Trip Reports

Half-Nelson and Alpine Garden to Boott – 06/16/2009

  • June 16, 2009

I love how beautiful it is hiking after a long period of rain! The air crackles with the new sun reacting to the rainwater on the forest canopy – you can smell the heat and water in the air. It is the type of atmosphere that is hard to describe, but magical and impossible to forget.

On Tuesday, Mark and I finally had the opportunity to check out the Alpine Garden in season. The day started crisp and fresh 9AM at the Pinkham Notch Lodge with the clouds still present but the sun breaking out. After checking the trail condition posters, we headed out for a nice loop via the Boott Spur and Nelson Crag trails. This was one of those perfect days where it was not too hot, not too cold, and just enough breeze to keep the bugs away! The sky was crisp and fresh, with just enough clouds remaining later in the day to keep it interesting.

The Boott Spur trail was nicely cleared though a bit muddy and slippery from the previous day’s rain. This is a great trail with several nice inlooks and outlooks at various knolls within the woods. After a brief incident where the mud attempted to devour one of Mark’s hiking boots and end our trip early, we were breaking out into the clear at Harvard Rock, where Tuckerman Ravine was on grand display.

Amidst the multitudes of waterfalls we could see pouring over the headwall, a few intrepid skiers were making their final runs of the season. This is a great spot for a break, and we spent some time taking photos of the view, as well as of the Diapensia that was growing in plentitude around the rock.

After a while, we were back on the trail, breaking out above treeline to a grand display of the hanging cliffs above the south wall of Tuckerman Ravine. Along the trail were clusters of Diapensia, Lapland Rosebay and Alpine Azalea in bloom.

The trail follows a nice grade up the edge of the ravine, with exceptional views down to Pinkham Notch, over the edge to Hermit Lake, and up to Washington. We passed through Split Rock, peered down over the Hanging Cliffs, and soon were at the summit of Boott Spur.

There was a loud sound of engines, and a helicopter swept up out of Tuckermans, circling Washington’s summit cone and coming very close to where we were standing. This was the SAR team searching for the missing Canadian hiker, though we didn’t know it at the time. Throughout the rest of the day, the chopper was a constant hiking partner as they scoured the sides of the mountain, at times coming extremely close to us.

After a brief jaunt around the Bigelow Lawn, we took the Tuckerman cutoff over to the junction and descended towards the top of the headwall. Large open snowfields rimmed with bright green False Hellebore made for a magical landscape.

The Tuckerman ravine trail was closed, but we went down a bit to look down into the depths, not getting too close.

Back again on the Alpine Garden Trail, a side path allowed a glimpse of the inside of the bowl. Grand flowing waterfalls poured over the rim, and there were signs of a rockslide on the snow on the bottom. Across the ravine, the cliffs of Boott Spur stood out majestically in the sunlight.

The Alpine Garden trail was a beautiful stroll across a mostly flat grade surrounded by wildflowers and grasses, small runoff streams, and majestic spires of rock in every direction. The Carter range soared across the western horizon, Nelson Crag rose to the north, Washington to the west and Boott Spur to the south. Having never been to the Alpine Garden in season before, I couldn’t tell if it was at, before, or after peak. There was evidence of blooms that had passed on already, and still others just budding. But certainly there were plenty of Lapland Rosebay, Diapensia, Alpine Bluets, Mountain Avens and Alpine Azalea in a multitude of clusters all along the path.

We took a break again at Nelson Crag to enjoy the sights of the Northern Presidentials across the Great Gulf. Lapland Rosebay seemed to be growing all over the place on the top of the Crag.

The decent along Chandler Ridge was very steep, involving some careful rock scrambling. Just before meeting treeline, we had some great sunset views from the crest of the ridge over Pinkham Notch from a perch on top of a large quartz outcrop. Got buzzed by the chopper again for the last time, too.

There are some interesting formations on some of the rocks here that I was curious about – perhaps someone can shed some light on these:

Below treeline, the Nelson Crag trail remained very steep as another thousand feet was knocked off in a very short time. We broke out the headlamps on the Old Jackson Road and got back to Pinkham base about 10 PM.

What an amazing trip with incredible weather and wonderful views! This sort of hike is one that makes me remember why I enjoy hiking so much!