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It’s like the aligning of the planets, or a solar eclipse.  The meeting of 5 of 6 of the “hiking crew”, our group of friends who hike together but never really all hike together due to schedules.   Over the years we have all done tons of hikes together but rarely are we all in the same place at the same time.  Only missing from our group (me, Marty, Mike, Larry and Bobby) was Paul.  It shaped up to be a great day.

We met in groups, Bobby, Marty and I met at the park and ride to meet Larry and Mike at the height of land on Dolly Copp road for a car spot.  We then headed to Dolly Copp campground for the trailhead of the Daniel Webster trail.  One of the cool aspects of this hike was that it covered 90% of trails none of us had done. 

We headed into the woods and the start of the Daniel Webster trail was actually very nice soft trail with gentle grades heading up.  We could tell immediately it was hot AND humid and sweat was pouring off like crazy.  Eventually, the trail got steeper but still wasn’t bad by Northern Presidential terms.  Bobby was struggling a little due to medication issues; it helped us to keep a reasonable pace on the day.  I did feel badly he struggled but he put in a big effort on a hard day.

Finally, the trail started to wrap around the mountain and get very steep.  Blueberries started to appear at this point so we stopped often to grab some of them.  I still was enjoying the trail, although steep.  There were occasional views and the footing was still decent.  We finally reached the sign notifying us we were going above treeline; but we knew that already since we could see the trees getting shorter and the trail started to become a jumble of huge boulders.  Progress slowed as we moved over the boulders but we finally came out into the open and stopped to soak in the breeze and look over the views to the east.  There were some low clouds but we could see across route 16 and north.  The Daniel Webster above treeline starts to slab north and up towards Mt. Madison.  Its starts with more jumbled large boulders but then becomes the usual piles of talus rocks you need to maneuver over.  Slow for me, but not hard.  We stopped midway to the ridge on a large rock to take a break and eat.

We cooled off nicely and then headed back along the talus bearing north to the ridge.  It wasn’t long before we hopped onto the ridge and the junction of the Osgood trail.  We could finally see the Presidential Range, with excellent views of our target Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams right after it.  We looked around for a bit and continued the rock hopping up each of the little bumps as we progressed.  Our favorite phrase became, “onto the final push!).  Finally, it was the final push and we hopped onto the summit.  After about 4100 feet of climbing and 4+ miles it was nice to get to the summit and relax.  I was dripping and it was nice to get a break and cool off.

We had the summit to ourselves.  For 5 minutes.  It was a very clear day and you knew the woods were full of people and shortly after there were 15 people there and passing thru.  The clouds rolled in, but we were spared after they moved on.  We spent 30 minutes eating and joking before being ready to head out.

We dropped down the Watson Path, which was more slow moving over jumbled rocks and then eventually hit the junction of the Pine Link trail which would be our way down.  Before we dropped into the woods, there were great views on the plateau of the north and east.  We dropped below treeline (which is always a disappointment) and there were huge rocks to climb down.  Eventually, it changed to a steep drop over small rocks. When the trail joined in with the Howker Ridge Trail, there were some small climbs with a hop onto a nice ledge where we sat for a while to enjoy our final views of the day.  Eventually the Pine Link trail separated and we headed into the ravine.  Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of small up and downs.  The trail started to run through some wet areas- everybody had either a fall on wet rocks, moss and me on a bog bridge.  Laughs were everywhere.

Finally, after knocking off some of the steep drop, the trail became more moderate and even had a nice dirt bed for a smooth finish.  The round trip took around 8 hours, with a lot of down time resting, relaxing and socializing.  Daniel Webster and Pine Link were tough trails, but I found that I never had any difficulty.  The training has come in handy.

Amazing day on the trails on all fronts, friends, views, hard work.  It should always be like that.

There were limited pictures since I forgot to charge the battery.

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