My 1983 Appalachian Trail Hike in Photos

 

I wrote a ton in words in my journal as I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I also shot a ton of Kodachrome slides in that pre-digital age. I've scanned all my old AT slides and posted them with short text blurbs connecting them to their parts of the story. I'd never tried to connect all these slides with all these words before. It helped me remember details of that long-ago hike in new ways. These pages are a chronological visual journal of the hike. Probably one of the oldest thru-hikes on the Internet to get one.

 

More pics from my 1983 Appalachian Trail hike. Table of Contents is here.

 

Mount Kinsman, NH - Mount Jefferson, Presidential Range NH

The climb up the side of the peak was just as steep as the climb up to the ridge had been. It was late -- and getting later. Eventually, I broke out onto the summit area, a short stretch of alpine ridge crest consisting of gray, lichen-covered granite rock, very low scrub spruce, and ground-hugging shrubs of the type which I had seen on Mount Moosilauke. There were 360-degree views, including Franconia Ridge to the east, Moosilauke and Loon Mountain to the south.

 

Still September 4, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

The summit was marked by a large rock cairn. Kinsman's north peak and Cannon Mountain lay to the north, west was the valley and ridge country stretching out towards the Green Mountains along the western horizon. Not far above that horizon was the rapidly sinking orb of the sun -- a pretty sight, but not too encouraging, considering the six miles I still needed to cover today.

The Appalachian Trail re-entered the woods for a gradual descent into a col and a short, steep ascent of the north peak of Kinsman. It was covered with another forest of stunted spruce, but a large rock outcrop just below the summit to the east provided the best views on the mountain of Franconia Ridge with all of its spur ridges and of Franconia Notch far below. A few hundred feet below me was Kinsman Pond, another secluded mountain tarn sitting on a high plateau.

I enjoyed the views for five minutes before starting down another rocky, steep descent, along which my knees began to tell me how much they hated me, not in words, but with stabbing pains.

 

The trails down were similar. It was dark for most of the last few miles, but I managed to move fairly well by the light of my small pocket flashlight. I was at the AT crossing of US 3 in Franconia Notch -- almost an hour late at 8:55. End of September 4, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

September 5, 1983, Labor Day, I began hiking one of the longest stretches of the Appalachian Trail unbroken by road crossings -- the twenty-seven miles between US 3 in Franconia Notch and US 302 in Crawford Notch. I had planned to end my day hiking string here -- I was looking forward to a return to backpacking and starting hikes in the mornings. My mother really wanted to continue her first trip to the mountains, so eventually I agreed to make this section an overnight backpacking trip and meet her in Crawford Notch the afternoon of September 6.

The humidity was brutal both days, to the point where there were no views into the valleys and just dim, hazy views of other mountains along the ridge crest. I took a total of 2 pics both days combined, and they were both shot relatively early on the 5th. Both were of Franconia Ridge with Mount Lafayette looming in the hazy background. I had backpacked this entire section of the AT several times before this hike. I already had plenty of good pics.

 

Having started hiking my second day in the morning, I actually reached US 302 in Crawford Notch just after 2:30 in the afternoon on September 6. Still Chapter 21.

The television weather report called for high winds and heavy thunderstorms September 7, so I delayed my ascent of the Webster Cliffs Trail and the Presidential Range for one day. As an added bonus, the front cleared away the bulk of the excess humidity. September 8, 1983 was a much better day for me and my camera. It was mostly cloudy in Crawford Notch at 12:30 when I set out on the Appalachian Trail. A nice, stiff breeze was blowing, the air was fresh and dry, and the day was much cooler than the last few had been. As usual, that 12:30 start was considerably later than I wanted it to be.

Climbing the Webster Cliffs was not the ordeal I remembered it to be from earlier hikes. The ascent was remarkably steep, but a great deal of excellent trail construction work had made it a much easier climb than the Liberty Springs Trail had been. I did not take one break until I arrived at the top of the first set of cliffs, with their excellent view of the notch below. I really did not need to stop there, either, but I wanted to enjoy the spot, so I took a two-minute standing break, drank some water, ate a granola bar, and shot the pic above.

