I hiked the Jewell Trail this week, to the summit of Mt. Clay, that lies between Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson.
As I started my hike, I soon passed over the footbridge that crosses Clay Brook, stopping for a long drink of mountain water, simply cold and deliciously sweet. I meandered through the conifers, smelling their sweet pine scent, and enjoying the cool mist amongst the morning trees. I listened to the red squirrels voicing their alarm of my approach, with one pausing at eye level just a few feet away, to look me straight in the eye and “cheeeet cheeet cheeet” his warning to me.
Soon after, I broke above the tree line, with fine views of the Southern Presidential’s and the Lake of Clouds Hut anchoring it’s base, to the right of me. The next mile to the top of Mt. Clay is the typical jagged rocks of the higher peaks, particularly on the northern summits. Balancing on each angled piece of granite, following cairns as the only guide to the trail, I finally approached the Gulfside Trail that spans the northern peaks. From there it is a short scramble, straight up over the rocks to the summit of Mt Clay.
Cresting the ridge, the Great Gulf Wilderness finally opens in front of you, truly Great’, with an ear to ear vista! Mt Washington is clearly visible to the right, with the vast Gulf in front, and the northern peaks of Mt. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison in the distance to the left. The temperature was mild, and there was a very light breeze on top. I sat there taking in the beauty of the day, had my lunch, and followed up with a nap in the morning sun, feeling the warmth of the granite against my back.
What a difference a week makes, as I saw only one person the entire way up, and only a dozen or so people on the way down. I soon travelled back down the way I had come, meeting a couple friendly Canadian Jays along the way. They followed me through the trees, from branch to branch, looking for a hungry handout, before giving up and retreating back into the dense forest. Arriving back at my car, I took off my Limmer boots, replaced them with my sandals, and pulled an ice cold beer reward from the cooler….aaaah, a day well spent:)