White Mountains 2016

Alan and I took another trip back to the White Mountains again this year. We had taken a motorcycle trip here the year before. Last Years Trip Report. Which didn’t go as well with Alans bike breaking down. This year we wanted to do some backpacking on Mt. Washington, so we decided to drive my truck this trip. Just over 1,600 miles round trip.

Places we visited:
USS Nautilus Submarine Museum
 – CT

Madison Boulder Natural Area – NH
Cathedral Ledge Park – NH
Mount Washington Cog Railroad – NH
Backpacked on Mount Washington – NH
Conway Scenic Railroad – NH
USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – NY

Click Here for Full Photo Gallery

Day 1 – 7-23-16
The first day was pretty un-eventful. It was just about putting down the miles and getting to our hotel in Connecticut. Just a few minutes away from our first attraction on this trip, the USS Nautilus.

Day 2 – 7-24-16
We started out today visiting the USS Nautilus Submarine Museum. The Nautilus was the first nuclear sub, commissioned in 1951. We thought it was an impressive engineering feat even by today’s standards, pretty amazing that something like this was built in the early 50s, and in just over 18 months.

The Nautilus isn’t a very big sub, not compared to todays subs, so space is even more limited. There are tight passageways, the sleeping bunks are extremely tight, and it seems like every square inch of the sub has some sort of switch, dial, pipe, or other unknown device crammed into it. I could have spent days in there just looking at all the small details and wondering what each was used for. The crew of these subs had to be very well versed on the equipment aboard. That alone is quite impressive.
Please make sure to check out my Photo Gallery for this trip to see all the photos, here is a small sample from the sub.

   The museum itself is very nice also with alot of exhibits and information. There is alot of history not just on the Nautilus but other submarines as well. Even back to some of the very first ones, that were man power.

One of the coolest parts of the museum were the functional para scopes that you could look through.

The next stop was Madison Boulder Natural Area. This is said to be the largest known glacial erratic in North America. Basically that means that a glacial ice pushed and rolled this boulder to its current resting place. A boulder that weighs an estimated 5,963 tons (11,926,000 lbs.) There is around 10′ of the boulder underground also.

    The final stop of the day was Cathedral Ledge State Park. Pretty neat rock cliff that you can dive to the very top of. It also seems to be popular with climbers since there were a few of them parked at the base of the cliff. Not a bad view from up top either.

Day 3 – 7-25-16
   Today starts the adventure to the main reason for this trip, backpacking on Mt. Washington. We looked into several ways of doing this, different starting and ending points, different ways of getting on and off the mountain. We decided to ride the Cog Railroad to the top of Mt. Washington, hike as far as we could out the mountain range, then hike back down to the truck at the Cog Railroad parking lot. Alan had always wanted to ride the railroad to the top since he has driven, ridden, and hiked to the top before in the past.

The train takes a fairly steep track all the way to the top. The first train made its way to the 6,288 ft. high summit of Mt. Washington in 1869.

On our way up we got a great view of what we had in store for us. We had been here before, but knowing that we planned to hike some of the mountain with 50 lbs. backpacks was quite daunting. We knew we would not make it all the way out the ridge, but would just go as far as we felt we could.

The beginning of the trail actually crosses back over the tracks as it makes its way toward Clay Mountain. In the above photo, Mt Washington is to your back, the mountain range in front is Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, Mt, Adams, and Mt. Madison. Our campsite that night would be in the valley between Mt. Clay and Jefferson.

    The terrain on the White Mountains is extremely rough. You very rarely are hiking on grass or dirt. Most of the trails are pure boulders. This makes it extremely dangerous, you have to take every single step very carefully so you don’t end up injuring yourself. Quite a challenge while carrying a heavy pack. There are several sections where you can tell there is a trail at all, except for the carins (stacks of rocks) marking the way.

Just before we headed down Sphinx trail, where we planned to camp, we found a water source in the side of the rock face. We both have Sawyer Mini Water Filters which we used to filter the water. They worked quite well and are very packable.

Where to camp was one of our main concerns on this trip. You are not allowed to camp next to the trail or anywhere above treeline. So we knew we would have to make our way down the trail to get into some trees, we just didnt know how far. We only make it a short distance down the trail when it got to a very difficult section. There were several far drops you would have to make. We didnt feel this was safe for us to do, especially with the packs. We would have had to take them off at each point and hand them down to the person below. Then there would have been the matter of making it back up the trail the next morning.
We got pretty lucky though since there was a fairly wooded spot just off the trail at the point we wanted to stop. I have never had such a spectacular view from camp in my life. The photos will not do any of this justice, It was truly a beautiful sight and really cool to watch the fog and clouds roll through the mountains.

It rained for just a short time after noon, we got camp setup we relaxed and enjoyed the view. Well, at least until the bugs came. I would have paid gooood money for the bug net that I forgot at home.

