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 Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15 
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 Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Another Thursday off for both Peter and I found us headed north to get a foliage hike in. We had some idea where we wanted to go, but were still kicking around plans A, B, C and probably others until a fellow forumite (wp_hiker2) put out an open invite for company. We ended up with a planned meeting point and possible second half of the hike together, which worked with time frames, hiking goals and left everyone some options. Peter and I headed up from Portsmouth, stopping at Lake Chocorua at sunrise, and driving the Kanc and Bear Notch Road to see the foliage, which was both peaking and brilliant from the Ossipees to the Notch.

When you catch a sunrise at Lake Chocorua I think you are legally obligated to stop and take a picture or two...or three
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The view from Bear Notch Road wasn't too shabby either
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The morning light and bright foliage made the pics look fake
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We geared up quickly and hit the trail just after 8. The Webster Cliff Trail is the oldest remaining item on my to-do list, probably on there for over 15 years. Not sure why it has taken me so long to get to this trail, and I was ready and rearing to go, but a little ways up the trail Peter's breakfast decided it didn't want to come along for the hike. I wandered about, took a few foliage pics and enjoyed the morning sun on the foliage while that sorted itself out and then we were off again. The trail starts of pretty moderate and has one of the nicest treadways I've seen in a while. The forest floor was sprinkled with leaves and made for a pleasant first couple miles as we circled around to the backside of the butt end of this long ridge that extends to the top of the Northeast.

Nice view from the parking area
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Whoever hand carved the old sign apparently didn't like Franklin Pierce enough to give him his due
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Probably the oldest signage and blaze I have seen on this trail
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Seeing who's entering his territory
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Checking out foliage while Peter and his croissan'wiches battle it out :P
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Some superlative treadway for a mile or two
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And meticulous trailwork
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Does it get any better than hiking in foliage season. I vote NO!
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Rainbow forest
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The climbing began in earnest here, the nice footing traded in for rockier, rooty, eroded stuff. A few peek-a-boo views down the notch but nothing to write home about, so we made good time climbing up into the pine tree zone and then the trail moderated again as we gained the ridge and shortly popped out onto the first of many clifftop viewpoints. Quite a view from up there! Crawford Notch is sprawled out at your feet with the Willey Range front and center. Willard, Avalon, the Bonds in the distance, Carrigain and countless peaks and ridges to the south complete the awesome panorama. Route 302 winds through the bottom of the notch a couple thousand feet directly below and with everything bathed in autumn orange it was quite a sight!

Going up!
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Getting to the good stuff
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Not. Too.Shabby. 8)
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Willy range in autumn decor
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Willey House Site
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Mount Willard
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The valley of Avalanche Brook
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The ridge from there to the top has a number of mid-sized scrambles and a handful of clifftop viewpoints, similar to the first, evolve as you climb. At one bald knob of a summit along the way you get a nice look over the backside of Mt. Washington poking up above the Montalban Ridge and Dry River Wilderness too and the summit, or a false summit at least, always looms ahead but seems to take longer than it should to get to. A brisk breeze kept us from enjoying any one spot too long but they were all fairly similar and we had a set time to meet wp_hiker2 so we didn't linger much anyhow and made our way to the summit where a similar view to what we'd seen for the last hour awaited. It was unfortunately apparent that with our slow start we were probably going to miss the rendezvous time, but without cell service we all had contingency plans, so we had a snack as we gazed straight down the 2000 foot high gully that plummets into the notch from the summit of Webster before moving on.

The ever evolving viewpoints along the way
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The final view on the ridge from the summit. I thought it was actually the worst of the lot
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And this is how you get there and some other scenery along the way
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Looking back at the first clifftop viewpoint of the day
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Looking ahead to the summit
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The train trestle and Mt. Willards cliffs
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Tourists and tour busses
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Looking back. The trail goes from cliff to cliff to open spot etc etc etc
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Willey Range
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Lookout points
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Neighbors to the north
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Next stop, Mount Jackson
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The character of the trail changes dramatically from there to Jackson, I assume due to being connected to an AMC 4K, and the trail follows a long flat ridge through a beautiful mossy green spruce forest. It is however worn down to the bedrock for much of it's length because of the higher traffic volume the 4K's generate. Not unpleasant, just different. Literally like a granite sidewalk much of the way with a good number of bog bridges in the muddy section. We passed our first hiker (and dog) of the day at the Webster/Jackson junction and then climbed a few hundred easy feet to the summit of Jackson, with just one 30 foot high scramble below the very top, at which point the grey jays descended on us. Some people don't like others feeding these guys, but they seem pretty well adapted to human food at this point. You can give it to them and have some fun, or let them scavenge what the masses drop. Either way they're going to get it so I say why not have some fun, and we gave them a feast to fatten up for winter, and with cold temps and biting winds there was no mistaking that winter is just around the corner.

