Tuesday, June 4, 2024

On the Trail #1 - Mount Webster & Mount Jackson


I haven’t hiked a 4k in New England in a long time, and Lush & Todd has also been pretty dormant as well (the last post was over a year ago). So I figured a quick post about my return to The Whites had to be paired with an L&T blog drop. It was time to reawaken both beasts.

The ZB James 2023 USA Tour is now officially in the books (although I am working on some longform material to immortalize those jaunts πŸ‘€πŸ”₯πŸ’€...not totally done with those roadies quite yet lol). Time to get back to the New England roots. I might try and make these hike logs a series over the course of this year. I want to do a lot of 4ks in 2024, so hopefully it’ll end up being a nice little string of journals. Anyways, good to be back on Lush & Todd grounds.

Now onto the piece:

Webster-Jackson trailhead
Webster-Jackson trailhead

June 2nd, 2024

Mount Webster & Mount Jackson

This was a highly anticipated hike. I hadn’t hiked a New England 4k in almost two years (!) and hadn’t done a New Hampshire 4k in nearly three. I spent last year hiking all across the country, summiting over a dozen mountains from Cali to Georgia and many states in between. So it wasn’t like I was slacking or anything like that lol - just out adventuring. Out jauntin’.

But to get back to the roots was a major moment. There is nothing like the White Mountains for me. It is and forever will be my home range. I have plenty of love for the other New England ranges - the Greens, the Berkshires, and the Mahoosucs - but there is something incredibly special about the Whites. There is a powerful sense of divinity there. A spiritual essence that calls to you once you’ve heard its whispers and seen its wonders. All significant mountain ranges have that. Hell, that spiritual force can be found in any patch of nature if it's the right combination of sentimentality and wonder. But some places are bursting with it - and the White Mountains are one of those places.

I woke up early at 4:30 AM to do a day-trip up to the Webster-Jackson Trail Head in Crawford Notch State Park. About a 2 hr 20 min drive from Byfield, MA (homebase). Got on the road at around 5 AM and was at the trail head right at 7:30 AM. I went up the fastest / most efficient way: I-95 ---> Rt. 101 ---> I-93. Then Rt. 3 (right past Franconia Notch) --->Rt. 302. It’s actually quite a simple drive. There aren't many major turns at all, which is nice. And it was a glorious cruise - I listened to plenty of music. The new Willie Nelson album, a new indie EP called Heaven by the group Softcult. A relistening of The Saint of Lost Causes by Justin Townes Earle (RIP legend), and then that Johnny Cash and June Carter record from back in the day with “Jackson” on it. Had to sneak in that song before hitting the trail.

Luckily there weren’t many cars at the parking lot. I sent it up that early mostly because I didn’t wanna be fighting for a spot. Even after I finished the hike the lots weren’t too crazy, which was a solid sign. In hindsight I think it’s safe to say that the weekend after Memorial Day is a good time to go up for a hike. A lot of people get their jollies in the weekend before. I'm sure all of Caroll Country was a zoo seven days prior.

The trail was beautiful. It was a perfect day to be up in the Whites. Around 50 degrees at the start, and then around 70 by the end. I did the loop counterclockwise which took me to Mount Webster first, and then up to Mount Jackson. Webster has an awesome view of Mount Wiley across Rt. 302 and Mount Carrigain farther to the southwest. You can also peep Mount Washington and the surrounding Presidentials if you look to the north. It’s a sick spot. It was around 3 or so miles and 2.000 ft of elevation gain to get to the summit of Webster. Certainly no cupcake. But also relatively easy when compared to some of the other 4k mondos.

Mount Jackson is just as much of a beauty at the top, if not more so. You’re that much closer to the big-dawg Presidentials which is truly amazing. I sat on the northern face of Jackson for a while and just stared out at Washington and Eisenhower and Pierce. They are might pillars reaching to the heavens. It's a view that I cherish dearly - I remember hiking Pierce with an old friend Phillip years ago and being totally blown away by the summit and landscapes before me. Such a powerful aura. I'm not one to pray or thank God or Mother Earth often - but at the top of a beautiful mountain like that I find myself thinking how lucky I am to be able to witness such wonder. And I find myself whispering prayers of thanks. I can’t wait to hike Washington in August. The Agile Five and Co. are ready. I had a long chat with George and told him we are coming for him. He said 'bring it on'.

Oh, we will Georgie boy. We will.

There were some gray jays on top of Jackson flying around which was especially cool. I had never seen one in person before. Majestic creatures. A lot of swagger. They were darting around like they ran the place lol. The climb down was a bit of a slog, which is typical. But still no major complaints. My knees were a bit banged up - ironically because I tripped while at the top of Jackson, not during the precarious climb up. It was a clumsy and insignificant stumble that didn’t look bad at all and was in no way dangerous. I just banged the fuck out of my knee and it was sore city from then on lol. It's still sore now 😫

Gray Jay perched over Bretton Woods

I also hiked with a pole for only the second time ever (the other time was hiking Medicine-Bow Peak in Wyoming) which was a nice aid at times. I definitely like having it on the ascent, but it held me back on the descent. I like to plow down the mountain like a bat out of hell when I’m going down lol, and the pole was making that difficult. I put it in my backpack pretty quickly. Still learning the tricks of the trade.

I got back to the truck and was fortunate enough to have had cell phone service at the very start of the hike, so I logged it on AllTrails. Here’s the breakdown:

Length: 6.9 miles (giggity)

Elev. gain (elly g): 2,533 ft

Moving time: 3 hrs 52 min

Total time: 4 hrs 38 min

All-in-all a pretty solid trek. I wish I stayed stationary a bit more at both peaks. It’s hard for me to sit still for a long time when I’m in the thick of it; when I’m in the cut. Usually I’m better when I’m hiking with people. Next time I go I’m gonna try to make a point of it to chill at the summit for a solid 45 min (if conditions are worth it of course πŸ˜‰).

After heading out of Crawdaddy Notch I actually went the back way home. I went east on Rt. 302 through Bartlett and North Conway. I went even further east into Maine to check out Fryeburg real quick too. A nice little ho-hum boon town. The visitor’s center there was pretty nice and Fryeburg Academy seemed prestigious. I definitely wanna go to the Fryeburg Fair at some point in my life, I'm sure that's a hoot. So many little nuggets picked up while cruisin'. It felt good to get back in the swing of things being out on the road - soaking in the views, taking the backroads, changing plans on the fly, just seeing where the wind was gonna take me. Can't wait for more Maine action when me and Poolhouse go camping in the Great North Woods for the 4th. Should be a blast.

After Fryeburg I hauled that ass home. Listened to a couple history podcasts on the way - the final few episodes on The Fall of the Sioux by the Rest Is History guys, and the first couple episodes on America's founding by the Empire pod. Both great listens. I love a post-hike podcast. It's nice to reflect. You get hyped going in with music and then wind down after with some thoughtful banter.

In the final stretch I stopped in Seabrook to grab a vape and take a leak. Then a quick bite to eat in Newburyport. Overall one of the more memorable 4k hikes, not only for the epic views that Webster and Jackson had to offer, but also for the grandness of my return to the home range.

George in the distance

I’m back, baby. Lets fucking go! Washington - we are coming for you 😀πŸ’ͺπŸŒ„


- ZB James

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