Jackson: A Quick Hike with Lucy to Grab #31
With school starting next week, I really want to make the most out of my last few days of freedom before my life turns back into school-related chaos. A super long weekend in the mountains will be the perfect escape. I just got back from Iceland on Monday night, so I took a day to get my life together but now I'm back in NH for some hiking!
This morning I had some errands to run in Concord before heading up to the mountains, so we didn't get on the road until about 1:00. I didn't have a plan for what we were going to hike, but I figured I could decide while I drove up since the weather forecast wasn't looking great. It was 85 degrees according to my car by the time I was passing Squam Lake, and since I had Lucy with me I needed to make sure the hike was manageable for both of us. Lucy has been sidelined from the hiking game for a month or so because she was having issues with her nails and she needed a break. I want to ease her back in with some shorter hikes, so I thought that Jackson would be a good one for us!
We pulled up to the trailhead just past the Highland Center at 2:45 and prepared ourselves for the hike. This meant a cooling jacket and bear bell for Lucy and a day pack for me. Lucy's cooling jacket needs to be soaked and zipped on underneath her harness, so that was a little bit of a process but we got on the trail at 2:55. The book time for Jackson via the Jackson-Webster trail is 3:40, so I figured we would have enough time to finish before dark. I was a little worried because the forecast called for rain at 6:00, but I was hoping it would hold off with the worst case scenario being that we would get a little bit wet.
Jackson-Webster trail started out at a small but steady incline that increased throughout the hike. It's about 2.5 mi from the trailhead to the summit, which seemed to take longer than it should have. The trail was a little bit inconsistent in the middle with lots of steep sections followed by flats. There was one small stream crossing, but honestly I wouldn't even call it a stream it was so small. It's been pretty hot and dry the past few days though so I assume it could be bigger after a rainy period. Webster-Jackson seemed pretty typical of a below treeline trail in the whites with a good amount of rocks separated by small patches of dirt and roots threatening to trip you. It reminded me a little bit of Crawford Path only more narrow and less muddy.
Lucy did great throughout the whole thing! I usually have her off leash when we're hiking especially on quiet days like this one, but another issue she's been struggling with while hiking is her endurance. She tends to get so excited at the beginning that she runs around and uses up a lot of her energy. This leaves her tired at the summit and miserable on the way down. In the past I would not have been able to keep her on a leash since she used to pull so hard. We've really been working on it and she's gotten so much better that having her on the leash wasn't a problem at all. She listened to my cues, waited when she was told, and kept a good pace the whole time. At some points I was struggling to keep up with her!
As we neared the summit there was a few small steep rocky scrambles. Nothing really difficult but I thought it was fun! I love a good rock scramble, so even though it was only a small section it made the whole hike more interesting. I was worried about Lucy though because she is normally very tentative on rocks. I know she can go up and down them but she sometimes doesn't have the confidence to try it and needs a little bit of encouragement. She ended up doing great and only needing my help in a few spots!
We reached the summit at about 4:30 and stopped to take in the views. It was a beautiful clear day with the presidentials in full view to the north. For a second I felt a pang of jealousy, wishing I was up in the northern presis, but then I remembered how difficult that was last time and was satisfied with the short, easy hike I had chosen.
A pair of thru hikers were on the summit, so I talked to them for a while about their experience so far on the trail. I can't imagine hiking the entire AT all at once, so big props to all those thru hikers out there killing it! I have no motivation to do that whatsoever but admire those who do! When they left for Mizpah Springs, I realized that they were the 7th and 8th people I had seen all day. It's always nice to talk to fellow hikers, but I also really liked how quiet it was up there. Just Lucy and me looking out over our beautiful surroundings.
After our break on the summit, we headed back down the Webster-Jackson trail the way we had come. I'm usually not a big fan of going out and back, but today it was necessary because I didn't think Lucy could handle looping in Webster as well. We started down and made it through the steep rocky parts fairly quickly. I was really proud of Lucy because there was a time where she would have sat down and cried at the top of those rocks. Looks like she's come a long way since then, tackling them without a hitch. We jogged down most of the flats but didn't go too fast because it was still pretty hot out.
We made one small detour to Bugle Cliff to see the view over Crawford Notch. This was really beautiful and only a short distance from the trail. After we got back on the trail I started to hear thunder in the distance. I looked at my phone and it showed a severe thunderstorm watch! This meant picking up the pace and getting out of the woods ASAP. We were below treeline so if there was a thunderstorm we would probably have been fine, but still I didn't want to be stuck out there as it was getting dark in the middle of a torrential downpour. The threat of a storm unfortunately meant that we didn't have time to go to Elephant Head where I here there are some really nice views.
A few minutes before we got back to the car Lucy decided she wanted to be done. We were so close that I could hear the cars on the Kanc! She does this thing where when she's tired she lays down and doesn't move no matter what you say or do. Luckily she wasn't quite at that point so with a little encouragement she got up the strength to make it the last 100 yards to the car. This indicated that the length of the hike was perfect! Long enough to tire her out (probably for the next 48 hours or so), but not so long that she was miserable by the end. We got in the car around 6:15 making it a nice afternoon hike. And luckily we beat the thunderstorm by about ten minutes!
I've really missed Lucy in the past week that I was in Iceland, so it was great to spend some quality time with her hiking. It was a beautiful afternoon even though it was hotter than we would have liked, and it was nice to have some peace and quiet in the woods as always. A great start to a five-day hiking long weekend!
#31 Mt. Jackson (4,052 ft) via Webster-Jackson Trail [4.8 mi, 2100 ft, 3:35]