A Wintry Easter Outing to Mt. Pierce
Updated: May 1, 2019
Surprise! It’s definitely still winter in the Presidentials! Winter in the Whites is funny in that it could be a balmy 55 degrees when you leave your car but 20 degrees at the summit. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. It was a nice day for hiking, but it ended up being much colder and windier at the summit of Mt. Pierce than I had anticipated. I’m also really proud of Lucy for her perseverance yesterday, climbing her eighth 4,000 footer. We had a nice little (Greek) Easter hike even though it felt like it could be Christmas instead.
The day started later than expected but I figured it would be better to start late since the clouds were supposed to lift later in the afternoon. I usually like to get an early start because I worry about being stuck out after dark but yesterday was an exception. It was windy and cold in the parking lot and we started on Crawford Connector around 9:30.
The first part of the trail was pretty muddy with the remains of a monorail strewn about. Lucy’s legs turned black with the mud, but luckily all of the crossings had wooden bridges. The water levels have been really high from all of the snowmelt and rain lately, but we didn’t have any issues. I picked this hike partially because of the lack of water crossings. I forgot that Pierce was above treeline in the alpine zone because last time I did it was at the end of the Presidential traverse, so I don’t remember much. It was such a long day that my memories of everything past Monroe are fogged to say the least.
When we got to Crawford Path the snowy monorail was intact. We walked on top of this for the entire duration of the hike below treeline. I was surprised that the snow was so solid this late in the season, especially because just two weeks ago it was very unstable across the street on Tom, Field, and Avalon. It was also much warmer that day, so I’m sure that contributed to the snowmelt. Above 3,000 feet there was a one inch dusting of new snow which made it really pretty but a little slippery in icy spots.
We made good time to the alpine zone seeing a few hikers along the way. All of them said that it was very windy and cold at the summit and that we would definitely need to put on some more layers when we got there. I had also noticed that Lucy’s front paws were looking a little red from the cold, so I put on her new Ruffwear boots to help with the cold a bit. When we reached the sign for the alpine zone we took a quick water break and she started shivering a bit so I put on her jacket.
Other than the environmental stuff Lucy was doing great, nearly dragging me up the mountain in excitement. I was glad to have her keeping up my pace. Sometimes when I’m hiking solo in the winter I mosey a bit, not realizing how slow I’m going until I look at the time. When we broke through the trees to the more exposed ridge of the mountain things got tricky. The wind was howling and the visibility was terrible. Lucy was on a 6 foot leash and I could barely see her in front of me. I was very glad that I had her on a leash because if she had walked out of sight I fear she my have been really lost, and any calls out to her would surely have been lost in the wind.
I kept Lucy close to me as we made the final climb to the summit. It was hard to maneuver on the rocks because many of them were covered with snow and I could barely see. We reached a spot where I couldn’t see any more elevation gain, but I’m still not completely sure that it was the true summit. We walked in a small spiral and didn’t find another incline so I figure it must have been the summit. I looked on my Garmin watch when we got back under tree cover and it looks like we reached the summit so I’m going to assume we were successful. When we got back to the sign for Crawford Path I took Lucy off the leash and we quickly scampered back to the shielded area in the trees. I usually make Lucy stay behind me when she’s off leash but I felt like in the inclement weather it was best for us to both move quickly to get back to sheltered ground. When we got there Lucy went behind me and we made the trek back to the car.
On our way down we saw quite a few other people and dogs making their way up. Lucy was great, staying right on my heels so that when I saw people coming she was within reach for me to grab her and let them through. The hiker going uphill always has the right of way, and added to that parties with dogs never have the right of way even if they’re the ones going uphill. Lucy and I always respect that rule. Another big dog hiking rule is that dogs should always be under the direct control of their owner whether that’s on a leash or under verbal command. With Lucy off the leash and behind me, she’s always within arms reach so it makes things easier. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy is super friendly with adults, kids, and other dogs, but she’s so friendly that she always runs up to meet them. Some people are afraid of dogs and many dogs are not as friendly as she is, so I like to stay on the safe side and limit contact unless people say that they or their dogs are friendly. We’ve really been working on keeping Lucy’s excitement under control especially when she’s off leash, and she was absolutely perfect. Every time we saw another group of people, she sat with me on the side of the trail and waited to greet them until they gave permission. We’ve made so much progress, and I’m so proud of how far she’s come.
Sorry for the humble braggy tangent there. So the trail back to the car the way we came was the same, only it seemed muddier for some reason. Maybe it was because I was thinking about how my leather seats would fair covered in dirt, but maybe there was some snow melt too. We made it back in really good time, and just as we got to the parking lot the clouds lifted and the sun beamed down. It was a little frustrating to see the mountain we had just been trying to navigate in nearly zero visibility look so gorgeous now, but these things happen I guess. We’ll just appreciate our next good weather hike so much more now!
On our way home I stopped at Rek-Lis Brewing Company in Bethlehem for a quick brew and some poutine before heading home. I’ve realized that I love chasing after hiking patches like the NH48, so I’ve started focusing on others as well. The Views and Brews list is one where if you visit the majority of the brewpubs (places that brew and serve their beer on location) in the state you get a patch. There are also many like the NH Fire Towers, the Terrifying 25 trails, and the Scoops and Loops ice cream shops, that I’ve got lots to keep me busy for the future!
Mt. Pierce (4,310 ft) via Crawford Connector and Crawford Path [6.15 mi, 2460 ft, 3:30]