Once night fell the weather changed dramatically. The fog and clouds rolled in with howling winds. Which was no surprise to us. Mt. Washington has the highest recorded wind speed on Earth, at 231mph. That night we had sustained winds around 35mph with gusts just over 70mph. Make sure to watch the video at the top of this post to get an idea of the conditions.
The wind continued all though the night and beat our tents to death. Neither of us slept for more than 20 minutes at a time. I was literally woken up several times due to the tent slapping me in the face. I was expecting part of the tent to come undone at any moment, or a tent stake be pulled from the ground. Luckily my Eureka bevey tent did quite well, Alans tent on the other hand did not fare as well. It was partially blown down during the night, getting some water inside.

We waited around camp for quite a while, hoping the fog and wind would clear up, but it wasnt. We discussed our options and decided it was best for us to head off the mountain today. We knew we couldnt hike several days in these conditions with these large packs, and neither of us wanted to spend another sleepless night. So we packed up and headed out.

The first third of our day was spent in fairly thick fog and still howling winds. It made it interesting for sure. I didn’t really mind it, I thought it added to the experience, though it was blocking our view of the scenery.

Eventually it did clear up and turned out to be a beautiful day. It is really a sight to see when the clouds flow down off the mountain like water revealing the surrounding scenery.

We stopped here a while to take in the view and have some lunch. The small grey patch to the left is the parking lot we had to make it to that night.

We experienced every type of terrain on our way down to the parking lot on Jewel trail. Again the terrain here was relentless and really took its toll on us. We were glad we made the decision not to hike any additional days.

As if the hike didn’t have enough terrazin challenges, it finished it off with a couple logs at a stream crossing just before the parking lot.

Finally, back at the parking lot, I have never been so happy to see my truck. The couple days of hiking were exhausting, but completely worth it. I will have to make it back to the White Mountains for yet another hike. That night we drove back to the hotel we stayed in a couple nights ago.

Here is a GPS TripLog of our hike. (click for interactive map)

Click Here for Google Earth KMZ file of the hike.

Day 4 – 7-26-16
Today was going to be a relaxing day to let our bodies rest and give our muscles a chance to stop aching. The Conway Scenic Railroad was the perfect activity for this and was only minutes from the hotel. It takes you about 50 miles up into the mountains and back, taking just under 5 hours. We saw a section of the track on our drive from Mt. Washington the night before and thought it would be a great way to relax for the day.

Day 5 – 7-27-16
Today, the final day of our trip, we visited the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.
Alan and I had toured the USS Wisconsin a couple years ago and said that we wanted to tour an aircraft carrier one day also. The Intrepid museum not only has a carrier, but it is jam packed with other exhibits. Such as an SR71 Blackbird, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the USS Growler Submarine.
Again, please see my Photo Gallery for the trip to see many more photos of the entire museum.

One interesting exhibit they had there at the time was Star Trek. It was the 50th anniversary, and since the Space Shuttle on display here is the Enterprise, well, if you are a Trekie you get it.
I am a fan of the series so I found it all pretty interesting, there was a ton of information on the show, and they went into great detail about the background of its characters, the alien races, and equipment.
The exhibit was interactive, you wore a wristband that you scanned at various stations. Certain aspects of your visit were recorded and emailed to you in a Star Fleet package.

Captain Carpenter

Next we got in line to see the USS Growler Submarine. This is a good point to mention how HOT it was today. The entire day we were standing on blacktop or the flight deck of a carrier. So hot in fact, that at one point during the day my phone popped up a message saying the internal temps were too high and for me to shut it off.
It was neat to compare the Growler sub to the Nautilus we toured earlier in the trip. They were actually quite similar, despite being built years apart. But one thing we noticed was that the Growler had slot more space inside. The sub itself is a larger class, but it also looked like they utilized the space better, and I imagine the technology allowed for equipment to be made smaller.

The USS Intrepid itself is simply massive. Hard to believe that modern carriers are even larger. You were able to see a good bit of the ship, I was surprised. Three levels including the flight deck were open to look in several sections.

You basically wondered around the ship, going up and down passageways, looking to see if you could get up and down certain stairways. They had certain sections blacked off, but other than that you really had to explore really well to make sure you saw it all. They signs were not very clear on where the sections were and how you accessed them.

I thought the hanger was impressively large since it was filled with several exhibits, a couple jets, and a helicopter, and still felt huge. Plus I dont think you even get to see all of it, I am fairly sure the back half of it is divided off from the exhibit area. The exhibits were great, but it also would have been really cool to see the hanger empty to get a sense of just how big it was.

Then there is the flight deck itself, which is even more massive. Truly an impressive mass of steel here.

Even though the museum is located in NYC it wasn’t alllllll that bad to get to. We hit our share of traffic though, and I dont see how anyone can stand living in a city where that is your normal daily commute.
After leaving the museum we drove into the night and made it home just after 1am. Yet another awesome adventure Alan and I can add to the list. We weren’t even home yet and were already discussing what to do for the next trip.