Weekend before last, Lilo and I got up early and headed north to meet ten or so comrades and three of their dogs for the Hike for Mental Health up Mt Washington, New Hampshire’s highest peak. Our group made a loop — up Ammonoosuc Ravine and Crawford Path, Gulfside to Jewell — instead of joining the main HfMH group going Jewell trail both ways.
I’d heard good things about Ammo and was even more impressed than I’d expected to be. It’s just a lovely, lovely trail with plenty of water down low transitioning into interesting scrambles as you climb, climb, climb. The spur trail to the Gorge is well worth the (minimal) trouble. Lilo was not quite as careful on the first ledges as I would have liked, but smartened up eventually, and she was endlessly patient with the inevitable good-weather-summer-weekend crowds.
Ammo tops out near the Lakes of the Clouds hut, just 0.3 miles from the summit of Monroe. Lilo and I both need Monroe still and the faster-moving members of our group ran up to tag it while waiting for the rest, but I decided that I’d feel silly if I ran out of dog on the way down because I made her do an extra peak on the way up. (She’s done higher-mileage hikes, but this was her greatest elevation gain to date and the rocky footing was not forgiving for a heavy-moving dog.) So we’ll have to come back! Somehow I think we’ll suffer through that experience just fine.
After a pit bull nap, we proceeded over the Crawford Path, the oldest continuously used hiking trail in the northeast, towards Washington.
I’d worried a bit about the usually-abrasive rocks on the Presidential range, but Krista had told me that Crawford wasn’t too bad (and that Jewell was rougher) and lo, so it was! The trail was delightfully good going and all those boots over all those years had worn the rock surfaces mostly smooth.
Lilo really seemed to enjoy this stretch of trail. She didn’t even want to stop when we ran into Paws on Peaks, who had come up Tuckerman Ravine.
She was test-driving her new custom harness and pack from Groundbird Gear and you guys, I am so impressed. The harness fits her like custom (because it is), the pack attachments and design are very thoughtful, and the whole unit is super lightweight and feels beautifully-constructed. Time will tell how it all holds up to miles and New Hampshire rock, but friends who have used these packs hard report only good things. My expectations were high and so far, I’m thrilled.
The blissful amble across the ridge may have been my favorite part of the day. The summit of Washington itself was, alas, unsurprisingly a madhouse. I ducked briefly into the summit building for an ice cream sandwich before retreating to join our speed demons at the top of Crawford to wait.
Our descent began with another ridge walk, this time along Gulfside (and I believe there was a connector trail in there as well) across the Cog tracks and along the rim of the Great Gulf. This trail, though allegedly the easiest route to and from Washington, was quite a bit rougher than our ascent, with more than enough (for me) of the northern Presi rock-hopping and vastly more abrasive rock. I’m sure it’s easier than Ammo if you’re not into scrambling, but I’d take our route up any day. The view of the cloud-shadowed northern Presis and down into the wild Great Gulf to distant Spaulding Lake was pretty fantastic, though!
Lilo protected herself pretty well through this section. She clearly agreed with me, though, that the rock-hopping was getting old. Her pads held up better than I had anticipated to the sharpness of the rock, but she had some wear around them and a very minor dime-sized scuff on one back paw began to juuuuust open up as we started to descend. We paused for some repair work with moleskin, VetRap, and duct tape, and some passing admirers volunteered to feed her treats while I doctored her foot. She’s a good soldier and would have tolerated the work regardless, but I was all in favor of making it as pleasant for her as possible!
She was pretty tired in the last few miles and I don’t think I’ll ask her to do such a long, rocky descent again or to hike the northern Presis without boots. She manages herself well and I used leash and harness to ease her drops down from one rock to the next as much as I could, but it’s just a lot of pounding on such a big, solid, powerful dog. I have a Franconia Ridge loop coming up in two weeks and I’m struggling with whether or not to bring her; it’ll probably be a game-time call. But I’m proud of how well she handled herself all day, both moving out with enthusiasm on Crawford and slowing herself down on Jewell, and she not only bounced back quickly but clearly thought she was a big deal for days after the hike!
So that’s #31 for me, I think, and #15 for her.