 

My first sit-down break was at the summit of Mount Webster. It was 2:15, and I had hiked the three most difficult miles of the day, so I sat down for ten minutes and celebrated with more water and two Pop-Tarts.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

The sky had been gradually clearing as I went along, but the clouds moved back in and then some as I climbed Mount Jackson. From the 4052-foot summit, I could see the entire length of the trail ahead to Mount Washington. Mount Eisenhower's summit was slipping in and out of the clouds, and the top several hundred feet of Washington was completely socked in.

Looking south and west way down into Crawford Notch, where the day's trail began.

 

From Jackson's summit, I descended back below the trees and continued along the ridge crest to Mitzpah Spring Hut, located in a wooded col below the summit of Mount Pierce.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

At the hut, I considered topping off my water bottle for the trail ahead, but a quart of water still remained. A stiff climb up Mount Pierce was on tap, so I decided not to carry the extra weight. It was quite cool on the ridge after the heat of the past few days, and a powerful breeze was blowing. The weather sheet at Mitzpah called for fifty-mile-per-hour winds at the summits today. I could find no reason to argue with that prediction as I went along.

Like most winds, they would die down a bit to a good fresh breeze and then gust again at unpredictable intervals. I was concentrating on making up some lost time and often distracted by the ever-changing landscape and views. My legs were soon torn and bleeding from the impact of my body being buffeted by the gale into sharp rocks and bushes adjacent to the trail.

The sun began to reemerge as I came out onto the south summit of Pierce. By the time I made the main summit, the entire mountain basked in sunshine and the clouds had lifted from the top of Mount Eisenhower, although they hovered dramatically just above the summit.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

From Pierce's 4310-foot summit, the Appalachian Trail remained above tree line for the rest of the day's hike. I got some excellent views of the Dry River Valley and Montalban Ridge to the east, as well as the various summits and spur ridges of the Presidentials.

I have always been slightly (and childishly) amused by the alpine summit of Mount Eisenhower's resemblance to a round bald dome.

For the most part, the clouds diminished as the day went on. Between the day's low humidity and the thinner air up along the Presidential Range's ridge crest, when the sun shone it was brilliant.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

Traversing Mount Eisenhower, the AT skirts the summit, avoiding the exposed crest, on which hiking is not recommended in adverse weather such as today's hazardous winds. I took the loop trail over the summit.

The wind was howling insanely. When the trail turned smack into the wind just as I topped the summit area, my backpack turned into a sail, and I was almost blown over backwards. For a few minutes, things were fairly intense.

But so were the views.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

Especially when I could grab a small piece of shelter to enjoy them.

Up ahead in the northern Presidentials, Adams and Jefferson were in the clear. Hopefully things would stay that way the next day when I hiked them.

For the current day's hike Mounts Franklin and Monroe looked good. The one dark cloud over the day squatted atop Mount Washington and never moved. Looked like my hike would be ending in rain... or something.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

Everywhere else I looked the weather was fair, if breezy, so that was a problem for later on.

My current wind problem diminished a bit. Most of the ridge was partially sheltered from the full force of the blast, once I descended from the actual 4761-foot summit.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

Looking back up towards Eisenhauer's summit after the descent.

Another glimpse of Mounts Adams and Jefferson over a broad western shoulder of Mount Washington. You don't get as many glimpses of them after Eisenhauer. Mount Washington starts to dominate the northward views as you draw closer.

Approaching the three summits of Mount Monroe. That's Little Monroe to the left of the main peak and Mount Franklin to its right. While Franklin was never a president, Mount Franklin is not really considered a separate mountain. Its summit, over which the Appalachian Trail went next, is only about 65 feet above that col ahead, so most consider it a minor peak of Monroe.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

Another look at the northern Whites from the slopes of Monroe / Franklin.

Approaching the col and the summit of Mount Franklin to the right.

Mount Franklin, not really a mountain yet the first 5000-foot summit of the day. The sky had cleared very nicely by the time I reached this summit.

 

Still September 8, 1883. Still Chapter 21.

It was getting rather late, so I stayed on the Appalachian Trail as it bypassed Mount Monroe, which I have previously climbed, and did not stop at Lakes of the Clouds Hut, located in the col between Monroe and Washington.

 

The cloud over Mount Washington's summit loomed larger as I approached. The ridge around me began to be tinged with the golden light of the approaching sunset reflecting off the bottom of that cloud.

