bikehikeskifishSeptember 11, 2007 at 3:15 pmPost count: 25
Tom (21), Field (22) and Willey (23) (plus Avalon), 10+ miles, 3400 feet
For Flags on the 48, I chose to hike this three-for-the-price-of-one loop. It’s been on my near-term list for a while, the weather was compatible with wooded summits, and there was some concern about flags coverage on Field.
I left from the Macomber parking area (Crawford Station) about twenty minutes after the boy scouts did. I hoped that they would get to Tom and have the flag flying before I arrived. To lengthen their head start, I stopped and took many photos at the first stream crossing, and further up at one of the cascades. This was more of a flume than a cascade, and it wasn’t on the cascade loop trail. I’m not sure what it actually is. If you’re reading this and look at the photos, please let me know. There isn’t a lot of water in these streams, and what water is there followed a narrow channel carved in the rocks. It was pretty neat, actually, to see. There were a few small and very shy fish in some of the tiny pools and they immediately ducked under leaves or branches when I peered down on them.
After about 45 minutes, the Avalon Trail continues left to Avalon and Field while the A-to-Z trail branches off to the right and immediately drops down to cross a gully. The gully itself looks like it should be a stream, although it is probably just for runoff or highwater. Anyway, like most of New Hampshire right now, it was bone dry. I was briefly fooled into going straight across, but this doesn’t actually lead anywhere. The real trail continues about 10 yards down the gully. The two boy scout troops were resting in this area. So much for them beating me to the top. At this point, the A-to-Z trail gets steep as it heads straight up the mountain. The footing is all good, and the trail is well-hardened with plenty of rocks and stone staircases. Given the warm temperatures and high humidity, I was sweating in spades.
Another 45 minutes passed and suddenly the trail levels out a bit and the Mount Tom Spur sign appears: 0.5 miles to your right, it tells me. OK, I say, I’m going. I debated leaving my pack but decided to take it along. The Mount Tom Spur is not very steep, except for two very short scrambles. Within ten minutes the false summit appears. I stopped to re-read the trail description here, and visited the outlook, and finally the true summit. Since I couldn’t hear the boy scouts, I put my parade flag (from Liberty 2006–Thanks Cathy!) on the cairn while I was up there. Some views could be had over to Field, and the very faint outline of Carrigain was visible. As I crossed the false summit on the way down, the scouts were on their way up. One of them muttered to another “that guy kicked our butts!” Not bad for a guy who could be their dad.
I quickly descended to the Willey Range Trail, and headed onward to Mount Field. I knew that the solo flag bearer would be there, having met her in the parking lot, and I thought I would spend some time up there. I was anticipating feeding the gray jays as well, something Field is known for. The trail is pretty moderate, save for the last 50 yards which go up pretty good to Mount Field, which is basically the wooded high point on the trail. There are a few cleared areas, and the flag was flying right on the summit cairn.
The flag bearer was a woman from Pennsylavania whose trail name is Bobcat. She finished her GAME through hike on September 5 (three days prior), and was staying in VT. On the through hike, she became intrigued by the NH 48. We chatted a bit about the through hike, while other summitters listened in. Seems like they had never heard that people actually do the AT end-to-end. Anyway, I got out my gorp and immediately the first jay appeared. Soon I had 3 or 4 of them taking turns chowing on the gorp. One of them would pick one peanut, one pretzel stick, and one dried cranberry (“craisin”) on each turn, and fly off. My camera was suffering from the humidity-induced CCD failure at this point, but Bobcat took some photos (please send them to me, if you’re reading this!)
Next on the agenda was Mount Willey, a 3.4 mile round-trip. Off I went, and 45 minutes later I arrived. On the way, the trail has some PUD sections, and in places it’s a bit steep and eroded (one rooty section, one with loose rock fragments.) The flag for Willey was on the outlook, rather than on the summit. The outlook has rows like stadium seating (which might have room for one 25-man baseball team, but no fans). Someone joked “Pull up a pew”. I guess you could say it resembled a church as well. I stayed long enough to eat a sandwich, and chat with Jayne, the organizer.
Now back to Field where I helped Bobcat straighten the now-listing flag pole. At this point, I had decided I would stay and help carry things down, a fact which she appreciated enough to buy me a lemonade at the bottom. We had a nice conversation about her through hike, and knees and all that. The only interruption was for me to bolt up Avalon (she’d climbed it on the way up). By now the lower peaks had come out of the clouds and I got three reasonable pictures of Tom, Field and Willey. The hike to the bottom took all of an hour and half.
Given the heat and humidity, and the time I spent on top, 7 hours 30 minutes had elapsed, for a hike with book time of 6 hours 40 minutes. On-foot time would probably have beaten book time, but not by much.
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