David Kercher, Matt Kercher, Fred Knight, John Kuconis
25-27 Jul 2014
John suggested the 3-day Presidential Traverse (pdf from wmgonline.org), spending the first night at Valley Way Campsite and the second night at his secret spot at the base of Eisenhower. After the drive up and situating the cars, we got started at 10am and reached the Valley Way Tent site about 12:30. Following setting up camp and dumping gear, three of us did Madison and Adams. After a sound 12-hour sleep, the second long day had us up early, up to the AT, up Jefferson, on to Washington, down to Lakes of the Clouds, up Monroe, and to the foot of Eisenhower. The second night had a gorgeously clear, moonless night with stupendous views of the Milky Way. The sunrise brought clouds—and a double rainbow, which we took as a warning. We all did Eisenhower and hoofed it to Pierce, then over to Mitzpah Hut by 9am. Here John went back via the Mitzpah Cutoff to Crawford Path and back to the car while Matt, David, and I took 50 minutes to get to Mt. Jackson and then about 2 hours (for me) down the Webster-Jackson Trail to John waiting at the trailhead with the car. Hallelujah! The rain held off until the last 30 minutes, but it was coming down hard when I reached the car. (Luckily John figured out how to operate a Prius.) All together ~23 hours of hiking, 25.6 miles, 11376′ elevation gain, and varied trails. I don’t know how hikers do this in one day, but we were passed by two women who were measuring their pace at 3 mph and going from Appalachia Trailhead to Mt Webster and out in the one day. Amazing!
Fred’s and Matt’s and David’s pics: days 1 & 2 and day 3, and John’s pics
- First Day We met at Crawford Path Trailhead and piled into Matt’s car for the drive to Appalachia Trailhead at the north end of the Presidentials. The hike up Valley Way was relentless as usual, but we got to the campsite, finding a wide choice of plots (no platforms; no caretaker). We spread out to pitch tents, left our sleeping gear, and slogged up to Madison Hut with light packs. It’s another 400′ up to Mt. Madison, which Matt, David, and I climbed. Arriving back at the Hut, we greeted John, and then went up the backside of Adams for peak #2. We got back to camp near 5pm; a total of 7.8 miles in just about book time (6:38).
- Second Day We got going about 6:45, up the Valley Way, past the Madison Hut, and on the way to Mt Jefferson. The trail is a boulder path, very rugged with slow going at times. Coming off Mt Jefferson, the Gulfside Trail goes all the way to Mt Washington, where masses of people milled about and the line to get your picture taken at the summit sign stretched almost down the mountainside. We got some hot food and finally resumed hiking down to Lakes of the Clouds, passing a destination wedding taking place on the edge of Observatory grounds in weather that was very marginal. After another rest outside the Hut, three us took off off up Mt Monroe, a short ascent. Then we caught up to John, who circled around, and headed for the base of Eisenhower and the secret camping site. We pitched tents in the confined space, ate dinner, and went to bed. The night was so warm I never got fully into my sleeping bag, but the sky was the brilliant wonder all night—no moon and completely clear with the Milky Way stretching across the sky. I kept my tent open all night (no bugs)! With the forecast of possible rain, the sky was a marvelous treat.
- Third Day Dawn was colorful as clouds formed; see the top photo. By the time we started out at 6:15, there was a slight drizzle, which faded as we climbed Eisenhower. Off Eisenhower, we reached Pierce and had to make a decision of simply going down Crawford Path to the car or doing Mt Jackson. We put off the decision by heading to Mitzpah Hut, with a final extremely steep descent at the end. At that point, John decided to head back to the car while the three of us did Mt. Jackson, which took 50 minutes to reach and over 2 hours to descend via the Webster-Jackson Trail—not a pretty ending. The rain that had held off started slowly but was really coming down by the time I reached the car, which John had driven to the trailhead. What a guy!
- Meals, Gear, and Miscellaneous I loved the Mountain House freeze-dried lasagna and pasta—and the pouch that I used to make my morning Ramen on the second day. I would have liked a second Ramen on the morning of the third day, but I had sufficient food. We got water at the huts, which turned out to be enough. I don’t know how John survived on his couple bagels. Matt and David had a variety of good stuff. We each had a tent; that worked fine. I am going to get some 4mm diameter cord like John’s. I needed gloves, and John had a second light pair, which he gave me as a 64th birthday present.
- Our fine team We did pretty well together. David is a fast hiker and had some significant waits at junctions until the oldsters arrived. Good cheer throughout the 3 days.
- Wedding on Mt. Washington See John’s photo #37 of the race to exit the ceremony; it was very cool and windy with clouds moving in and out.
- The 3-mph women passing us at Lakes of the Clouds They started at 7am at Appalachia Trailhead, passed us at 3pm at Lakes of the Clouds, were heading for Mt. Webster, and seemed completely fresh and happy. Sweet!
- Gulfside Trail Just a bear of a trail between Adams and Jefferson, where I had never hiked. Rock hopping all the way. Yikes!
- Mountain House meals 400+ calories. Hydrate with boliing water. Wait 9 minutes. Reusable foil packet. Expensive but lightweight and tasty. And given to me by Melanie Knight.
- Vitamin I. Multiple 3-tablet doses each day. Saved me.
- Moonless, clear skies on second night I watched the Milky Way and stars over 6 hours whenever I awoke. Perfect conditions. And the camp site is worthy of a revisit in the winter.
- Being picked up at the trailhead I certainly was elated when I saw the blue Prius waiting at the trailhead when I appeared amidst the heavy rain. John had driven from the parking spot (~ a mile away), had collected Matt and David who were in front of me, and was awaiting my appearance. Very nice.
- The Restaurant in Twin Mountain Quite a meal for us smelly hikers in the packed restaurant on Sunday at noon. It was John’s treat. Thanks, John.
- Again or never again? John is calling for a repeat next year. The hike was grueling; my knees and feet are still sore after three days. Doing the Presidential Traverse was a hiking goal for me. Doing it in 3 days with the stops we made was the way to go, but doing it again will require some fading memories. Maybe my Limmers will be ready by then.
- Overall assessment A beauty of a hike but really difficult for me. 25.6 miles, 23 hours of hiking over 3 days and well over the ~19-hr booktime, 11400′ elevation gain, some really difficult trails, and good companionship. Thanks, team.