Patience pays off for #17 and #18

July 23, 2017

Since my last hike, I’ve had my mind made up that my next hike was not only going to be Mt Adams and Mt Madison, but I would be ascending via the King Ravine trail. An above tree line hike, by way of one of the more difficult trails in that area. I canceled my plans for this hike the last four consecutive weekends due to risky, or downright dangerous, forecasted weather conditions. This past weekend, I was given my window of opportunity, and took full advantage. Choosing to drive up and tent camp the night before to get an early start proved wise as I was able to get a good nights sleep, and still arrive at the Appalachia Trail Head at 5:45am. Even at that time, on a beautiful Saturday in July, the parking lot was completely full, and I was forced to park along the road with dozens of other would-be hikers. 

I would start out by taking the Short Line trail, to the King Ravine trail.  From the parking lot, all the way to Mossy Falls, this is one of the easiest sections of trails I’ve ever been on. The easy part abruptly ends at Mossy Falls.  A beautiful falls that has been accurately described by so many before me as looking like something out of Middle Earth. 


From Mossy Falls, the trail gets serious. After a few short scrambles, and steep climbs, you break out into the ravine and get your first views of the day. When you turn around, you get an amazing view to the NW with the ravine walls starting to build around you. 


More impressive, is when you look in front of you, and see the headwall and what will be your route to the ridge, eventually joining back up with the Airline trail. The snake-like string of boulders just slightly left of the center of the wall is the trail. 

I would forego experiencing the Subway and Ice caves section of the King Ravine trail, as I was solo hiking today, so I stayed on the 'easier', elevated route. 

As treacherous and unforgiving as this area of the White Mountains is, the wild flowers still seem to flourish throughout. 

I know for a fact that it takes me longer to hike than the average hiker due to how often I stop for photos. That may have never been more true than on this day.  Combine perfect weather, and stunning scenery, and I was unable to resist taking it all in on numerous occasions.

When trying to take some photos to illustrate how steep this trail really is, the images just weren't doing it any justice.  So I decided to demonstrate...

You definitely do not need your trekking poles on the King Ravine trail... your hands need to be free to grab on with just about every step. Looking up towards the top of the trail, you get a great view of the final push.

And just when I thought I had reached an area of the world where nothing could possibly survive, I came across another large bed of wild flowers smack in the middle of someplace that looks like it's on another planet versus just a few hours from the roadside.

The very end of the King Ravine trail has you hike right along the edge of a near-vertical rock face. Once again, the wild flowers didn't seem to mind living here. You do not climb this wall, although I'm sure some people have, the trail ascends along the edge of this. 

Looking back down from the top of the King Ravine trail (with the ledge from the previous picture now on the left of this image).

After such a major accomplishment, your reward for conquering the King Ravine trail, is about another half mile of hiking over a pile of jagged boulders until you actually get to the summit of Mt Adams. The trail junction below, a short distance from the summit, also gives a great view of the next peak on target for this day - Mt Madison looms in the background. 


And looking back towards where I started the day, the edges of King Ravine can be seen in the distance now. 

Once on the summit of Adams, #17/48 for me, a view to the south reveals Mt Washington.  You can clearly see the auto road on the left side of the image. 

As I left the peak of Adams, I took the Star Lake trail which follows around to the east side of the summit and then curls north towards Madison.  The views of Madison, Star Lake and the Madison Spring hut are simply amazing. 

Once I reached the base of Mt Madison, there was an awesome view of the summit from Star Lake.

After a much-needed rest inside Madison Spring hut, and an awesome piece of carrot cake (thank you AMC crew and cooks!!), I headed up to the summit of Madison for #18/48 for me.  The peaks of Washington (left) and Adams (right) are framed by the summit cairns on Madison.

 I didn't spend much time on Madison as the wind was really howling up there on this day.  I made my way down the Valley Way trail to the Lower Bruin trail to Duck Falls. There was this magic beam of sunlight shining down right where the falls enters the pool below. It was a great photo to end the day on. 

I passed a few other falls on the way out along the Brookside trail, but nothing that could tempt me from delaying returning to the truck to rest my aching feet, knees and legs. The total miles on this day would be approximately 10-1/2 to 11 in about 10-1/2 total hours from start to finish.  I ran into lots of great people on this hike, had amazing weather and witnessed incredible scenery and natural beauty of all kinds. It was absolutely well worth being patient in my attempt to reach my 17th and 18th peaks. 

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