After the summit of Webster the trail pretty much becomes a sidewalk
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No views, but not without it's charm
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While making the final scramble up Jackson we got some visitors
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Cheez It??
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Yes please!
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The sound of the choo-choo chugging up the notch made us hurry to the top hoping for a glimpse, but no luck as the tracks wind through the trees and the trestle is out of sight. We did however arrive just in time to see two or three A-10's exiting the top of the notch. Very cool to see, and I'm sure anyone on Willard, Avalon, Bugle Cliff or Elephants head got an amazing acrobatic show from them. We had but distant views and no zoom lens with me, but I snapped a few pics before wandering the summit ledges and taking in Jackson's magnificent view of it's higher neighbors to the north. We could see the Mizpah Hut, but at this point we were supposed to be arriving, and there was still no service, so we again fueled up before heading that way, saying hi to more grey jays and just the second hiker we'd see that day, who summited while we were having a last look around and searching for the tip top of the peak in the scrubby pines.

The only ten feet of trail I'd previously been on
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The jays rejoined us on the top
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Plenty of color to the south in the Saco River valley
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North of the notch it was pretty much gone
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V'sFTT. Not nearly as good as those along Webster Cliff Trail IMO
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Top of the notch
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One of the A-10 Warthogs winding through it
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Long pine covered ridge of Webster
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Mizpah Hut and wp_hiker2 still a bit away unfortunately
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The trail from there to the hut is a snooze fest. Well traveled and worn down to the bedrock, which had a nice icy coating on parts requiring a slightly slower pace, we hiked along through the spruce and balsam forest. The only things of interest really were some alpine bogs with a brief glimpse of a view and some well constructed bog bridges. A couple spruce grouse decided to hike with us for a bit, not interested in flying away I guess, they just stayed 5-10 feet ahead of us for a few minutes before heading off into the woods. We passed two more hikers right at the next trail junction for the hut. totaling 4 for the day, all of which were at trail junctions. We arrived at the hut after 1:30, well late of our planned meeting time unfortunately and as expected no wp_hiker2 in sight. Just the croo prepping for winter and a couple from Seattle who had been on a grand tour of New England for foliage season and decided to hike Pierce for the day. We chatted for a bit and had an extended snack break. Peter made himself a hot cup of tea (if you're at a hut why not have a warm treat?) before heading off down the Mt. Clinton Trail into the wild.

Alpine bogs, complete with bog bridges, provide the only views for the mile and a half between Jackson and the Mizpah Hut
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View of Jackson's summit behind us
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Spruce grouse out for a hike too
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Enough of this already!
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Salvation
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Maybe not salvation, but a hot cup of tea at least
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The trail starts off passing the Nauman tent site, where the outhouse is perched directly above the start of the steady flow of water than flows down the trail. Wonder if it's safe to drink it? It enters the wilderness proper, passes through a small blow down patch and quickly becomes an eroded, wet, blow down covered, brushed in, hard to follow mess! I have hiked some trails that are in rough shape or hard to follow before, herd paths, quasi-bushwhacks like Reddington in Maine, "unmaintained" paths in the Adirondacks, but once you leave the stream bed that is the upper part of this one it becomes the hardest section of trail to navigate and walk I've ever been on. Glorified bushwhack is a good description for this one and evidence of the Irene destruction is clear, although I doubt it was ever a well traveled or maintained path. Maybe without the leaf drop covering the forest it wouldn't be quite so difficult, but it took a careful eye to stay on course. Even the correct course involves plenty of duck-unders, scrambling up and down steam beds, mucking along through mud and feeling out your way through hobble bush. The numerous water crossings were all flagged on both sides with orange tape. Doesn't seem to conform with wilderness regulations so I wonder if it's official or not? The easier parts to follow were also flagged, but it seemed the hardest to see were not and left at least a little exploration to you. Also of note was a nice little campsite, signed and all, about halfway up/down the trail. I can't imagine it gets much use but could make a nice spot to spend the night if you were doing a big loop around the wilderness area.