 I took a few last shots of the valleys east and west before putting the camera away and concentrating on climbing into whatever awaited me inside that cloud.

 

Mount Washington's summit resembles a huge, barren pile of loose rocks, and those rocks make the steep climb somewhat tricky and time-consuming. Slowly, I approached the sharply defined bottom border of the vast cloud as the sun, sinking low in the sky beyond distant Franconia Ridge, tinted it with gold and orange. It was like ascending into heaven.

 I reached the fringe of the cloud and plunged inside. The view of distant mountains faded gradually into the golden mist, and then was gone. As I climbed, the fog thickened, and the light faded until most of it was blotted out. I ascended through a dark, desolate landscape of black rock and dark gray cloud as a hellish wind screamed around me. It was beautiful, in a strange way, but it was a perilous beauty. I might have been on another planet.

 

Still September 8, 1983. Still Chapter 21.

When I broke out onto the flattish summit area at 7:00, it was a howling madhouse up there. The wind doubled. I was becoming dangerously chilled, and walking became almost impossible. I was tossed about like an old newspaper. I had to lean forward with my arms at my sides and my body extended forward with my nose barely inches above the ground in order to move forward at all into the teeth of that tempest. I struggled towards the state-run summit house and shelter. Somehow, I made it, and caught a ride down with a supply truck. Five minutes of cloud and wind and then we were driving beneath a beautiful starry sky.

The previous night's weather forecast called for increasing clouds September 9, 1983, with a chance of rain that night. Thus, as I drove to the Mount Washington Auto Road from Gorham, I was not expecting too much. What we got was one of those perfect days which are so rare in the northern Presidentials, but which, for some reason, I seem to enjoy every time I venture into these mountains. Looking down from near Washinton's summit, it's Mounts Clay, Jefferson and a shoulder of Adams.

 

Still Chapter 21.

Mounts Adams and Madison, looking across the massive valley known as The Great Gulf.

 

We drove up the auto road to Mount Washington's summit, and I started hiking at 12:15. I told my mother to meet me at the road crossing in Pinkham Notch at 6:30, and she stayed at the summit house for a while to enjoy the gorgeous day. I climbed over the actual 6288-foot summit of the tallest mountain in New England and started down the other side.

The last time I hiked the Presidentials, the Appalachian Trail did not traverse this summit. Thanks to a short connecting trail which links the old side trail to the summit with the Gulfside Trail, it is now officially part of the AT.

The base of the Great Gulf spilling out into Pinkham Notch. New Hampshire Highway 16 is plainly visible snaking through the notch.

 

Still September 9, 1983. Still Chapter 21.

Looking down from Mount Washington into Tuckerman Ravine. The small dark blue blob is called Hermit Lake.

 

There is a stark beauty to mountains such as these which cannot be found anywhere else. Even the quality of the light itself is different. At that altitude, the air is cleaner and thinner. Thus, light is considerably less diffused than in the lower world. Everything looks sharp and clean, with sharply defined shadows and strong light-and-dark contrasts.

I had intended to stay on the AT and bypass the summit loops over Mounts Clay and Jefferson, which I had previously hiked, and take the summit loops over Mount Adams and Mount Madison, the only two Presidentials which I had never climbed.

However, the day was so perfect that I had to hike the Mount Clay loop for the best views on the range of the Great Gulf, a vast semicircular glacier carved valley nestled in the long curve of the northern Presidentials.

 

Still September 9, 1983. Still Chapter 21.

I did take the Appalachian Trail around the summit of Mount Jefferson. After all, the forecast was calling for increasing clouds. I had a weird track record hiking the northern Presidentials in the past. Each time I did, I received uncharacteristically beautiful days like this day to enjoy Mounts Washington, Clay and Jefferson. But then each time, later in the day the weather would begin to turn, and I had to bypass Mount Adams. I would stay in Madison Hut that night. The next day was always rainy with low ceilings, so I would skip Mount Madison.

 

This time I would stay on the Appalachian Trail as it bypassed Jefferson, a summit I had been on several times, and make sure to take the summit loops over Adams and Madison.

 

Adams is a massive and impressive mountain, one of the highlights of the entire Appalachian Trail.

 

Still September 9, 1983. Still Chapter 21.

I'm still not done. More AT pics here.