My son, Tim, his friend Troy, Troy’s mother and I hiked to Mizpah Spring Hut on a muggy Friday afternoon, along the Crawford Path to Lakes of the Clouds Hut on a clear, cool Saturday. The next day it was up and over Mount Washington in a cold wind. We descended via the Jewell Trail.
For me it was a nostalgia trip, because it was largely the same route I followed on my first hike up Washington, with my Boy Scout troop in September 1968 at the age of 12. Back then, you were still allowed to camp above treeline, and we pitched tents by the shore of Lakes of the Clouds under full cloud cover. (I’ve still got photos from our return trip the following year. I should scan them in and post them someday.)
The next day we hiked to the summit in a howling wind, surrounded by clouds and rime ice-covered rocks. My guess is that, today, our leaders would have been denounced as lunatics for taking a bunch of out-of-shape kids to the summit under such conditions. But we all came through it fine. We did have winter coats, gloves and hats, so it’s not like we weren’t prepared.
I was glad to see Pothier make mention of Nicholas Howe’s excellent book, “Not Without Peril,” which documents 150 years of fatal accidents in the White Mountains. In my much younger days I also liked to read the accident reports in the Appalachian Mountain Club‘s journal, Appalachia. Invariably, the victims would head up into the mountains wearing shorts, T-shirts and little else, only to be overwhelmed by winter-like conditions regardless of the time of year. Cell phones and GPSs may have increased the stupidity quotient, as Pothier writes, but it’s nothing new.
Unfortunately, I never managed to hit the trail this summer. Tim and I talked about doing a five-day 50-miler in Vermont, but the summer got away from us, and then I sprained my ankle while running in a downpour a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we can get away for a couple of days during Columbus Day weekend.