June 30, 2010

Presidential Range in Autumn, New Hampshire

In October 2008, we returned to New Hampshire specifically to see the famous fall colors. Most of the trip was focused on the Adirondacks, Quebec, Vermont, and New Hampshire Northwoods. But, we decided to make a return to the Presidential Range for a quick day trip.

It had been raining for the past week, so perhaps it was no surprise that Mount Washington had snow on top. What was a sunny day generally in New Hampshire turned cloudy right over the Presidential Range. Here you can really see the line where the deciduous hardwood forests transition into the evergreen conifers further up.

There was this brief break in the mountain fog to see the snow-covered summit

Despite the fog summits and cool temperature, the fall colors in the White Mountains were outstanding

We had properly timed our trip to New England to coincide with the peak fall colors, as you will see in additional posts about the region.

Here you can see the sun coming out over the region, while fog hangs on the peaks. The transition between deciduous northern hardwood forests and evergreen conifers is obvious at around the 3,500-4,000 foot elevation.

June 29, 2010

Mount Washington, Presidential Range, New Hampshire

So, onto the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and the highest outside of North Carolina east of the Rockies. Mount Washington is famous for its terrible weather, especially in winter. Still home to the highest wind ever recorded at 231 mph, it is often coated in hoar frost and buried in many feet of snow.

Mount Washington can reach below -40 F in winter and only averages a high of 54 degress in summer, thus it has conditions more similar to Barrow, AK than New England. The summit is often shrouded in fog and averages over 100" of moisture a year. We were very lucky it was a nice and warm day with little wind that day. That night a doozy of the rainstorm rolled through and we wouldn't have had another chance at the summit for several days.

As we scaled the final steep ascent to the summit of Mount Washington, the landscape became a talus slope of large lichen-encrusted boulders, consisting primarily of ancient metamorphic schist and gneiss. The climb was difficult in the final stretch where large boulders were predominant.

Mount Monroe below and stretching out along the ridge to Mount Eisenhower in the distance

As we made it to the summit, we found the parking area and cog railroad station where hundreds were arriving the easy way. Thirsty from the unexpected distance and elevation gain we'd made from the bottom, it was slightly frustrating to stand in such a long line at the concession stand for a drink.

Anyways, there were spectacular views of the northern part of the Presidential Range, including Mount Madison, Mount John Adams, and Mount Jefferson, all over 5,000 feet.

Northern Presidential Range

We could see the cog railway working its way up the slope and great views into the New Hampshire Northwoods, Franconia Notch, and into Western Maine. Below you can see the entire length of the southern Presidential Range consisting of the largest alpine ecosystem anywhere in the Eastern U.S.

Below is the view to the east well into Maine
Lichen-covered mica schist and gneiss

June 28, 2010

Mount Monroe and Lake of the Clouds, Presidential Range, New Hampshire

We continued along the Crawford Path to the summit of Mount Monroe. Mount Monroe (5,372 feet) represented approximately the halfway point between Mount Eisenhower and Mount Washington. As a high point in the middle, it also offered some great views of the range.

Approaching the summit of Mount Monroe with Mount Washington poking up between the rocks

The landscape here was very stark, with lichen-covered rocks being the primary sight. Only the cracks between the rocks seemed to be sheltered enough and have enough soil for grasses and hardy shrubs.

Looking back at Mount Monroe on the way to Lake of the Clouds

The White Mountains to the east from Mount Monroe

Approaching Lake of the Clouds with Mount Washington in the distance

The "Alpine Garden" and Tuckerman's Ravine. It is a cirque carved out by an ancient glacier.

The Lake of the Clouds Hut is run by the Appalachian Trail Club. It is a spartan sleeping place for hikers doing the AT. It sits about 1,000 feet below the summit of Mount Washington.
The Lake of the Clouds is a glacial tarn left over from the Ice Age. It sits perched on a bench 2000 feet above the surrounding valleys.

We originally had only planned to go to Mount Monroe. Then, we decided to get all the way to the Lake of the Clouds. But, seeing the sight of Mount Washington just 1 mile away (and 1,000 feet further up), Linda convinced me to go for it. That will be the focus of the next post.