Into the wild...
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...and wild it was!
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Flagging tape on the half dozen or so crossings
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Serious storm damage
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Yes, this is the trail
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If you were so inclined this would probably be a very quiet spot
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Walking under a canopy of gold down lower
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After about 2 miles of that the little valley we descended down neared the Dry River. Following a bit back from the shore at first we poked our heads out on the undercut riverbank a few times to take in the views up and down the valley. The riverbed is large even though the water itself wasn't flowing heavily, but this one has a reputation for swelling up quickly and violently, and evidence of that was clear. A few artifacts from the logging days when the Saco River Railroad chugged up the valley was visible in a few spots along the banks, including a big rusty pipe and some old stove pieces (I think). The we dropped down to the riverbed itself, following the edge for a bit, finding a small cairn here and there to guide us. Probably also against wilderness regs, but if you're going to use flagging tape why not a couple piles of rocks I guess. We followed the shore to the crossing of the Dry River, which thankfully was running relatively dry and hopped across to the junction with the Dry River Trail itself. In spite of the condition of this trail I thought it as a blast. If I am going to enter an officially designated wilderness this is what it should be if you ask me. No blazes, some difficult but manageable route finding and rougher going than most trails. It is, after all, supposed to be wild!

Color and artifacts along the Dry River
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Following the river bed, I mean trail
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Crossing was actually pretty easy today
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Dry River
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You might think a trail heading down a river valley would be relatively flat and slightly downhill most of the way. You would be wrong! Numerous PUDs along the riverbanks made it a little more of a chore than we were expecting, probably adding another 500 feet of gain to the route. Wherever the previous section of trail was washed away a new route would climb the seemingly muddiest and steepest bank it could find and parallel the river for a bit before descending equally as steep and muddily to the edge for a bit. That repeated itself probably half a dozen times before finally coming to the second crossing of the river at the suspension bridge. From there there was one more up of about 100 feet before you could hit cruise control and mindlessly walk out of the wilderness. We put on headlamps at the wilderness boundary and then shortly took a right onto the Saco River Trail (which should be called NO Saco River Trail) which we followed for a mile and a half in the dark before rejoining the Webster Cliff trail 1/10 of a mile from 302.

Joining the Dry River Trail to exit the valley
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Nice views and color along the river on the way
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Must have been incredibly impressive during Irene
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Unique suspension bridge. Apparently they are allowed to stay once someone actually and unfortunately drowns there
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Last bits of color as daylight fades away
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Exiting the wilderness at dusk
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A rather boring trail back to the car
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Just us and the stars back at the trail head at 8PM
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I thought this hike was pretty awesome to say the least. Scrambly, rugged, view filled fun to begin with, some well trodden cruise control trails in the middle like you find on most 4K's, then the total opposite for 5 miles of untamed wilderness and it even did us the favor of getting dark so we could hike out on the Saco River trail under the stars, which I have a feeling made it more interesting and less tedious than it probably is in the daytime. Add in the peaking foliage and everything was perfect except the meeting with wp_hiker2. Totals for this one were 13.7 miles and 4500 feet of elevation gain if you care. Not huge, but it took longer than usual/expected with the rough terrain and route finding of the Webster Cliff and Mt. Clinton trails and felt bigger afterwards, probably because of the unusual 1000 feet or so of elevation gain on the tail end of the trip when you usually just go down. Bonus that out of 13.7 miles 13.699 miles of it was new to me, only having set foot on the summit of Jackson a few times before using the other trail. So that's a wrap on my first trip in the Dry River Valley, but I liked it a lot, so I'm sure it won't be my last.


Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:45 pm
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Beautiful! We were up Webster Cliff trail a couple years ago in the spring. Bare ground in the hardwood area, traction needed where the evergreens grow. I thought it took a while getting up, too, but I thought it was just a short middle age thing :D . Congrats on getting all the pretty colors!


Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:55 pm
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
This about sums up the hike.
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It had everything a hike should/could have. Scenic drive up, pleasant forest, foliage, views, scrambles, ridge walks, Obscure trails with at sometimes challenging footpathing. Really just a complete hike front to back. The Webster cliff trail is up there on the list of trails to hike before you die. Precipitous drops to the side with ever widening views. The price to pay to get these vistas isn't that bad, a small section of really steep stuff with otherwise relatively easy grades. The cool temps made for some awesome hiking but broke the ice in terms of the weather. The wind now has a sting.

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Obviously Crawford Notch has Grey Jays. They are happy to trade spicy peanuts for pics.

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Jackson is one of my personal favorite 4ks. The trails going up to it have some fun scrambles. No 360 views from any one spot but if you crawl around you can find some gems. The vies of the Presis from here are pretty awesome and makes them look more grand than they are. (and the actual high point, which now has a small cairn :wink: )

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The Trip to Mizpah is as Derek mentioned. Snoozefest interspersed with bogs that have cool views. a small PUD in the second half. These bogs are kinda deep though. I almost lost a sneaker (yes a sneaker) the last time i was up here. I have labeled it Misery Mire after a Zelda game. Auto Pilot does go on for a bit here.

