Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~Lao Tzu
Well, it’s been a while since we hiked Pierce and Eisenhower back on June 1st, so it’s about time I wrote a little about it. The Presidential Range is a section of the Appalachian Trail that hubby and I would like to hike, and includes the highest peaks in the White Mountains. Pierce and Eisenhower are two peaks that sit next to one another in the middle of the range. We decided to head up to my folks place in Maine on a Friday night, so we’d be in the area and be able to get an early start Saturday morning. An evening drive to my parents’ cabin means a mandatory stop at Pat’s Pizza in Windham, ME – they have great food, beer, and Buck Hunter…the trifecta of awesomeness. We splurged on a couple gluten-free pizzas (Hawaiian and buffalo chicken), which were delicious, then claimed a few top scores on the Buck Hunter machine while we finished our beer. After we had carb-loaded sufficiently, we continued on to Bridgton.
The next morning, after a lovely breakfast prepared by mom, we drove to Carroll, NH. Since it was going to be a very hot day – about 95 degrees – we stopped at a gas station and bought a gallon of water to fill up both Camelbaks to capacity. When we got to Carroll, we parked off Mt. Clinton Road, just past the Crawford Notch station and the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center. We took the Crawford Trail and began our ascent of Mt. Pierce. It was slow-going and wet – very different terrain than our last hike up Monadnock. The path was frequently interrupted by streams of water coming down the mountain, which really slowed us down. I’m not sure if it was the heat, or the extra pounds from carrying a full Camelbak with a few essentials in the pockets, but I felt pretty sluggish and was more out-of-breath than I remember being when we hiked Monadnock, despite the ascent being much more gradual.
Once we got to the Alpine Zone, things were much better. It was a bit cooler, and the trail was mostly dry. I loved the contrast in flora, and the lovely scent of the short pine trees all around. It was like walking through a wormhole into a totally different place. The summit of Pierce came upon us abruptly – we actually weren’t sure we had reached the top until we looked over and saw Mt. Eisenhower. We continued on the path, which seemed like a very short walk, though it took almost an hour between peaks, thanks to some spongy, muddy areas that slowed us down. Along the way, we found a large patch of snow near the summit of Eisenhower, which was a welcome surprise on such a hot day. We couldn’t resist throwing a couple snowballs around. Now that we were well above the treeline, the view from 4,780 feet was incredible. Eisenhower’s summit affords a spectacular view of Mt. Washington, which is just a short distance away (or so it seemed from our vantage point).
So we’d completed Pierce (4,310′), and Eisenhower (4,780′), and can now officially call ourselves “peak-baggers”, which simply means that one hikes two or more mountains in one day. We had originally intended to include Mt. Jackson, but the heat got the better of us and fatigue was setting in, so we thought it best to head back down the way we came and save Jackson for another day. The descent was quite long, and a bit dodgy with all of the slippery rocks, so we were fairly “done” by the time we reached the car…we’d been at it for over four hours, which is significantly longer than our last hike. We enjoyed a delicious meal at Horsefeathers in North Conway (got the Harvey sandwich, as usual…yum!), and had a celebratory beer while we waited for our knees to stop shaking. Definitely looking forward to our next Presidential Range expedition!