Lake of the Clouds Hut from the slopes of Mount Washington

June 27, 2010

Mount Eisenhower, Presidential Range, New Hampshire

We drove from Maine to New Hampshire, where we camped at a White Mountains National Forest campground. The next day, we drove around to to hike along the crest of the Presidential Range.

Our initial plan was to hike up the 3,000 feet elevation above the treeline on the Edmunds Path to the top of Mount Eisenhower. Then we were going to follow the Crawford Path through the alpine meadows until reaching Mount Monroe. We ended up going much further and that will be detailed in the couple of posts.

The trails starts the the deciduous northern hardwood forest and quickly climbs up into the montane coniferous forest dominated by red spruce. At around 4000 feet or so, the trail begins to emerge from the trees into the alpine zone. Here you can see the view from the edge of treeline to the valley below.

Here, the winter temperatures can get so cold, that it freezes the sap in the trees and kills them. In addition, dry icy winds scour and dessicate the branches. The remaining trees are krummholzed and tucked into sheltered cavities.

Mount Washington is famous for having the "worst weather in the world". To perpetuate that, we encountered this interesting sign at the treeline.

The Presidential Range contains the largest expanse of alpine vegetation east of the Rockies. From Mount Eisenhower we continued along the alpine ridgeline called Crawford Path, admiring the amazing views of the White Mountains. The rounded dome in the distance is Mount Eisenhower.

The Mount Washington Steam Train working its way up the mountain

White Mountains Panorama from the Crawford Path

The first view of the 6,300 foot Mount Washington

View to the South

Alpine vegetation consisting of tightly packed woody shrubs just a few inches above the ground. Some of these grow very slowly and can be hundreds of years old.

In the next post, we'll cover the stretch of Crawford Path from Mount Monroe to Lake of the Clouds.

June 26, 2010

South Bubble Summit, Acadia National Park, Maine

On our last day in Acadia National Park, the weather turned from spectacularly clear to ominously gray. The humidity increased substantially, as well as, the winds. Thus, we decided to try and sneak in one last hike before we departed from New Hampshire.

We did the loop hike from Bubble Pond to Eagle Lake to check out an old-growth Eastern Hemlock and Northern White Cedar forest. The hike started out by climbing steeply from Bubble Pond to the top of South Bubble Summit. At the top, there was a very nice view across the landscape. But, we could tell the rain was coming, so we could not linger long.

So, we quickly headed down the other side of the ridge toward Eagle Lake. As we approached the bottom, we entered into the old-growth conifer forest.

By the time we entered that forest, it started raining quite hard, and we got soaked.

Despite being an "old-growth" stand, the trees are not nearly as large as in the Pacific Northwest. I suspect that has to do with the long cold winters in this sub-boreal forest. The rain and darkness resulted in these blurry images down there.

Here you can see some sub-boreal vegetation of lichens, mosses, and perennial woody plants tucked into the rocks.

A beautiful rock rose in bloom

A stand of birch, elm, and maple

June 25, 2010

Great Head, Acadia National Park, Maine

We camped again at Lamoine State Park and enjoyed watching the sunset. In the morning, we checked out the mussel beds along the beach during the great low tides they have on the Maine coast.

The next day, we headed back to Acadia National Park to do a hike out to the rocky coastal area known as "Great Head" which sticks way out into the Atlantic Ocean.

We were really curious to check out the tide pools to see how they compared to the Pacific coast. We planned it during low tide and saw some really interesting rock formations.

The waters of Maine are somewhat cooler than most of the eastern seaboard. But, they lack the upwelling of the Pacific coast and are not quite as cold. Thus, the tidepools were not nearly as full of life as you would see off the Washington coast.
Thus, the waters tend to be much clearer

There weren't many tide pools, except this one that clearly contained a lot of algae

Here you can see some eidars floating off shore

Another tidepool

Great Head Rocky Coast

Heading back into the woods...

And through a nice paper birch forest...

On our way back to Lamoine State Park, we stopped in beautiful Bar Harbor...also known as...Bah Hahbah

For some lobster of course...

And then it was back for one more night at Lamoine State Park