Thu, May 24, 2018
by Bill Newman
Hike Length: overnight
Trails: Crawford Path from Mizpah Cut-off/Nauman Tent Sites-Mizpah Sprint Hut
Date: July 21-22, 2004
With my hiking partner still rehabing a knee and my new pair of REI GoreTex II's just dying to hit the trail, I needed to find a decent peak that I could put on the resume while hiking with my 11 year old daughter, Brianna, and breaking in the boots. I have never packed on or near the Southern Presidentials, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to bag a quick 4000 footer. Our plan was to get to the Nauman Tent sites and decide from there if we'd hit Pierce or Jackson.
We parked in the Crawford parking lot ($3 per night). Plenty of room, but it was on Wednesday. There is a quarter mile hike from here to the actual trail head, so the total trip to the Nauman tent site is 3 miles. The trail is a very moderate trail. Nothing difficult, but a decent couple of hours work. I'd recommend filling the water bottles at the bridge or near Gibbs Falls (neat little falls, climb down to get an even better view!). There is very little water until the Mizapah Spring Hut. The entire trail is up hill, but a fairly low grade. Despite 2 weeks of rain, the trail was still in very good shape. It's a fairly well traveled trail (the most traveled trail in America or something like that) and very little problems navigating around the mud puddles, however, there a no views to be had on the trail to get a sense of the goal or to see the surrounding area.
Once at the Hut the backpackers and day hikers staying at the hut are segregated. We checked in with the caretaker and were assigned a tent platform. Keep in mind that there is a fee for the platforms...$8 per person, not per platform. There is a compost bathroom, bear boxes, and a communal area for dishwashing, but there are only 5-6 platforms that are supposed to be first come-first served basis, so I can see them filling quickly during the weekend. All sites were filled and this was Wednesday. After setting up camp, we decided to hit Pierce instead of Jackson. Pierce was just under a mile and Jackson was shy of 2, but because this was Brianna's first time with a pack, she was a little tired and sore so we decided on the closest. With the prospect of bagging her first 4000 footer and with the pack safe at the tent sites instead of on her back, we blasted up the 1 mile trail. This was a little more difficult trail to the summit of Pierce, but without packs, it was fairly easy.
We happen to time this trip right because we had incredible views of Washington (clear on the summit!), Madison, and Adams, plus Jackson behind us, and just great views all around Crawford Notch. We were told that this was the first time in 2 weeks that the summits weren't fogged in, so it was pretty decent that her first 4K was on a clear day! It was an incredible clear star filled sky at night and an even better sunrise. We had 2 moose walk through the tent sites in the morning! The trip down was uneventful, but fill the water bottles at the hut before you start your descent. The trail is well marked both ways and there are a few signs to help you along, mostly at the base and near the hut. We really took our time going up (maybe 3+ hours) but we had a very slow pace and wasn't in a rush. Going down was about 2 and 1/2 hours which was just a little longer than the estimate they give at the hut of 2 hours 10 minutes.
Overall it's a great little area to stay as a base camp then grab a couple of 4000 footers. Eisenhower is just past Pierce so you can bag a couple in a quick span of time and all of the peak trail is part of the AT, so it's fairly well traveled and marked. No special equipment is needed except bug spray. However, watch out for the hut-staying-natives, they have a tendancy to think it's party time and they can be fairly loud. Their famous quote..."Oh be quiet and have some more, your not driving!" Quite a few kids too. Speaking of which....Cudo's to the group of 8 kids that had hiked over Washington along Crawford to get to the tent sites that day (13 miles with full packs). One of the kids (12-13 years old) only had 2 more peaks to hit to finish all 48! Pretty impressive group, just sorry I didn't get the name of their organization to include here. I do have some photo's, but I used a disposable camera so they're not great. Just email me, and I can scan a few to send.
Equipment: bug spray
Special Equipment: none
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