Tuesday, July 10, 2018

White Mountains: From Mizpah Springs to Lakes of the Clouds

Prior Day: Zealand Falls to Mizpah Springs
Next Day: Lakes of the Clouds to Madison Springs

During seven days of hiking in the White Mountains, if you get just one day of rain, there should be no complaints.  In our case, that day was Thursday June 28, which also happened to be our second shortest trail segment of the week, about five miles.  The only downsides were that this section of trail would have magnificent views if one has more that 100 feet of visibility, and it made the rocks super slippery.  In fact, all four of us fell once during this hike - no injuries, fortunately.  In my case, I slipped on a large, slick but sloped and flat boulder, and fell on my back.  My backpack broke the fall.

Here is the elevation profile for the day.  It was mostly climbing.  Lakes of the Clouds is the highest AMC hut at over 5,000 feet, and is in a stunning location.

Here is the track.  From Mizpah Springs Hut, you start climbing several hundred feet immediately over Mount Tyler, and you just keep going from there.  Because of trail maintenance, we had to climb over Mount Monroe in the rain.  There was a $5,000 fine and six months in prison for continuing on the AT, and at times, it seemed like a good trade-off.  The trail over Mount Monroe was a miserable and kind of dangerous climb over steep piles of huge boulders.  It took a long time to get over the mountain, and then there was the steep hike down in terrible visibility.  Suddenly, the hut appeared out of the clouds, and there we were!

At the start of the hike, the rain was very light.  But soon enough, it began raining hard.  At some point, our rain gear and boots seemed to soak through, and we arrived drenched to the skin.  Because of the rain, I took very few photos.  Here they are...

Chris started hiking without his rain jacket on, but that quickly changed.

Mike and I on the trail.

Chris and Josh.

My three compadres near the summit of Mount Tyler.

Once we crested Mount Tyler, we were in the alpine zone for most of the hike.

My biggest problem hiking that day was my glasses fogging over.  I have horrible vision but I had to take my glasses off to be able to see well enough to hike safely, and I had to go super slow and kind of feel each step.  The trail is marked with cairns but as thick as the clouds were, it was difficult to see the trail for me because a combination of bad visibility and bad vision meant that I couldn't see cairns until I was very close.  The most difficult part was climbing over Mount Monroe.  Winds of 40-50 miles per hour lashed rain into us, and nearly knocked us off our feet at times.  Parts of it were quite dangerous.  All of us were glad to see the hut.  We arrived about 1:30, which was great, because you could buy hot soups and baked goods for a couple of bucks each.  Man, did that hot soup taste great!  Here I am, dry again, happy, and full of hot lentil soup!  The extra weight of packing in dry, clean trousers and a shirt paid off big time!  Plus, we had good phone reception and I was able to chat with my spouse, which is a treat on any remote hike.

The huts are very nice, but this one accommodates the most guests, up to 90, so there are lots of bunk rooms.  Ours was terrible.  It had bunks for five people, but there was hardly any floor space, and what there was became soaked after Josh took off his pack cover and the gallon or so of water contained in it dumped all over the floor.  We hung stuff all over the place and saw very little prospect of it ever drying before the next morning.  Plus the bunks that Josh and I got had about 18 inches of head room.

Fortunately, Hawkeye was paying attention, and saw that a group had cancelled because of the weather.  They had a great bunk room and he asked if he and I could make the switch, which was permitted.  So we took all of our wet junk and gear and moved into our own room.  It was so much more comfortable.  I stuffed dirty underwear in my boots to absorb some of the water.  After dinner, I put on my wet socks - no boots - and wet shirt for an hour or so.  Miserable, but a combination of walking on the wooden floors in my wet socks and my body heat started the drying process.  In the morning, I wore my damp socks in my less-wet boots to absorb more moisture, and then put on a dirty but dry pair of socks.  As a result, my feet were nearly dry for the next day of hiking, as was my shirt.  My still-wet trousers dried quickly in the windy hiking conditions that we had Friday.

I hiked this portion of the trail 11 years ago in gorgeous weather, and thought that I'd post a few photos so you can see what it looks like:

Near Mount Tyler:

Towards Mount Eisenhower:

Mountain views:

Mount Washington in the distance from the trail:

Lakes of the Clouds Hut:

Sunset from Mount Monroe:

Our wet day was in the past, and by about 9:00 PM, the rain had moved on for the most part.  We could hear spring peepers calling in the twin lakes.  We went to bed hoping for a dry day Friday, with views as a bonus.  We were not to be disappointed!


  1. Oh all that rain. Can't be fun hiking in the rain.
    Beautiful pictures and that sunset is awesome.

    1. The rain was no fun at all, and made for difficult and slippery conditions. But at least it was a short day. I had been hoping for clear skies so we could go back up Mount Monroe and catch the sunset. That photo is a good memory for me because I was there with my brother.