Coos County High Point Trip Report

Mt Washington (6,288 ft)

Date: August 1983
Author: Dan Case

People have since told me the way we went is not the easiest, popular though it is. In retrospect I would agree but I was walking point and I was having too much fun to notice it was supposed to be difficult.

Parking in the base station for the Cog Railway, we headed straight up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, which, after a brief meandering start, picks up the eponymous creek and then begins to follow it steeply uphill.

The lower section never gets too boring, as it crosses the brook several times around some lovely waterfalls and pools. The upper section gets famously steeper and rockier as the balsam fir gets lower and more stunted.

Near the top of the climb it reaches the infamous Forest Service "death sign" marking legal tree line (8' or lower canopy), and not too long afterwards the de facto tree line is reached as the remaining fir turns into frightened shrubs protruding from cracks in the rock. Then only the alpine species remain.

Then the trail levels out, and you're at the AT/Crawford Path junction near Lakes of the Clouds Hut at about 5,055'. This is a good place to take a lunch break, swim in the lakes if the weather's good or die of hypothermia if it's not.

We chose to mark the occasion with a spontaneous, pack-free, sprint bushwhack (if you can call it that) ascent of nearby 5,382-foot Mount Monroe, the easiest 111er [highest mountains in the Northeast] I have done so far. This was before people got religion about recklessly trampling around alpine environments, so it didn't seem too unusual (the brown scar left on this slope of the mountain, however, is a testament to how environmentally destructive the practice was).

We did follow the AT back down, and not too much longer we were back en route, following it through this otherworldly environment the remaining miles to the summit with its complex of state park buildings, tourist traps and observatories. Yes, we did make a point of standing on the actual summit rocks behind the Sherman Adams Visitor Center.

Upon our return, we took the Jewell Trail back to the Cog Railway lot, famous for being the easiest of the many trails to this mountain's forbidding summit yet infamous for having no views once you get back under tree line. So what - I would wear my "This Body Climbed Mount Washington" T-Shirt for several years to come. Maybe it's time for me to get another one.