Tuesday, September 6, 2016

HIKING – 1ST 4,000 Footer – Mount Pierce (Mount Clinton)

If you’ve read either of my previous Blogs about our hiking adventures up Mount Kearsarge North and South Moat Mountain, you would know that Pennie, my hiking partner, and I would summit our first 4,000 footer (47 more to go).  Mount Pierce bestowed upon us 60 degree weather as we headed out on the trail at 10:35 am last Thursday, September, 1, 2016 climbing to the summit at 4,312 feet.  It is the longest and continually maintained trail in America.

Mount Clinton was originally named for the New York governor and senator by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) in 1837.  In 1913, the New Hampshire legislature instead renamed it Mount Pierce in honor of Franklin Pierce, who was the only New Hampshire resident named the fourteenth president.

It’s preferable to climb Mount Pierce from the trail head on Mount Clinton Road which is the Crawford Connector, Crawford Path, then Webster Cliff Trail with a 2,400 foot elevation gain at 6.4 miles round trip.  Pennie armed us with information she obtained from the AMC Highland Center the previous day.  She purchased the book, “The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains,” and waterproof trail map.  Pennie created a cheat sheet of the various connections and turns on the trail that we followed based on trail map.  She also packed “TheTen Essentials” highly recommended by the AMC for a safe hike.

The White Mountains are part of a band of boreal forest that spans the globe from North America through Eurasia.  It’s characterized by the biome of trees in each zone—pines, furs, and spruces are climax trees; deciduous like birch and maples are subclimax.  A local naturalist goes into greater detail about the various boreal zones on Mount Pierce.

As we forged up the mountain, we climbed a narrow boulder trail that initially passes along the Gibbs Brook for about a mile before connecting with the Crawford Path.  We were captivated by the bright green mosses on fallen trees and small open areas of velvety green carpeted flora among native wildflowers, like dogwood plants.  It was magical because the forest was not harvested by logging in the early 1800’s and has yellow birch, red spruce, and hemlock between 250 to 500 years old.  After 2.5 hours, we entered the alpine forest comprised of miniature pine trees that hugged the slabs of rock near the summit.  This is where we caught glimpses of the surrounding mountains and valley and became anxious to reach the top. 

Once we came out of the alpine forest, we were rewarded with an astoundingly beautiful view looking north at Mount Eisenhower over to Mount Washington (the highest peak in the photo).  What a great feeling of accomplishment Pennie and I both felt after training several months for this climb.  We both also felt very happy on the mountain top that fed our souls soaking in the sky and nature surrounding us.  We spied a hawk flying by as we ate our lunch.  At 2:35 pm, we headed back down the trail.

Though we were prepared with “The Ten Essentials,” at the summit, while eating lunch the temperature was about high 40’s to low 50’s Fahrenheit.  After half an hour, our fingers were cold and numb which lasted for another 30 minutes.  In addition to warm clothes, we also needed to bring gloves.

As we hiked down Mount Pierce, we were careful not to slip on any loose rocks and wet areas from trickling mountain streams crossing our path.  In the small pools, the dogs were able to drink water and cool down.  We were not alone on the mountain as we met other hikers both ways, some we conversed with for awhile giving us a chance to rest.  Around 4:30 pm, we returned to our car and began discussing our next big 4,000 footer hike and becoming members of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club!  If you enjoy hiking or walking to the many scenic sights in the White Mountains, you can reserve on-line at the Buttonwood Inn or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

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