My new friend Colleen from Mass. planned to drive back up and meet me at the trailhead parking lot for this hike.
The night before the weather looked like a bluebird day. I found out one of the trails we were planning on taking up the road was still closed for winter. We didn’t want to do the additional mileage and thus the plan changed. Colleen, thankfully, with some extra communication was okay with the change of plans. Well, okay is a relative term….
We met at a parking lot of Route 2 and drove 2 miles up the road to the Castle Trail Trailhead parking.
We had wanted to go up Caps Ridge but decided on Castle Trail instead. Like most White Mountain climbs, it started off pretty gradual and involved an easy stream crossing. We ascended mildly along the woodsy trail with some stone work. We passed a group of other hikers that didn’t look capable of completing the hike they had planned. We thought about them often that day. This trail is known for a section of trail called the Castles that is a serious of scrambles. Once you climb one, there is another one looming in the distance. I should also mention, our bluebird day turned to an overcast day with a chance of freezing rain. We didn’t get any views on our way up but given the exposed terrain, I’m sure they would have been grand.
We were able to catch a few glimpses through the clouds but they quickly disappeared. I was happy it wasn’t raining.
Once you passed the link intersection, you began more scrambles. With every distant peak, we thought that was going to be Mount Jefferson. It was a slow and grueling climb of rock hopping until the giant rock pile came into view.
Every time we passed a sign that day we shouted “there’s a sign.”
Everyone we passed up there was wearing a hat and gloves… After stopping for a bite to eat, we quickly discovered why. After no longer climbing, our body temperature began to drop. If I would have packed an extra shirt, I would have put it on. I was carrying an emergency base layer but knew I would be climbing again and didn’t want to use it. We kept moving to intersect the AT or Gulf Coast Trail. We almost headed the wrong way towards Washington until someone corrected our mistake.
We had heard there was a snow field we had to cross. We were not carrying microspikes. Although the first snow climb was not that bad, and we followed the foot steps across, packing down the snow with each step. The only challenging part was being able to relocate the trail on the other side, which took a few minutes.
Re-connecting to the trail, we were moving along again. We passed a group of guys who told us about another snow field. This one they suggested to walk up and around. I made Colleen go first. This one looked more sketchy because to the right… there was a cliff that dropped off. It just took one false move. Again, we started to traverse across the snow field, following in Colleen’s foot steps. We couldn’t see the trail on the other side. Colleen had stopped right on the snow and I urged her to keep moving until we reached the other side. There was no signs of the trail or easily discoverable foot prints to guide us.
Colleen began to navigate skirting around the edge of the snow and headed downward, making it look so easy. Scared, I stayed put until I got the green light that she found the trail, which she did. I eagerly made my way towards her sliding a bit. I was so relieved to be off the snow and to put it behind us. I thanked Colleen because there was no way I could have done that without her. I had just met her a week ago and it’s honestly amazing how quickly you trust someone out there and lean on them for their support and guidance. We were a team.
We were moving along once again. Rock hopping in the clouds to our next summit. We saw a sign! Well, a few signs as we were nearing the Mount Adam’s summit sign. It was a short, rocky climb to the top much easier in comparison to Jefferson. Another view stolen… but we were both thankful it hadn’t been freezing rain on us.
It was all downhill from here, literally. Colleen was over the rocks and was moving pretty fast. I heard someone call my name… It was Cait or Laces that I had met that morning at the Notch. We chatted about our adventure, took a quick photo, and kept headed down the rocks.
As we began to descend down airline trail (one of John’s favorites because of the views), the clouds began to part… Always end on a good note.
The way down was a knee buster for sure. It was steep and rocky. We both felt pretty relieved to be below tree line. There were some steep and rocky sections that dropped us down pretty quick. We were so happy to reach the car.
Although we didn’t have the prefect weather, we shared many laughs the entire day. *insert fire truck noise