By: Kelly Graner, Interpretive Ranger at Crawford Notch State Park
6:00 AM– Beep Beep Beep sounds the alarm as you roll over in your sleeping bag, cramped inside the car. You sit up and immediately your stomach growls. Munching on some trail mix and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, you try to find the will to get up. Despite your aching muscles and lack of sleep, the mountains are calling and it’s time to adventure. You get out of the car, stretch and pull out the map. It’s still dark so you pull on another layer, knowing that once you start to move you’ll quickly be damp with sweat.
7:00 AM– One hour in and you are more than halfway up to Mt. Willey. Sitting at 4285 feet, this will be the hardest climb of the day. As you hike up the steep incline, you contemplate why in the world someone would choose to spend their day off trudging along in the dirt. Any and all negative thoughts flow through your mind; you could be asleep in your comfy bed right now! Instead, its started to drizzle and the trail has become a series of ladders. Ignoring your body’s urge to turn back, you take a deep breath and begin to climb.
7:45 AM– Despite the poor weather and scrambling up wet rock, you’ve made it to your first peak! You breathe a sigh of relief when you see the cairn in the middle of the woods. Although you still have two more mountains to go, the hard part is done, you are up high in the sky.
8:15 AM– Another half hour gone and you’ve come to the second mountain, Mt. Field at 4340 feet. Although this is the highest peak, you’re in your groove and this climb feels good. Despite the lack of view and cloud cover, you smile, knowing your making progress. You have a seat and eat your lunch even though most people down below are just waking. Raincoat on and a glance at the map, you see you’ve got just over a mile to the final peak, what a treat!
8:45 AM– At last you’ve reached Mt. Tom sitting at 4051 feet; there isn’t much of a view, but your heart feels full. You take a moment to soak it all in, the peace and comfort that the forest brings. While fog surrounds Crawford Notch below, you see a dark storm cloud forming ahead and know it’s time to get off the mountain.
10:00 AM– Coming down mountains is always bittersweet. You’ve just been one with the trees, and now it’s time to go back into society. You don’t know when it happened, but somewhere during the climb all the stress and negative feelings washed away. Perhaps it’s the rain, but you smile as you slip and slide, falling down the trail.
11:30 AM– The pain in your knees has started up when you see that Ripley Falls is less than a half-mile out of the way. The day is young, so you head over to the falls and take in the beauty in front of you. How amazing to have been on top of the world just a couple hours earlier, and now have a beautiful cascade towering above you. You close your eyes, breathe in the cold air and realize that this right here is some trail magic.
12:00 PM– Ahh, comes relief as you get off the trail, seeing your car in the now packed parking lot. You drop your pack, fall to the ground and stretch your muscles. Much like the morning you’re chilly, starved and ready for bed; one thing is different now though. Despite the poor weather and exhaustion, you’ve summited three mountains and seen the world around you from a new perspective. As you pull out of the parking lot, whistling along to your favorite tune, you take one last glimpse behind you of a morning well spent and make your way to the next town over, ready to find that post-trail burrito.
Notes on this hiking route: Park at the Ripley Falls Trailhead and take the Ethan Pond Trail to Willey Range Trail to hike to Mt Willey, Mt Field and Mt Tom. Be prepared and be sure to bring the HikeSafe 10 Essentails. Here is a link to the Crawford Notch State Park Hiking Map as well.