Return to the Willey Range

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Met up with an old friend who is just starting to count his 48. The weekend weather was looking poor, but chose Sunday, the better of the two. As the sun wasn’t expecting to make an appearance and cloud ceiling being pretty low, we agreed to summits in the trees.
The drive up went well and we arrived at the Crawford Depot just after 8. We gathered our things and set out up Avalon Trail. Ian jumped out front eager to hit the trail. Only a few hundred feet in is the junction to Mt Willard Trail. I’ve heard the summit of Mt Willard has some great views, but have yet to get up there. We continue on a bit more than a mile and meet the junction where Avalon Trail veers left up Mt Avalon. We pass on Avalon for now as the goal is to bag some 4ks. Continuing up toward Mt Tom on the A-Z Trail for another mile is mostly easy going. The climb goes by quickly and soon the trail levels off at the junction of Mt Tom Spur Trail. At this junction are a few spots where appears some established camp sites. A brief rest then we bounce up the .5 mile to the cairn at Mt Tom summit.
We reach the summit cairn after a bit of wandering down couple dead ends. Ian expressed his disappointment that the summit lacks some signage. I tried explaining that most summits do not have signage, though most have some cairn or other marking. I think he may be considering a Gofundme to raise money to promote summit signage. Suspect the AMC might have some input here 😉 .
On our way down the spur trail, we crossed paths with Jill, a woman I met previously atop Mt Carrigain. She was also enjoying the wooded trails/summits. We chatted a bit and parted ways. We turned down the A-Z Trail a short ways and turned onto the Willey Range Trail targetting Mt Field. This stretch is a mild mile hike and seemed to go by quickly. Just before the summit is the junction of the other end of the Avalon Trail. Only about 100 yards beyond the junction up a short steep stretch is the summit. Another let down for Ian as there is only a cairn signifying the summit. He is still excited to notch another in his belt. There is a look out just off the summit, however the clouds paint a gray wall behind the trees.
We stopped for a bit to snack and were quickly interrupted by an energetic Gray Jay. They are common on the Willey Range and press for attention and snacks. I fed them a small portion of my granola bar, my first time actually feeding them. I snapped a couple photos which came out decent. By this time, Jill caught up to us and continued on. We wrapped up and made our way too.
From Mt Field is a bit of a steep descent, though not difficult. After the trail bottoms out in the col, the trail skirts the west edge of the ridge then slowly climbs up Mt Willey. This is another signless, viewless summit. We celebrate briefly then continue beyond the summit to another look out. We interrupt Jill’s solitude to enjoy the views. This should be viewing over Route 302 at Crawford Notch to Mt Webster and Jackson. Again the clouds block out any views. While eating some lunch, it starts to rain a bit and we all layer up. Luckily it only lasts a few minutes.
After snacks we head back the way we came, down Willey Range Trail to Mt Field. At the summit is a woman enjoying feeding the Gray Jay some apple pieces. We chat a bit with her an her husband. She shared a funny story of climbing up a a peak in the Alps. After a difficult climb, she took her coat off to rest at the summit and a mountain goat snatched it and bounded off with it.
We head down to the junction of Avalon Trail. We decided the distance would be equal and chance to grab another summit. The descnent toward Mt Avalon isn’t bad and we made good time. Just before reaching the summit spur, a couple with their dog and pet goat caught up to us. Not very often you see a goat on the trails. Quite a sight.
Just as we reached the spur trail, a couple mention the clouds were starting to break and while they missed it, encouraged us to hurry. We pushed up a bit further and another woman and her children were just coming off the summit. They let us go by and hurried us along as the clouds had just broke. We raced up to catch some views into the notch, down to the AMC Highland Center and across to the south end of the Presidential Range. We hung out here and I snapped a bunch of photos and videos of the clouds funneling through the notch and breaking up. It is still a bit early in the fall, but the trees are already turning very bright. This was a great way to cap off this range.
The descent down Avalon Trail to junction of A-Z Trail is rugged and steep at times, though only a short distance. Once past the steeps to the junction we made good time down the Avalon Trail. We side tracked briefly to checkout Beecher Cascade off a loop trail.
Once back to the car, I snapped a few shots of the notch and trees while we were under the cloud cover. Congratulations to Ian on completing 3, 4, and 5 on his list.

