors, I felt like I was fighting to make headway — like I was hiking in oatmeal at times.
One lifetime memory worth recounting was made descending Osgood from Maddy summit. Two groups of migrating geese flew overhead, low enough that we could hear the sound of their beating wings — a singular noise like nothing else. If ever you see geese doing a low fly-by, stop moving and just listen. You’ll never forget it.