Brenda and I were staying in Jefferson at the Applewood B&B for the weekend and the forecast for Saturday was spectacular. We were looking for a fantastic above treeline trip, and King Ravine was first on our list. After a lovely pancake breakfast we headed to Appalachia to start the hike. To get to King Ravine, we took Airline, to Short Line, to King Ravine trail; in the northern Presies, trail junctions seem to come every 100 yards. After Mossy Falls, the trail climbs up onto the floor of the ravine. If you've never been there, the floor of King Ravine is a jumble of huge boulders, surrounded on three sides by steep walls that rise over 1000 feet, with Crag Camp way above us. After I took a huge quanitity of pictures and we grabbed our first rest of the day, it was time for the fun to begin.
From the entrance to the ravine, you have two choices to get to the King Ravine Headwall. You can take the Elevated, which is the easier trail, or the Subway, which climbs over, under, and through the jumble of boulders that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Guess which one we chose? At one point, I had to take off my pack, toss it down to Brenda, then lower myself blindly to the floor of a small cave. After the Subway and the Elevated rejoin, you get yet another side path option, the Ice Caves Loop. Guess which one we chose? Here is more climbing and scrambling, with the added bonus of ice and snow that can last through the year. When we were done with all that fun, it was time to start the real climbing.
The headwall of the King Ravine Trail climbs 1100' in half a mile. This is steep and unrelenting. The footing is OK, but there is some loose stuff underfoot. We were working hard and fairly protected from the wind as we climbed, but as the ravine spread out below us we could sense a chill in the air. From below you see the Gateway where the trail exits the ravine and joins up with the Airline. When we crested the climb we were hit with some wind and as we stopped to rest and eat, we cooled off very quickly. But the views from here were spectacular, as we could now see over towards Jefferson and Madison, back across King Ravine, everywhere was clear and gorgeous. It's well worth the effort, but our hike wasn't close to being done.
The trail junction is just above Madison Hut, and gives an excellent view of Madison summit. The whole upper mountain is just a big pile of rocks. So is Adams, which was our immediate destination. We followed the airline, higher and higher, rockier and rockier. Eventually we topped out on the summit, and got our first views of the rest of the world. Washington and the Great Gulf, Jefferson, Clay, and Madison just loom in front of you, seemingly just out of reach. With my new 100-300mm telephoto lens we could easily make out the Washington summit buildings and cars on the Auto Road and hear and see the Cog RR. It was time for lunch. After eating and taking lots and lots of pictures, we started planning our decent. The original plan was to go down via Lowe's Path, visit the RMC huts, and drop down from there, but the weather was so nice that we decided to stay above treeline for a bit longer. We changed our route to head over to Edmands Col via the Gulfside trail, then return to Appalachia on the Randolph Path. Unfortunately, my time estimations were a bit off. More on that later.
As we dropped down to Tunderstorm junction and headed across to Edmands, we only saw a very few people. It was getting on late in the afternoon and we had the place almost to ourselves. It's extremely peaceful up top with no distractions to take away from the view. When we got to the Col we passed a few people going in the opposite direction, we hoped they had headlamps. The Col was about as windfree as I'd ever seen it. By now we figured out that we were going to get out around dark. The top part of the Randolph Path is rough, as we stayed on the contour, but you are payed off by the views of the Castilated Ridge. After a few trail junctions the trail starts dropping, steadily and unrelentingly. It took us over 2 and a half hours to make it from Edmands Col to the trailhead, getting out just after 8:00. We had planned to go back to Jefferson, shower and change before dinner, but instead we drove to Gorham, stopped at an Italian restraurant for a big pasta meal, then back to the B&B where we took advantage of the hot tub on the porch of our room.
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