Day One: 6.8 Miles & +4812 Vert/-1791 Vert
Looking at my Full Moon app this past spring, I marked my calendar with all of the full moon weekends for the summer. I honestly wasn’t expecting to hit such a perfect weather window AND a full moon but it looked good so we upgraded a Northern Presi trip to a Presidential Traverse and Gus and I rolled up to Appalachia Parking Lot at 10:30 PM Friday.
Historically when we do these trips, we hike in late on Friday nights but we generally keep it to under 4 miles and 2000 feet of vert as our beer supply becomes excruciatingly “heavy” that late at night… For this trip we started off in the zone and the desire to see the full moon above tree-line spurred us on. We didn’t even bring beer on this trip which is probably a first so maybe that was a factor. It’s also humbling to hike with someone who is about to do a 30 mile trip without sleeping after working all day. Additionally humbling is planning what you think is a bad ass trip and before you get out of the parking lot, meeting someone who is essentially doing triple of what your bad ass trip is…
Towards the top of Valley Way Trail, we started getting some cool views of the lights in the town of Gorham below which got smaller as we went higher. Not sure if it was the excitement or just hiking at night but we cruised up Valley Way faster than expected. We walked past a dead silent Madison Hut as we headed over towards Star Lake, a small pond very high in the alpine zone of the mountains. The lake in the moon light was incredible and we had the whole area to ourselves.
Heading up Star Lake Trail was the toughest part of the trip by far; large rocks stacked up on a steep slope almost all the way to the summit. We did this last year in the damn rain and it was just as hard at night as it was wet. We tagged the summit at about 3AM and grabbed some shelter from the wind behind some rocks for a snack before heading down to The Perch, a small RMC campsite with a Lean To. We were fading pretty hard as we rolled up to a full campsite at 4:30AM and had to stealth camp far too close to the trail. At 4:30AM there isn’t much room for exploring options. I finally got into my ” target=”_blank”>Hennessey Hammock at 5AM while the sun was rising feeling like shit but stoked about the experience.
Day Two: 11.7 Miles & +4140 Vert/-4686 Vert
Waking up at 10AM we packed quickly and went to the Lean-To to cook and see The Perch in the daylight. There is a nice view from the shelter and another from the nearby stream where we refilled our water. Coffee and oatmeal helped a bit and we were excited about the hike ahead.
Leaving at 12:30, all of the tents were empty but still on the four platforms from the night before which meant besides the shelter, this place was likely already full for Saturday night which was unfortunate for the 15 or so people we talked to throughout the day that planned on staying there and probably another 50+ people that we didn’t talk to. High demand in the summer get there early! We started Day Two ascending the Israel Ridge Trail to the Randolph Path to Edmands Col which was a great trail with great views to the North.
Ascending Jefferson I was pretty ragged from the lack of sleep but excited to rebag this and get some views as the previous trip was socked in a cloud. We stopped for lunch on the way up and soaked in the sun. After rebagging Jefferson we didn’t linger long and headed off for Washington. This was all new terrain for us and I fully see why this area is so popular after this section.
We met a young married couple who had just blatantly ditched their four friends who were stuck with a slow poke so that they could do their Traverse. There is a saying “No Friends on A Powder Day” and apparently it holds true for a Presi Traverse as well. We hiked with them for a bit convincing them doing Mt. Clay would be a good idea while we stayed on the AT to redline. We ended up meeting them again and hiking most of the way to Neuman with them.
At the Washington summit we stood in line for our summit photo which is a ridiculous notion before getting a large amount of food from the cafeteria. I had packed super light and was counting on getting food here which paid off but I had cut it close and they closed before I had even finished eating. In hindsight this could have gone horribly wrong.
On the way out I photo-bombed an older Indian tourist lady and we checked out the old hotel at the summit before descending to Lake of the Clouds. The clouds were giving us mixed signals but the sun coming through was amazing. It was almost dinner time for the hut guests when we got there and you could fully see how much of a shit show it is when everyone is seated for a meal on a sold out night in July. Not for us.
We chilled outside with a crew of motley thru hikers doing work for stay and asked them some questions while they smoked cigs and smart assed literally everyone that walked by. They were shitting on a group of four guys climbing Monroe for being slow hikers, guys that we later learned were on the end of a double-Presi Traverse and doing push ups on all the peaks like savages. This is typical of too many thru-hikers I have met thinking they are the Kings of the trail. Generally they don’t really understand or respect weekend peakbaggers which I think is bullshit as on just this trip alone, we met quite a few people doing monster weekend or day hikes and we meet them almost every trip we take. Thru hikers are usually friendly but can sometimes be arrogant assholes, especially being so far into their trip.
