One of the things we need to get used to when hiking in New Hampshire is that trails aren’t necessarily named after the mountain they summit; there is, for instance, no Mt. Washington Trail to the highest summit in the state although there are a multitude of trails from which to choose.
Doing a little reading in our Appalachian Mountain Club guidebook, we learn that many of the trails (some are called paths) are named after the people who created them. It makes it a little difficult to craft a hike because while the book may recommend Crawford Mountain as a hike, it describes the hike by saying “follow the Davis Path to the connector for the summit.” And that’s one of the more simple hikes we’ve found. We looked at some that refer to 4 or 6 different trails, necessitating a scramble through the book to find the trail, then going to the map to locate the trail that starts the hike, then heading back to the “recommended” section to make sure I’m reading the map correctly.
Before each hike, I rip out the appropriate pages of the book to carry, along with the map, just in case.
Today I’m very glad that we’ve gone this extra length. Mt. Crawford – again recommended to us by Roger and Anne – is supposed to have stunning 360-degree views from the top. It’s reached directly by the Davis Path, with easy parking off a main highway. There are no blazes on the Davis Path, just a sign at the beginning and a well-traveled, well-maintained, steep trail up the mountain.
We’re very much enjoying the coolness of this more northern hike after the still air and humidity of our last hike. After about 2 miles, we pop out of the woods onto beautiful bare rock. A family of four is hanging on the rocks. “Welcome. You made it to the top,” says the boy.
I look at my watch and think we haven’t hiked long enough to have made it to the peak. I sit down on the rocks, pull out my pages of directions and read out loud: “Attaining the crest at 1.9 mi., Davis Path follows this ridge north, rising over bare ledges with good outlooks … At 2.2 mi., at the foot of a large, sloping ledge, a side trail diverges left and climbs 0.3 mi. and 200 ft. (15 min.) to the bare, peaked summit of Mt. Crawford.”
Not only are we not at the peak, we’re a good half mile from it.
The father has been listening closely to me but I can tell by the look on his wife’s face that she doesn’t care if this is the true summit or not; for her, this is the summit.
Walt and I head back on the trail, having fun on the bare rocks with the occasional white blaze and cairn (a little rock pyramid that marks a trail) keeping us on the trail.
With really very little additional effort we are rewarded with phenomenal views of Mt. Washington and the rest of the Presidential Range, the Crawford Notch (the valley we drove up) and more mountains that we don’t even try to identify.
It’s windy even though Mt. Crawford’s not very tall at 3,119 feet. We pull out our jackets and I add my warm hat. But it’s also sunny and beautiful and we have a snack and take it all in, happy with Roger and Anne’s recommendation, yet again.
We never see the family again, so presumably they did not push on for the views.
While Walt is pulling out his jacket, I start singing (quietly) my favorite hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The lyrics are all about praising God for his creation of the mountains, rivers and creatures. I’m not religious but I do love that song, signing it often to myself on the trail.
We run into a bunch of people on our way back down, including an older gentleman. We stop about 20 feet from him, just as he stops. “Come on,” I say. “We’ll wait. You’re doing all the work. You have the right of way.”
He advances but stops as he gets to us. “You know the courtesy,” he says. “People walking up have the right of way over people coming down. So many people don’t know that.”
“It’s one of my pet peeves,” and it’s the reason why I often say what I said to him today, so that if someone doesn’t know that the uphill hiker has the right of way, it might sink in.
Walt and I both later admitted to each other that we wanted to ask him how old he is; we figure in his 80s. It’s so encouraging to see people who are clearly much older than us out hiking.
And, yes, we ended the day with a stop for soft ice cream, feeling like we’ve earned it.