I was up in the mountains for a weekend of trailwork and hiking. After a brutally hot and buggy day of moving rocks on Moosilauke's Snapper trail I was looking for something new and different. Dave, Kathy and I had never been up Caps Ridge and the drive wasn't that far from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, so it was chosen.
The Jefferson Notch road delivers you to the highest trailhead in the White Mountains. There is no trailhead that will get you to the top of a peak in the northern Presidentials in a shorter distance. We arrived at the parking area just about 9:00 AM and only saw a few cars there, although the bugs were already active. The first section of trail is a boggy area with lots of mud and bugs. After a little more than a mile we came to Whirlpool Ledge, a nice open outcrop with river formed potholes in the rocks. That gave us our first good view of Jefferson and a hazy view of the southern Presies.
As we climbed through the scrub trees we got some views of the Pilot Range and some clearer views of Castilated Ridge just to our north. Now the trail climbs over the Caps, two large rocky bumps on the ridge. As we crossed treeline the views south as Washington and Clay rose into view. But we pushed on for the final summit climb and then we were there. From our slightly breeze perch we had clear views of Adams, the Great Gulf, Clay, and the southern Presidentials.
Instead of retracing our steps, we decide to circumnavigate Jefferson to see some new terrain. So we headed south on the Jefferson Loop to Monticello Lawn, a broad grassy area just south of the Jefferson summit. Here we met some other hikers who were going around Jefferson on their way to Lakes of the Clouds. We also met a USFS backcountry ranger who was headed out via Mt Washington. We paused just above Edmonds Col to check on Kathy's knees and just take in the increadible Adams massif. It was time to push on soon, and we swang through the Col and headed out on the Cornice trail, a rarely used stretch of trail which cuts over Castilated Ridge and Ridge of the Caps before rejoining the Gulfside trail in Sphynx Col. Along the way the clouds threatened but then lifted again. We had been expecting thundershowers all day but they never materialized.
Finally we hit the Caps Ridge trail and saw all the people who were still headed up. Granted it was only 2:30, but the weather was begining to threaten again. We paused briefly, then headed down. In some steep sections you had to wait your turn due to all the hikers. But everyone was having a good time and the trip down went quickly. We were in our cars (to avoid the bugs) ASAP and out of there by 3:00. At around 3:30 the rain started falling, so I expect some of those folks still up the got wet.
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