In a departure from my normal topic, running, I’d like to spend the next few days telling you a bit about a lovely weekend I spent in the Whites with the Appalachian Mountain Club.
I participated in an AMC Women’s Adventure Weekend – on the docket was 48 hours of kayaking and hiking near Pinkham Notch with like-minded women.
Part Four: Hiking the Tuckerman Ravine Trail
Before I say anything else, I want to point out that hiking Tuckerman Ravine is something like the elephant in the room… but in a good way! Since the moment I saw Tuckerman as I approached Pinkham Notch and my weekend with the AMC, I knew that I needed to hike a part of Mount Washington.
Need. Definitely not want. NEED. I needed to do it.
I was so close. The trail head was in my temporary backyard. It wasn’t an option for me NOT to hike it.
I had mentioned to someone earlier this year that I wanted to hike to the top of Mount Washington. I’m not much of a hiker… I don’t love incline. I don’t have many friends who like to hike. The friends who do like to hike are just as busy as I am, so scheduling an adventure is hard. Sadly, as a result, hiking to the top of Mount Washington didn’t happen this year.
But thanks to the AMC Women’s Adventure Weekend, I got damn close.
Assumption #1: I think the summit is the most appealing part of a hike for many people.
Me, though?… I like the journey. I like enjoying the trail. I’m the slowest hiker ever. I look at the rocks on the ground and admire their shiny flecks of mica and their marks of geological history. I pick up leaves because they’re big, are funny-shaped, or are a pretty color. I climb on rocks just off the trail because I like bouldering. I take lots of breaks. I also take lots of selfies. I wear brightly-colored spandex with my trail shoes, and I do my hair and makeup for the trail. The trail needs to be fun for me.
The destination is appealing, but it’s not the most important part of a hike for me. It’s the overall experience.
Assumption #2: Many people would consider a hike unsuccessful if they didn’t make it to the top.
I could happily not make it to the top. As long as I’m having a good time and I’m not leaving the mountain injured, it’s all good.
All that said, I NEEDED to hike a part of Mount Washington.
When given a choice between two hikes on Sunday morning, I had to go with the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The colder temps and windchill weren’t going to hold me back.
Thankfully, I was smart enough to bring the right layers. Here’s what I ended up wearing/carrying with me:
- Synthetic baseball cap
- Fleece ear band
- Synthetic short-sleeve shirt
- Synthetic 1/4 zip long-sleeve shirt
- Down coat
- Windproof rain jacket with hood
- Spandex leggings
- Tall, synthetic-blend socks
- Synthetic underwear (sports bra and briefs)
- Merrell Moab Ventilator waterproof trail shoes
- Trekking poles
- Hydration vest
I can proudly say that I brought all the right things on the trail with me. I used all of the clothing, but not all at the same time. The only thing I brought that I didn’t use were the trekking poles – it was too rocky to get a good “grip” with them, so I just tucked them between my back and hydration vest and hoped I didn’t accidently stab anyone with them. Had I brought a proper pack instead of a hydration vest, I would’ve brought more clothing with me, and I probably would’ve used it all. It was that cold.
We started hiking around 9:30am. The Tuckerman Ravine trail is rated as “moderate” by the AMC. It is a wide trail that loosely meanders up the mountain (not quite as tight as switchbacks). It’s mostly rocks, and it can feel a bit like you’re hopping from rock to rock.
Before we started, we knew there would be a detour on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The usual trail is 2.4 miles from the Visitor’s Center up to the shelters at Hermit Lake, but with the detour it seemed a little longer.
Also, the detour is definitely more difficult than “moderate,” as it is a much narrower trail, has steep sections, and multiple water crossings. But the change of scenery was fun – it was much more green than the Tuckerman trail, and the change in terrain made for a much more interesting hike.
It took us about two and a half hours to get from Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center up to Hermit Hut,. The first chance to see some open trees and a view was just before the hut, and it was so exciting to finally see something other than the trees and rocks around the trail!
Then we continued on the .7 mile trail to get to the base of Tuckerman Ravine.
Two ladies in our group made it all the way to the base of the ravine, whereas the rest of us were tired and hungry around .3 miles in, so we found a nice spot to sit down for lunch and enjoy the view. It was very windy and cold up there, so we hunkered down behind some rocks to get some relief from the wind. It kind of didn’t help – I had to put on all of my layers to keep warm at this point, because I was shivering. But I was sitting in the presence of Tuckerman Ravine, so I was happy!
I won’t lie, it was very tempting to keep going to the base of the ravine, because from there it would only be 1.1 miles to the summit of Mount Washington. The summit! I was so close! But I knew if I kept going all the way into the base (and even the summit), I’d be really exhausted heading back down the mountain.
A father and his young son passed us as we were eating lunch. When we asked if they were headed all the way up, the father said they were “taking it a half-hour at a time” to see how far they could get, with the goal being the summit. After our group finished lunch, we headed back toward Hermit Hut. We stopped by this idyllic pond to take some group photos, and when we looked back at the ravine we saw the son’s bright orange shirt just about up to the headwall. We couldn’t believe it!
Once we got back to Hermit Hut, I purchased a Tuckerman Ravine patch and a pin to commemorate my experience. The two ladies from our group who went all the way to the base of the ravine met back up with us outside of the hut, and then we headed back down the mountain toward the Visitor’s Center.
The hike down was quick, but it was tough. I was tired from the hike up, so I wasn’t really picking up my feet and tripped a couple of times. Also, my knees hurt from all of the rock-hopping. But that was to be expected.
We made it back to Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center around 3:00pm. We said our goodbyes, hopped in our cars, and headed home. It felt too quick, and kind of sad. It would’ve been nice to have one more meal together.
The final installment, Part 5: The People