We hit the trail again, this time taking the AT route around Monroe as neither of us needed it having done it a few weeks prior. We also really wanted to see some new trail as we had never done the cutoff around it which ended up being amazing. We ran into the married couple again as they descended Franklin and we hiked to Eisenhower with them. The sun was dropping and I was hoping to get a great sunset but the clouds had started rolling in and that idea was out. The full moon however was starting to come up.
We took some pics of them on Eisenhower and headed to Pierce with them while chatting about the ADK 46 which they had almost completed. They were wondering how their friends had faired and I realized they were either obsessed with bagging peaks or really selfish to bail on their crew. Or both. Or their friends were wack. It was their vacation and they were making the most of it so I can’t totally blame them.
The mountains are like anywhere else, assholes are everywhere and we are no exception. Maybe it’s the environment but we usually end up psycho analyzing a lot of people we meet. Sometimes when you are tired and sweaty and hungry you just don’t have the will or the energy to be nice. Especially to other assholes…
At Pierce we took a snack break as a foursome and the four guys on their Double Presi Traverse celebrated their final peak with too many pushups and I took some group shots of them. Pretty sick accomplishment. We then hauled off to Neuman expecting it to be full, arriving a little past 9pm. The caretaker set Gus and I up on a large group platform with some nice students from URI and I put my hammock nearby. We chilled by Mizpah hut and had some food while viewing the moon and then turned in pretty exhausted.
Day Three: 4.5 Miles & +826 Vert/-2701 Vert
The next day I was woken by some animal making a commotion near my hammock. It ended up being Grey Jays and after the URI group left, they came out to play for quite awhile grabbing some seeds from our hands and stashing them in their caches in trees all around us for the winter. A black juvenile bird in particular was hilarious and super awkward and not really sure of how to approach people. I am not one for feeding wildlife but Grey Jays are the one exception; mainly because they horde in caches and don’t gorge themselves. The juvenile who I called Little Guy strangely landed on Gus’ back while he was leaned over washing dishes and curiously inspected him for awhile while we laughed.
After horsing around with them for way too long we set out south on the AT to Jackson for the final peak of the trip and the only peak of this trip I needed for my 48 besides Washington. This particular part was my favorite as the trail is easy and fun with a mix of bog bridges and some views of Jackson up ahead. After summiting I decided I really like Jackson and we descended the Jackson Trail back to the Highland Center for a beer.
There was one more view before reaching the bottom and a small river to wash up in that we took advantage of. Overall a solid trip that I am glad we were finally able to nail the weather on a Presi Traverse. Definitely a great way to see Washington for the first time. I highly recommend this trip to any experienced backpacker with the caveat that it would be best to do midweek in the summer time to avoid crowds or as a day hike for very strong peeps with light packs. If backpacked on a weekend in the summer, hammocks are a huge advantage as camping space is harder to secure than anything I’ve ever seen. Honestly the crowds were harder to deal with than the actual hiking.
Total: 23 Miles and 9778 feet of Vert with 9178 feet of vert lost
Things I/We Did Right:
– Bagged Mt. Adams under the moon. Sick experience!
– We improvised a large portion of this trip and were spontaneous. The weather afforded us this opportunity so we took it and it paid off.
– Marked the full moon and planned around that. Also hiked a good deal under the moon which is amazing above tree line.
– Barely made Washington for lunch. I went super light (~19 lbs) on this trip and it definitely helped but I almost got in trouble banking on the cafeteria.
– Checked out the tourist attractions on Washington and bought a fridge magnet to commemorate the hike.
– Summit photobombed a lady from India who probably showed her family when she got home and had a good laugh!
– Saved Mt.Clay for next time.
– Hennessey Hammock saved us as tent space was real tight both nights and would have been much tougher with a 2 man tent vs. Gus’ 1 man.
Things I Did Wrong:
– Should have brought some more effing food. Going light isn’t worth being hungry and crashing and burning mid-hike.
– We missed the shuttle but they hooked us up.
– Big crowds = lots of assholes. Its counter intuitive to ignore people you hike past but I recommend it.
Total Peaks Bagged: 6 (skirted Monroe and passed on Madison thank God…)
Total Miles: 23
Total Elevation Gain: 9778 feet
Total 4ks: 44/48
Total Backpacked: 40/48
NEW GEAR: None cuz I barely took any and it was awesome.
Bad Ass Awards/Shout Outs: Jason B. the Grid Machine, Little Guy the Grey Jay