Trail Distance: ~23 miles (according to MapMyHike)
Elevation Gain: ~9000ft
Terrain Rating: Difficult
Hike In: 4:30AM
Hike Out: 8:15PM
June 20th was summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I had decided to tackle the 1 Day Presi Traverse earlier in April. Although people define the Presidential Range Traverse (it's full name) differently, we tackled Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce (starting North to South - from Madison to Pierce).
The book stats are around 19.8 miles and 8,900ft elevation gain for this day hike. Madison starts at the Appalachia Trailhead. We parked our car there at 4AM and found the parking lot to be already full. But no worries, cars fill out to Route 2.
So how did I train for the Presi Traverse? I had never hiked more than 14 miles a day with so much elevation gain, and I certainly have never been on such strenuous, rocky terrain. I figured that I could start training in mid-May and be ok. In reality, I traveled to Myanmar, Thailand, and California until May 25th.
Things I did locally
- Start the Insanity 60 Day Workout Challenge, doing about one video a day (except for the Rest Days)
- Stay on my feet for a walk or hike at least 8 miles everyday
- Go to Blue Hills and Middlesex Fells
- June 8th: Mount Carrigain (~10 miles) at 75% book time
- June 17th: Mount Liberty and Mount Flume (~10 miles) at 80% book time
So yup I only did 2 hikes aside from some weight training and cardio training locally in Boston. I knew it was going to be a tough grind-it-out type day, but I was feeling pretty strong from the Insanity Challenge.
Planning and Prep
Transportation: I was only planning on taking 1 car up, which meant I either needed to hitch a ride back up to Appalachia Trailhead or organize a shuttle service. I was bringing Tucker my black lab, so I thought it would be difficult to hitch a ride (not everyone wants a dirty dog in their backseat, it seems). Luckily I found a great shuttle service that was easy to book. We ended up driving the 3 hours home to Boston, and that was a mistake. If I had to do this again, I would stay the night both nights.
Accommodation: A 4AM start time means driving up from Boston at midnight. Not ideal, so we drove up the night before and stayed at Colonial Fort Inn in Gorham, NH. Not the best motel I've ever stayed at (BYO shampoo!) but it was good for 4 hours of sleep and it is located 7 minutes from the Appalachia Trailhead.
Dog: Most people discourage you from taking your dog on a 1 Day Presi Traverse. The issue isn't with water or their fitness ability. It's with their paws. Tucker has had a few issues with bloody paws before, so we were a bit worried. We planned a few escape routes if we needed to bail out with him. I also bought Musher's Secret and applied it to his paws the morning of.
Water: There are fill-ups available at Madison Spring Hut (3.8 miles in), Mount Washington (5.4 more miles), and Lake of the Clouds Hut (1.5 miles from Mount Washington).
This means that when you arrive at Appalachia Trailhead, you should only have 1-1.5L of water in your pack! This will make the first 3.8 miles much easier for you.
At Madison Spring Hut, I filled up about 2L until Washington.
At Washington, I filled up 2L and skipped Lake of the Clouds.
What To Pack: The most important part of being successful in the Presi Traverse is to be prepared. This was my first time stepping foot into the Presidential Range, so I sought the advice of seasoned hikers and online blogs. I looked at the route over and over again on my map. Aside from water, I prepared my pack with:
- rain gear
- Fjallraven Gore-Tex pants
- durable and worn-in hiking shoes
- light fleece
- 2 icebreaker shirts (one of them long sleeved)
- buff headband
- spare socks
- first-aid kit
- map + compass
- so much food. and more food (jerky, Snicker's Bars, KIND Bars, ProMeal bars, instant ramen)
- spare cash to tip the huts and buy food at Washington (CASH ONLY)
- trekking poles from Eastern Mountain Sports ($20 for a rental)
The Actual Hike
The day of the hike, we planned to get going at 4AM. But with prepping the dog and not getting a ton of sleep, our actual start time was 4:30AM. It was a nice cool morning, a little light out (no headlamp necessary). We raced up to Madison Spring Hut, eager to get our hike going. We ended up filling up water here and stayed here for 30 minutes (too long in hindsight).
Madison and Adams are the hardest summits for pups. There are a lot of bigger boulders where your dog might need a lift up. We also accidentally took the Star Lake Trail up to Adams which made things a little more strenuous. At this point, we were about an hour ahead of book time. The views were incredible at 8AM and there surprisingly wasn't too much wind. At Adams, you've already done 5,000 ft of elevation gain.
From there, we continued on to Jefferson. We had seen some snow patches along the way and finally hit a section on the Gulfside Trail with snow! Tucker happily rolled around to cool off. The fatigue didn't really hit us until after Jefferson. We barely stopped at the summit of Jefferson because it was windy. We debated skipping Clay and going straight to Washington. In the end, we decided that we should do the entire traverse.
From Clay, there were some nice views of Washington. You could hear the train coming up every so often. This is where we really had to push. We were pretty hungry for something other than bars and jerky. I think this was probably the hardest part of the hike. Washington seems so close, but it's still about another hour til you get there.
Finally we hit Mount Washington at around 1:30PM. This was my first time there, and I was surprised at how touristy it was. There was a 40 person line to take a picture in front of the summit sign - no thank you. Although we tried to hurry it up, lunch and water refills made the stop about an hour.
From Washington, you descend down rocks to Lake of the Clouds hut. I started feeling the exposure at around this point. I really regretted not bringing a baseball cap. Lake of the Clouds was a great reprieve from the heat for the dog. Tucker took a quick dip in the water and we continued on.
Monroe is really soon after Lake of the Clouds, but with the descent and 11+ miles of hiking already, our knees were starting to feel a little sore. We passed a few people who were staying at the hut and ran up and down Monroe.
Going down the Monroe Loop, it was a bit confusing to see where the Eisenhower loop starts. We thought we had actually hit Eisenhower, but it was only Franklin. Because it's not an official 4000 footer, there weren't too many people on this summit. Going to Eisenhower, there are a few switchbacks here, and you might be able to enjoy some tree cover (ladies this is where you can take a bio break in private if you need to).
Up at Eisenhower there is a large cairn. We snapped a few photos and then headed down to Pierce. We knew it would be a long muddy trek back to Pierce and down Crawford Path. Trekking poles were useful here to navigate through the mud and not erode too much of the trail. It was really muddy for the last 3.5 miles and most hikers that we met seemed to be exhausted (so were we!).
All in all it was a beautiful day for the Presi Traverse. It was around 70 degrees with some nice wind up top to cool you down. I felt comfortable in pants and a t-shirt, sometimes using my thin long sleeved layer. I didn't use my rain jacket or fleece at all.