Early morning look into Crawford Notch.  The low cloud cover clearly visible
Early morning look into Crawford Notch. The low cloud cover clearly visible
A shot at the train depot with the AMC Highland Center in the distance
A shot at the train depot with the AMC Highland Center in the distance
Looking down the tracks as Ian jumps on trail
Looking down the tracks as Ian jumps on trail
Starting out on the Avalon Trail on our way to Mt Tom first
Starting out on the Avalon Trail on our way to Mt Tom first
Ian checking out the dried up crossing and the moss covered rocks
Ian checking out the dried up crossing and the moss covered rocks
This stretch was a little rugged as it went up these boulders
This stretch was a little rugged as it went up these boulders
It didn't take long to reach the Mt Tom Spur Trail where A-Z trail levels out
It didn’t take long to reach the Mt Tom Spur Trail where A-Z trail levels out
Just .6 mile to our first of the day
Just .6 mile to our first of the day
The spur snakes through some evergreens before reaching the land of blow downs
The spur snakes through some evergreens before reaching the land of blow downs
Ian assesses the rock steps and the dark mossy wall.  The photo doesn't capture the greens
Ian assesses the rock steps and the dark mossy wall. The photo doesn’t capture the greens
Just out of view through the trees is some amazing undercast.  That's all I could capture
Just out of view through the trees is some amazing undercast. That’s all I could capture
Exciting Mt Tom summit cairn
Exciting Mt Tom summit cairn
Ian making his way toward Mt Field on the Willey Range Trail
Ian making his way toward Mt Field on the Willey Range Trail
A look back as we approach Mt Field.  Visibility is quite low today
A look back as we approach Mt Field. Visibility is quite low today
Another exciting summit cairn.  This one is Mt Field.  We'll be back again later today
Another exciting summit cairn. This one is Mt Field. We’ll be back again later today
A first for me, hand feeding the Gray Jay on Mt Field
A first for me, hand feeding the Gray Jay on Mt Field
Ian completes his 5th 4000 footer, Mt Willey.  He was still complaining about the lack of summit signs ;-)
Ian completes his 5th 4000 footer, Mt Willey. He was still complaining about the lack of summit signs 😉
We interrupted Jill, who was enjoying the less than stellar views
We interrupted Jill, who was enjoying the less than stellar views
Doubled back to Mt Field, watching a woman hand feed apple pieces to the forever hungry Gray Jay
Doubled back to Mt Field, watching a woman hand feed apple pieces to the forever hungry Gray Jay
We descended to Mt Avalon
We descended to Mt Avalon
A tiny pet goat catching up to his owners
A tiny pet goat catching up to his owners
The clouds break just as we make it up Mt Avalon.  The clouds flowing (right to left) through Crawford Notch
The clouds break just as we make it up Mt Avalon. The clouds flowing (right to left) through Crawford Notch
The AMC Highland Center below and across is rising up toward Mt Pierce
The AMC Highland Center below and across is rising up toward Mt Pierce
Already many of the trees in the valley revealing their vibrant color change
Already many of the trees in the valley revealing their vibrant color change
We begin to lose our window as the clouds continue to flow in
We begin to lose our window as the clouds continue to flow in
Light clouds nearby cast a foggy view
Light clouds nearby cast a foggy view
We checked out Beecher Cascade on our way down
We checked out Beecher Cascade on our way down
This is a narrow cascade.  I suspect it to be more impressive if we weren't having drought conditions
This is a narrow cascade. I suspect it to be more impressive if we weren’t having drought conditions
Looking into Crawford Notch with the rock face of Elephant Head just over the road
Looking into Crawford Notch with the rock face of Elephant Head just over the road
View down the tracks used by the 'Notch Train', Conway Scenic Railroad
View down the tracks used by the ‘Notch Train’, Conway Scenic Railroad

still at 43 of 48

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