First hike recap on the blog for 2020 and it’s now February 1st. This is weird. Time is moving fast kids.
Thursday marked my 20th (I think, I really should check) frolic up Pierce and my first time hiking Eisenhower in “technical” winter. Let me tell you, I’ve very much hiked Eisenhower multiple times in full-winter conditions. And, every single time, yesterday included, the summit has been the warmest part of the entire hike. Odd but I’m good with it – means a longer break on top without the increased risk of getting too chilly. It also means I can feel my fingers when I take 76 photos in hopes 6 of them turn out how it looks in real life.
However, pro tip: pack sunscreen on days when going above alpine zone for more than an hour or so, especially when it’s sunny. Got myself a baby sunburn. Clearly I didn’t follow my own pro tip. Note to self: follow this in the future, your face will thank you.
My friend Corey and I had been debating hike options and ultimately picked this duo on Wednesday night in usual last minute fashion. Real talk, the night before isn’t last minute. Driving to the mountains and deciding on the way is last minute, and there’s been plenty of this lately.
Knowing that Pierce would be a packed out highway, Eisenhower would have at least seen some foot traffic, and having an appointment to get to later in the day I was happy with this pick.
Crawford Path to Pierce will always hold a special place in my heart. First off, the trail is absolutely beautiful. Second, it has been my first trail experience with many of my friends when they were first getting into hiking as Pierce is a wonderful first 4000 footer choice. Third, it has been the welcomed ending to many long days in the Presidential’s. I also think it’s one of the only trails I have almost visually memorized.
The forecast called for little to no wind, mostly sunny, and mid 20’s. A rarity in the White Mountains in Winter. A forecast to take and run with.
My sleep has been erratic lately and I find myself either getting 5-6 hours or my body just overrides and I find myself turning off all alarms and waking up at 8-9 (I’m not normally a late sleeper). With this, I was very giddy that Corey agreed to a 10am start. I am also the queen, no, QUEEN of starting late. Go to example: starting the Bonds at 10:30am last September.
I don’t recommend starting late – it’s definitely a “do as I say not as I do” ordeal.
Corey and I were amazed with the number of folks on trail Thursday. Throughout the day we passed over a dozen other hikers, likely closer to two dozen. For a weekday, in the winter, on a non-vacation week – this is legit. Apparently everyone had the same idea with the forecast. We even heard of one hiker on trail Thursday wearing shorts and gaiters! We joked that hopefully he had on sunscreen or his knees might get burnt, which was a mental image to giggle at.
I love hikes when the trees are covered in snow, fresh powder. While there haven’t been many storms lately, the wind has seemed to do a fine job at creating the Narnia-eque wonderland that us winter hikers dream of. The bluebird skies were also lovely to look at as we made our way up to the first summit of the day.
I was surprised that we didn’t see any Grey Jay’s on the ascent, and only once on the descent. They are usually quite persistent on Pierce and the other Southern Presidential peaks. Perhaps they were following the other two dozen hikers around on Thursday looking for snacks.
The section between summits was a wee dicey. While there was a consistent monorail, it hadn’t been packed down nearly as well as the previous section, and with windblown spots it was sometimes a little confusing. Corey had snowshoes on and I played the infamous game of careful and light steps. Happy to report I only post holed twice on the way back to Pierce from Eisenhower and it was because I was half skipping. Worth it. Totally worth it.
I’m definitely not anti-snowshoe, although Corey might argue otherwise. I just trip on myself, A LOT, when I wear them. However, when ascending mountains such as Liberty or Cannon, snowshoes are great. By snowshoes, I mean the televators on the snowshoes.
Eisenhower is one of my favorite summits. It’s a fairly equal toss between Eisenhower, West Bond, Monroe, Mt. Hight, and South Twin. The views are stunning, especially of the trail headed towards Franklin, Monroe, and Washington. Plus, the cairn speaks for itself.
Corey had a blast with taking pictures all day, and even met another hiker into photography and the two of them chatted for a bit. This is another perk of good weather days – being able to take up conversation with other hikers if you wish without freezing due to lack of movement. We met a group of four hikers in their 50’s (?) that we passed early in the day and they joked we could pass because we were “youngins”, but then proceeded to stay within a half mile of us all day, which led to some fun conversations at summits or times we took mini-breaks and they caught up.
My main takeaway from this hike: it’s all a process. In one of my last posts, I wrote about how the theme of the past decade was planting seeds and this is the decade for growing them. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with the trail, the mountains, nature, and the wonderful community of humans these adventures have introduced to me. The trail continues to teach me that it’s literally one foot in front of the other. The mountains remind me to be patient, to listen to my intuition, and be grateful. And being in nature, it simply feels like coming back home to myself.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli