Mount Washington
July 15 - 19, 1997
Destination - North Conway, New Hampshire
(5 days/4 nights) - 1,328 miles round trip

Day 1 - Tuesday, July 15, 1997
Left home at 8:00am. Stopped for breakfast in Hughesville. From there headed east to Mountain Top, on 302 south.  Then to Wilkes Barre and took 81 north to 84 east thru NY and CT and picked up the MA turnpike and stayed east on it to 495 north, then to 93 north through NH to Meredith and then 16 north to N. Conway.

Arrived in N. Conway at 5:30pm. Stopped at L.L. Bean to check on tents - still looking for a 2 room tent. Lots of neat stuff, but nothing we had to have. Ate dinner at Friendly's (it wouldn't be the same if we didn't make the routine stop there). Went down into Glen and registered at the campground. The campsite I reserved is on an end of a 4-site section which is nice to have a little privacy on one side. Used to stay on the inside sites.

When we left home it was 98 degrees with high humidity and by the time we got into NH, the temperature dropped to a chilly 68 degrees!! I forgot how much work car camping can be.   I've been spoiled with backpacking. We set up camp; 2 tents and a screened room and had lights out by 9:45...we were pooped!

Day 2 - Wednesday, July 16, 1997
TIME TO WAKE UP!!! 6:45am the neighbors decided they needed to pack up and leave while playing very loud music!!! How rude! I made a few remarks which only Stef could hear since she was my roomy. She giggled and we made the best of it. Give me the backcountry any day and car camping only once a year thank you very much! :^D

After breakfast we headed into N. Conway to snoop through the shops and took a peak in the Mt. Washington Observatory Building.  Walked over to check out the steam train. We took the train ride last time so we skipped it this year. Took a drive up to Mount Cranmore and made a 2 hour loop around part of the White Mountains. On the way, we stopped at Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center to check out the conditions of Tuckerman's Ravine for tomorrow's hike to the summit. We were told that Tuck's was closed due to heavy snow in the ravine. We would have to go up Lion's Head instead.

There were dozens and dozens of people on the trails that day going by the number of cars in the parking area. I was very interested in checking out the AT thru-hiker register they have in the hiker rest area in the basement of the center.

Made it back to camp 5pm. I started dinner while Stef and Dave headed back into town to check out some things Stef thought she just had to have. Her money was burning a hole in her pocket.

Day 3 - Thursday, July 17, 1997
Mt. Washington - 6,288 ft. Planned hike - 4,200 ft. from Pinkham Notch to the summit.

Woke up around 6am - didn't sleep as well as I did the night before. A little anticipation for the days' climb and a little nervous about Stef's ability to make the hike. We left camp around 7:45am and were physically on the trail by 8:30am. The trail is supposed to take 4.5 - 5 hours to reach the summit. We started the trail at Pinkham Notch where you immediately go "straight up". It started out as a dirt/stone trail and turned into a stairway of boulders the remainder of the way. We lingered much too long on this section of the trail trying to get acclimated to the trail and heat.

Looking into Tuckerman's Ravine with Lions Head along the top
rim of the ravine and the summit of Mt. Washington in the background!

Stef wasn't sure she was up to the challenge of the hike. The bugs were bad and she was tiring. Instead of forcing her into a trip she would get nothing out of, I told her to go as far as she thought she could and we would turn back and head down off.

Stef taking a breakI could come back another time to do the hike. Instead of putting her at ease as I thought it would, it lit a fire under her. After a Power Bar and some water, she decided she needed to lead and charged up the mountain.

Tuckerman's Ravine was closed from Lunch Rocks through the Head Wall due to a large accumulation of snow so we traveled up Tuck's Trail as far as we could and took the trail to Lion's Head which bypasses the closed section. The trail to Lion's Head was extremely challenging,I'm enjoying the view of Wildcat Ski Resort most of it was hands and feet climbing as the trail winds around small cliffs on the steep mountain side.

After we made it to Lion's Head, we crossed over the Alpine Garden which is exposed (all above treeline). The winds were around 55MPH which had me concerned for Stef's safety. After the AG, the trail picks up the Tuck's Trail for the last .9 miles of vertical hand climbing over boulders to the summit.

Stef had a REAL struggle trying to find enough energy to get up this last section. When we finally made it to the top it was about 2:30pm and she was exhausted. We had to climb several sets of steps to get to the summit sign.

Once we reached the area where the sign marked the summit, it was going to be a real challenge to get close enough to touch it.   Tourists were everywhere and the high winds were blowing poor Stef around.

Tuckerman's Ravine in the background.

I was so frustrated with all the people milling around that rock pile holding onto that precious summit sign.  I was certain that they couldn't fully understand how important it was to me to get this sweet little girl to that sign also and to touch it and declare victory over a long day's challenging hike.   Stef and Dave crossing the Alpine GardenStef climbed her heart out to reach the summit and my patience was wearing thin waiting for all the tourists to get their photographic moments at the sign.