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The Mt. Clinton Trail. Now this was a fricken cool trail. It hasn't been used much in years since Irene past the Dry River cutoff. This give it a majestic feel overall. I was inspired by a VFTT post a month or so ago by the difficulty. Our trail and loop options just happened to line up and be a viable opportunity. I have never really been into the Dry River Wilderness other than a quick jaunt along the Montalban ridge to Isolation. Needless to say I was really excited for the second half of the hike. Welcome to the wilderness, where trails are unlike other regions.

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In the pines this trail was easy to follow. There was really only one way to go. Just an ancient feeling forest to walk through. Down low however. That was a different story. One river crossing i got to the other side looked back at Derek and Shrugged my shoulders. We looked up and down the bank and just went forward over the original crossing and found the way. It's not that bad out here in the sense that you would just follow the river/drainage out to the Dry River and find that trail if worse came to worse. There was a point i followed the "Flow" of the trail and ended up in a murky mire. The trail actually went lower towards the river. I could see the hunters tape near the river bed. The bottom of the trail was a mess. Perhaps without the fallen leave this would have been more navigable. We were more or less following hunters tape.

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typical crossing
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blurring the line of what a trail is

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gorgeous unused trail

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Doesn't take much to make your hiking partner to disappear

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I laughed when I saw this.

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When you reach the Dry river, the Forest opens up and you can see the expansive valley and river bed. The river now was a trickle compared to the beast it can be. I felt VERY small here. Imagining the whole bed filled with raging water made me feel bad for the hiker to come down all this way and be forced to either whack to where the bridge comes back over or go back up the mountain. It would be a nasty whack with the steep walls along side the river.I wouldn't use this trail as a bail out route unless you knew the route and certainly if you haven't been down this way at night. This is what the wilderness areas were made for. Having said that. I would like to see more people use these areas. They are unique and if we don't use trails like this they will be lost. Quite the adventure. Quite awesome.

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A lot of what is here is what has been see already. If you care to trudge here it is

https://picasaweb.google.com/118050443509316726953/20151015WebsterJacksonDryRiver?authuser=0&feat=directlink


Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:56 pm
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Incredible hike and TR! The color are beautiful even with my red color deficiency, they look awesome. Great shots of the Grey Jays too. We have yet to hike the Webster Cliff Trail, but it's on the to-do, this year it appears the NE67 jumped up higher on the list. :roll: After looking at your pics you guys posted, I'm thinking maybe saving it now for next fall.

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Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:53 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Nice looking loop. I love Webster Cliff Tr., done that one a couple times. And one of these days I'm going to finally make to Mizpah Spring Hut. I Don't know if you've ever been on the High Water Tr. in the Wild River Wilderness but it's the same thing slabbing, PUDS. Very annoying trail. But still want to get down into the Dry River someday.

Great pix as always.

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Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:54 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Yeah too bad about the missed rendezvous, would have been nice to at least have gotten the opportunity for a Hike-NH photo op, out-of-state edition :) Sounds like you guys made out far better on the hike out though, than had you gone to Crawford or Tremont or wherever for Part II.

I made it to the hut by noon and when I didn't see you guys, I asked the caretaker if anyone had come through. He told me no one had been by all day, so I decided to head up Pierce and figured we'd meet on the way down. Was a little surprised to find a couple of ladders on this side, but wasn't all that bad. With time running short though (had a long drive back), I decided to just hang out at the intermediate viewpoint rather than summit. Stopped by the hut again at 1:10 and still no GG so I headed back. Turns out we only missed each other by 20 minutes :(

Some photos from the short missed section:

Fun ledge to climb up
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View into the Dry River Valley
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I was really here!
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Following a chilly start in the AM, the weather could not have been more perfect on the way down. Light wind, blue sky, temperature in the upper 50's. Like you wrote above, doesn't get any better than this.

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Like that couple you met, my trip was more about seeing the foliage so any hikes I could do were just icing on the cake. For my troubles I received a voucher from GG for a hike of my choice the next time I'm up here ... Hale here we come! ... just kidding hehe. But I think I'll pass on the Croissan'wiches :(

One thing that was glossed over a little is how your friend recovered, not just to continue the hike but to complete a rigorous 12 hour, 4,000 ft+ extravaganza. You do realize that for many people that would have been the end of their day right then and there (or at the very least, a much abridged version)? I'm assuming some Gatorade or the like was helpful. So kudos to Gibba for, ummm, gutting this one out (sorry ....)


Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:31 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Well. I made the mistake of topping off my stomach with the rest of my sausage egg and cheese with a croissant. And iced coffee. Sometimes it happens when I start hauling down a trail. My sinuses get kinda clogged and my mouth gets full of phlegm. End up spitting out that and laughing up even more. Then whatever was in my stomach comes out. It's not like I was sick. Rinsex out my mouth and hit the trail. I just ended up being pretty hungry in about an hour. I waited to eat till I got to Webster. Really I just need to not eat anything big before the initial push up a mountain.

I was kinda disappointed we all didn't get to meet up. I know you had to get going. There is always next time! Just not hale. :wink:


Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:44 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
oh ok, thanks for clarifying.


Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:11 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Yeah that voucher probably isn't worth much to most people. But we can do Hale, as long as it's not just Hale. Fire Wardens up, Lend-A-Hand, Zeacliff down into the notch and out Ethan Pond. Perfect with a car spot! :D After all, we did Jackson here which I find pretty pedestrian, and actually the low point of that loop, but surround it with greatness and it's a nice waypoint. Shocked that it's one of Gibbas favorites actually.


Sun Oct 18, 2015 1:30 pm
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
That looks like a great hike, and those are some fantastic pictures. I was tempted to do the Mt Clinton Trail last week when I was in the Dry River area, but I didn't have time. I like those lightly traveled trails too; will have to get back there some time.

With the info that Walrus provided in a comment on my trip report, I did some more research on the note that was attached to the Dry River Wilderness Report sign. "Geoff B" was Geoff Bowdoin, from Wayland, MA. He was 17 years old when he drowned in the Dry River in October 1971. He would have graduated from Wayland High School in 1972. In the "it's a small world" department, my wife is a 1975 graduate of Wayland High School, although she doesn't remember the Bowdoin family.


Sun Oct 18, 2015 10:11 pm
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Wow, long one! I like that you guys were able to explore the dry river wilderness area, it would have made me anxious, given it was so late in the day and route finding probably could be challenging at times. You sure know how to make a hike into an adventure that's for sure. I like the pics of the road winding around the mtn at Crawford notch. Looks like the perfect weather day. It's been a fanatic fall, that's for sure!


Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:07 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Regarding the anxiousness on the mt. Clinton trail. We for sure wanted to be off that one by dark. It was much easier having to two of us. We just had some fun in the woods. If I was by myself it would have been a different story. I would have been uneasy given how quickly darkness rolls up in a valley.

Regarding adventure. That's what this is all about. Checking out new places. Getting new experiences. All but 2.x miles of this was new to me as well. As Joey says. This place was wild!


Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:15 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
hophiker wrote:
I like those lightly traveled trails too; will have to get back there some time.

With the info that Walrus provided in a comment on my trip report, I did some more research...


That campsite is right up your alley if you like lightly travelled and quiet trails. Doubt you'd arrive to a cord of pre cut wood and company on this one. :D I also tried looking that incident up when you posted and just found the name on the MWOBS list of deaths and seemed like some archived newspaper article, but you had to pay to see it.

hiking lady wrote:
Wow, long one! I like that you guys were able to explore the dry river wilderness area, it would have made me anxious, given it was so late in the day and route finding probably could be challenging at times. You sure know how to make a hike into an adventure that's for sure.


Life is too short to waste it on boring hikes! :D I would have been a little nervous tackling this one solo near dark too knowing the state of the trails ahead of time. With two people and headlamps no worries. On the few occasions the trail wasn't obvious enough we just spread out within earshot until someone found it. If worse came to worse you could just follow the drainage right out. We're used to exiting after sunset and Peters headlamp is like a high powered spotlight. No joke. The lumens on that on must be crazy. Either that or my once top of the line one is wearing out.


Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:14 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
This is more or less a loop I've been eyeing for a while. You just pushed the Webster Cliff Trail even higher on my to-do list. And to add in the Mt. Clinton Trail at the end, well, good on ya. Chris Dailey and I went up that over Labor Day Weekend and it wasn't too bad going up, but I could see that going down would be terrible in a few places. I know exactly where that muddy quagmire you guys found was, haha.

The foliage looks great! I was up in the Sawyer River Valley Saturday and it was spectacular in there as well.

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Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:59 am
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 Re: Webster Cliff & Presi-Dry River Wilderness - 10/15/15
Awesome report! Wonderful pictures as always, and it's good to know that taking pictures of leaves on the ground is universal. The birch bark note. Wow. Good reminder of what to keep in mind when out in the woods. That it's not a walk in the park, and it can be dangerous.


Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:56 am
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