John, Angelika and their son Parker (affectionately known as Guido) and I took a late start by normal standards - choosing to meet at Einstein Bros in Condord at 7am and making it to the trailhead for a 10:30am start.
There are several options for these three peaks, the most common of which is a there-and-back starting in either direction (10mi) but for this outing John came prepared with a rather exotic looking mountain bike with shock absorbers scattered around the frame. We drove up the road near the Crawford Notch AMC Highland Center where we expected to exit and left the bike there.
The route we chose started behind Willey house - a historic site famous for a tragedy when the entire Willey family of 9 left their house during a landslide in 1826 and perished while the house was left untouched. The story was the inspiration behind Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Ambitious Guest", written in 1835.
Of course we were unaware of these details as we made our way up the trail towards the Willey Range trail and the top of Mnt Willey.
The start of the hike took us past some pretty scenes of streams that were running fairly well.
From the trail junction with the Ethan Pond trail and then the Willey Range Trail the going got very steep and included some sections with steep ladders and a few high steps to get over on the way up. My strategy in these steep sections is usually to set the pace so that I am breathless, but not in distress and the pace that Angelika set was just right from that perspective.
Guido is an enthusiastic raconteur and, since Bruce was not hiking with us, I was party to a range of conversations with him over the entire hike. Ordinarily Bruce takes the lions' share of the conversation with Guido when we hike together (though I'd claim that we share the load equally) but on this hike it was all me. We played games (Mountain Island, Mountain Island V2 and V3) and I was regaled with stories of the Di-Gata Defenders including a blow by blow account of the first episode and a great deal of the important background information. Fortunately I had never heard of Di-Gata before. As the day wore on (and we grew tired of Mountain Island V3) I got a fairly full account of the prequel and first two installments of the Narnia stories.
I made sure to get Guido to promise me that we would fill Bruce in on all of these stories the next time we go out hiking with him. I think it is only fair that he plays the three versions of Mountain Island so that he can catch up with us.
The last mile to the top of Willey was a tough hike. The guide describes it as "steep and rough in places".
We stopped for lunch at the overlook just before the Willey summit and were treated with a beautiful view of the valley below.
Once on the ridge, the walking was fairly easy - there is about a 300ft elevation change between Willey and Field and Tom is also a fairly easy hike.
The cairns at the top of each of these mountains are somewhat unassuming and although the hike down was fairly uncomfortable in the feet (the total hike was around 8.5 because we avoided a short there and back section with the bicycle).
Close to the end of the hike we came across some some attractive water scenery again.
.. and the welcome field at the Crawford Notch parking lot where we had a short wait while John took the mountain bike down the long downhill ride to the car.
We wrapped it up with a great meal at the Common Man in Lincoln and Guido and I agreed to snore up a storm in the back of the car on the way back to where we'd left my car in Concord.