Stef was really starting to worry me, she needed to get some rest and refuel so my impatience got the best of me.  I grabbed her hand and pulled her up the rock pile and said out loud "Stef, you didn't hike for the last 6 hours to look "up" at this sign - you reached it!"

I pulled her up to the sign and we stretched our arms out and in front of all the strange looks of people wondering what I was doing,A victorious Stef! and  I yelled "We did it!" Only the wind was so harsh we almost lost our hats! What an accomplishment!  Stef found inner strength that day that even surprised her!

We went inside the observation building to rest and get something to eat. By this time Stef was very nauseated and tired. She needed a good 1.5 - 2 hours to recoup before trying to hike down off the mountain. I was worried she'd have an accident because of the very steep grade in descending and due to her exhaustion. By then it would've been around 4:30 and not enough time to safely hike off. We would've been hiking in the dark below treeline which is a dark path in the daytime, plus they were calling for late day thunderstorms.

Because of all the factors against us, we decided to see if there was a hiker's van going down the mountain. Our luck, there was, and there was only 3 seats left. We had only 15 minutes at the top before we had to leave...but that was just fine for Stef. It took us 6 hours to climb up and only 15 minutes to get back down!! That was hard to comprehend after our long day to get to the top.

Stef felt bad that we didn't hike down off since she knew I really wanted to but I said that's just another reason for me to come back and do it again.   :^)  I was just so darned proud of her for accomplishing the hike. Dave has done it many times, most of them in the winter in the snow during ice climbing season.  This was my 2nd time but my 1st completion to the summit. It hasn't donned on me yet that I did it.  I was more concerned for Stef's safety and well-being and so excited for her when she made it to the top.

On the drive off the mountain when we were on the main highway, I looked back up the mountain and could see the section of the mountain that we were on. A rush went through me and I got all choked up knowing that I actually did that finally hit me at that point.  I've only been hiking for a year so this was a real thrill for me!

Once back at our vehicle it took Stef about an hour to start feeling better. We all walked back into the visitor's center to look for t-shirts since we missed the chance on top plus we didn't have time to get any ice cream up there either   :^(   They didn't have any at the visitor's center so we had to settle for fudgesicles. On the way back to camp we stopped at Dairy Queen to get ice cream.

Once back at camp we showered and I made dinner. Shortly after that it started to rain. We would've been only half way down the mountain if we chose to hike off. We made a good choice.  It's now 7:30 and we're all bored due to the rain. Dave's sitting in the screened in room...Stef and I are sitting in the tent.  She's talking a mile a minute and feeling so much better. What a trooper!  Thought about taking a walk around the campground but it's still raining.

Note from the hike: Met a lot of very nice people on the trail. One group from Holland who are counselors for a summer camp. One boy about Stef's age was very pleasant to sit and chat with at rest spots. Also played tag up the hill with a group from France. Met a very nice young couple.  The woman was hoping there would be another way off the mountain for her once she made it to the top. I thought it was so funny...they were on the same van we hopped on to take us off the mountain  :^)   Chatted with 2 AT thru-hikers on Lion's Head who were going from ME to GA. Stef said I talk too much   :^)   ...not me!

Day 4 - Friday, July 18, 1997
Got up @ 7:30am, didn't sleep very well - muscles too sore but not painful. Left camp @ 8am and decided to take the Cog Railroad back up Mt. Washington. Just can't get enough of that mountain :^) When we got there the train was just about to leave so we hopped on instead of waiting another hour for the next one to go up. It was a 3-hour round trip with only a 20 min. layover at the top. We scurried around and got Stef her t-shirt. There was zero visibility on top today and winds were @ 60 MPH. I'm glad we did our hike yesterday. The train ride was exciting. We got back down @ noon and checked out the souvenir shop at the station. On the way back to camp we stopped at the Road Kill Cafe for lunch. We've eaten there several times over the last 7 trips we've made to NH. Everyone must experience it at least once in their life :^)

@ 5:30 it looked like rain so we decided to get the campfire started since Stef wanted mountain pies for dinner. @ 6:30 just as we were putting the last one in the fire, it really started to pour.  We retreated to the screened room to eat dinner. The rain was very heavy with lightning and thunder. We stuck out the rainstorm until about 7:45 then the water puddles were beginning to corner us in. So we made a mad dash to the tents.

The 3rd family to move into the tent site beside us came in @ 9pm. They had @ 4 kids and it took them over an hour to try and set up their tents in the heavy downpours. When they finished, the rain came into their tents so they piled into their vehicle and went to a motel.

Day 5 - Saturday, July 19, 1997
Broke camp at  8:30am. Packing went very smooth in spite of an all night thunderstorm.  Decided to head south through NH and cross over into Vermont.  Traveled south into MA and CT, heading west at Hartford, CT, through NY on 84 east into PA taking 81 south at Scranton, PA, picking up 80 west to home. Got home at 6:50pm - a 10.5 hour drive home.

It was a very uneventful drive to and from NH.  Some heavy traffic through Hartford, CT, which always takes total concentration.  Outside of that, it was a good drive home.

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This site was last updated on 04/29/04.