John, Bruce and I did this long traverse almost exactly one year ago (7/13/2013) - a grueling 15-hour hike over almost 18miles. This week we decided to hike up Adams, the second mountain on the traverse, as a filler hike while I wait for a good window to do my last 4000 footer (Mnt Isolation) with my sons.
We met at Einstein Bros. for breakfast as usual and were at the trailhead by 9:20am for the start. The hike John had chosen (the Airline trail) is 9 miles long and goes to a height of 5793 ft.
As we were making our way up, I was holding forth in a discussion about how SNMP lost favor in the world of device configuration when a couple emerged over a large rock on their way down. The man had a big smile on his face and said, boldly in Afrikaans: "Ek kan nie Afrikaans praat nie" (I can't speak Afrikaans) followed immediately by "Gaan kak in die mielies" (Go and shit in the corn).
We both laughed at this bizarre exchange - someone had clearly taught him a quaint insult in Afrikaans when he visited there some years back and he took great relish in telling me where to take my ablutions.
After the somewhat unrelenting ascent through the forest we arrived at the sign that warns of alpine conditions. A friendly "STOP" greets you as you reach this height.
This area has the worst weather in America
Many have died here from exposure even in the
Summer. Turn back NOW if the weather is bad
Not long after this we reached the ridge that is an attraction of the Airline trail. The trees become shorter and eventually you are hiking over a boulder strewn ridge with beautiful vistas in both directions.
Two French-speaking girls were ascending at around the same speed we were - and we were making fairly heavy going of it, though Bruce was characteristically blessed with a lot more energy and speed than either John or I could muster.
The Airline trail follows a ridge that offers some spectacular views...
including Madison and the Madison hut where we had had morning coffee when we did the traverse a year ago.
Once we reached the ridge the hiking was fairly even until a junction which leads up the boulder field that makes up Mnt Adams itself.
The going up this slope was really tough. I commented that the boulder field on Adams and Madison looked like the tops of the mountains had been bombed - a variety of boulder sizes strewn all over the slopes with very little even ground to walk on. The going was also steep and we needed to stop a few times for breathers before summiting at around 1pm - a good hour later than we had originally expected.
At the summit we met two other people who recognized my accent which has to be a record (I don't think this has happened 3 times in a day to me since I moved to America - let alone on any mountain).
A couple who had visited South Africa and had been able to hike the Otter Trail within a few weeks of arriving there (who gets on the Otter Trail without booking a year in advance?) and a young hiker who knew people from Port Elizabeth.
The day was beautiful and we had a clear view of Mnt Washington with the road that cars drive up on the far left of the picture.
We decided to visit the Madison hut on the way down - a 0.2mile extension to the hike - for some of their lemonade ...
and ended the hike fairly exhausted at 5pm - having taken 8 hours to do what the books suggests is a 6.5 hour hike.
My legs and feet were in fair agony as we approached the end and even though there were some enticing signs for short detours to see waterfalls I voted to keep on the trail instead so that we could enjoy the bliss of taking off our boots and sitting in the car for the ride home.