Early Summer on Mount Pierce

July 13, 2016

Mount Pierce holds a special place in my heart. You’d think that after two summers of hauling supplies up the Crawford Path as a Hut Girl, I’d be perfectly happy to never see the trail again. But you’d be wrong!  Here I was riding the Hiker Shuttle to the Highland Center last Wednesday, on a particularly gorgeous day off.

Mount Pierce
Samantha DeFlitch(The filter is “Perpetua,” in case you were wondering.)

I prefer to pick up the Crawford Path from the Highland Center. There’s water and pretty spiffy bathrooms at the Train Depot. Also, the lupine is still in bloom, so I took approximately 137 pictures before I even starting climbing. This is comparable to the amount of dog pictures on my phone, just to give you an idea of my love for lupine. If you’re not quite as fanatical about your valley flowers, you can also pick up the trail from Mount Clinton Road – it’s a matter of individual preference. Either way, you’re ascending to 4311 feet.

Samantha DeFlitchThis photo received a ton of Instagram likes. Give the people their Lupine.

Personally, I’ve always found the base of the trail to Gibbs Falls the most difficult section of the hike. I think it’s a mental thing, a strange liminal space between the shuttle ride and the trail running stride. Side note, head over to Gibbs Falls on your way up. I didn’t so I don’t have any pictures, but I’m explicitly ordering you to visit Gibbs Falls. Do as I say, not as I do. Along that same line of thought, Clif Bars are not a viable substitute for lunch, even if it’s the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut variety. Trust me on this one.

Moving on.

The trail from Gibbs Falls to the Mizpah Cutoff – a solid 1.5 miles – was wet and muddy, as expected. This experience might be more enjoyable if your shoes don’t have the tread of a bald tire, like mine. Mine are only trail runners in the academic sense; they are shaped like shoes, they once had excellent tread. But there are plenty of large rocks along the trail, providing for the perfect rock-hopping terrain around the runoff. Unless you enjoy getting your feet wet, in which case, wade on through. Trust me, though, the wet trails will pay off later. Just wait for it. I promise.

Muddy trail
Samantha DeFlitchPeople were giving me strange glances for the picture. I told them I was a “mud composition scientist” doing research.

On my way up, I ran into several Mountain Classroom groups, four Trail Crew members, and my former huts boss. It was a wonderful cross-section of AMC life. Also, I’d like to take this time to praise the Crawford Path. It’s a seriously underrated trail. There are no views, but the trail itself winds from the valley, past several small waterfalls, and climbs moderately into the subalpine zone. It’s a beautiful path, and you’ll literally be hiking on history – the Crawford Path is the oldest continually used trail in America.

I was once asked for my favorite trail in the Whites. I half-jokingly answered “the Mizpah Cutoff.” Hear me out: the trail almost immediately flattens out after the junction with the Crawford Path. This is where the wet trails from earlier start to pay off. Bog bridges cut through sections of the Boreal forest lined with sphagnum moss, creating a strange, but beautiful, greenish glow around the trail. Think Takodana or the Shire. It’s a lovely and underrated little jaunt through the subalpine zone, and I’d suggest really taking the time to enjoy the surroundings as you meander to the hut.

Sphagnum moss
Samantha DeFlitch“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?”

In the previous vein of “not following my own advice,” I hurried the rest of the way to the hut. In all fairness, I had been informed that there was some vegan chocolate cake waiting for me. Sphagnum moss isn’t quite as remarkable after that discovery.

As always, Mizpah provided a beautiful respite before the final slog up Mount Pierce. Shoutout to the lovely croo for their wide variety of baked goods and for keeping a happy hut. Apologies for the lack of interior pictures – I was busy scarfing down vegan chocolate cake. Sue me.

Samantha DeFlitchThere was cake inside. And a spiffy renovation. Long live Mizpah.

There’s not much to say about the first push from Mizpah to Pierce other than “less complaining, more hiking.” It’s a very steep, at times slightly scrambly climb up, but it only lasts for about ten to twenty minutes, depending on your hiking speed.

Webster Cliff
Samantha DeFlitch And she’s climbing the stairway to heaven. Or to a false summit on Mount Pierce.

Reaching the summit of Pierce is always an incredible experience. Save two false summits, the entirety of the hike up is within the trees. The sudden break out of treeline and sweeping views across the Southern Presidentials never fails to impress. And, thanks to some lingering winds from the weekend, the black fly population was zero. I enjoyed my Clif Bar lunch in relative peace.

Mount Pierce
Samantha DeFlitchThe lonely mountain. Pierce, not Erebor. Seriously, there was no one else up there.

My original plan was to head across the ridge, but planning was never my strong suit, and I ended up running back down the Crawford Path to meet up with some friends in the valley. I’d suggest dropping slightly off the summit of Pierce heading toward Eisenhower, and picking up the Crawford Path from there, instead of taking Webster Cliff back down the steep descent.

Samantha DeFlitchThe White Tree of Gondor, the Tree of Kings.

In conclusion stay on the trail, get your feet muddy (your inner child will appreciate it), and bring something better than Clif Bars. And enjoy the views!

As always you can check AMC conditions for the latest report and/or call us here at Pinkham to see what we’re seeing out our windows and for the best trail advice we can give you!
We are available by phone at (603)466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM or by email at amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org. To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.

Crawford Path
Samantha DeFlitch Until next time, Crawford Path.

Winter is Coming,


Backcountry Information Specialist

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Joyce Scott

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