But I did hike up for a bit and it was breezy. Late Saturday afternoon, as I drove by, there were 11 cars in the parking lot at the Valley Way trail head and 9 were still there Sunday morning so there was a large number of people staying at Crag Camp and Grey Knob, but no one on the trail heading up Sunday. I hiked up to the Scar Trail and then a little way up that, to about 3500 ft., where I was fully able to "feel" and listen to the roar of the wind and stand in the swirling serpents of spin drift careening through the balsams.
Mt. Washington has a reputation of having the "worst" weather in the world based on extreme wind velocities measured at the summit weather station including one that was more than 230 mph and ambient temperatures, not windchill, as low as -49 degrees (F), but "wild" and "beautiful" are also suitable descriptions. I was experiencing both as I tentatively climbed on Sunday. It was invigorating. It is instructive to be "out in the storm" as long as the risks are weighed. The strength and sound of the wind was daunting as it roared around me plucking furiously at everything, exploding the snow caps crouching on balsam boughs and sending the snow flying. around me. Feeling how distant that experience was from what one experiences on a late August afternoon as one hikes down from the high peaks in a soft, summer twilight, but how equally beautiful.
Dick Goldthwait, one of the eminent White Mountain geologist, took a team to Glacier Bay in Alaska back in the mid-1960s, to thoroughly study soil development and forest succession where glaciers had melted back leaving bare soil. Goldthwait's results inspired me to do similar studies in the Whites to compare results and create models for local soil development in the post-Wisconsinan period--the time since the Wisconsinan ice sheet melted.
The two local lads in the photo above were gearing up for a day trip up Mt. Garfield. Note the dog's head sticking out of the coat. I liked the idea of the sleds. They were enthusiastic about using them in the descent phase of the hike and I pictured them careening down the north side of Garfield in the deep powder snow after their strenuous ascent.
Federal budgeting in action: the new trail signs. Magic markers are cheap!
General health of the forest can be glimpsed by the height and vitality of the over story both in winter and summer. In winter it's easier to find dead wood high up and in the summer a good measuring stick is the density of the leaf canopy. In this section of the trail, half way between the trail head and first crossing, the canopy density is about 60 percent. Acid rain, in its peak years, caused a general decline in the leaf canopy of White Mountain hardwoods and the hope it that forest vitality is bouncing back. Even though there is still acidic precipitation the acid content has declined.
|on a second trip was caught by a flying predator, most likely an owl.|
|An escape tunnel for wee critters.|
And another moose, or the same moose from below making a second pass.
In 1961 this was a lovely glade, about an acre in size, and possibly the site of a small logging camp a decade earlier. It was flat and clear except for some tall mountain asters and in the late afternoons as I packed supplies up to Galehead Hut I would say I was at the "half way" point. With the late afternoon sun shafting through it it reminded me of Yeat's "bee loud glade".