Saturday, supposed to be cloudy and some rain. Sunday, sunny. Hmmmmm. Yeah, Sunday.
I had decided the week before to do Morgan and Percival to test out the new camera, replete with filters, but I couldn't get out. Being the frugal Yankee that I am, I recycled the plan for Sunday. It's one of the closer hikes around, and another area I've never been to, and of course, the views. So I went to bed to get some decent sleep and laid there. And laid there. Annnnnnnd laid there. Freaking insomnia. I finally fell asleep at 1:30 and was rewarded with waking up at 3:30. I tried getting more sleep but gave up at 4:00 and got up.
Heading down 89 and then up 93, the skies were nicely clear, but I was keeping an eye out for black ice after yesterday's rain. All was well until I hit Tilton when a layer of slush started showing up and things got slick, and then in Sanbornton where a semi jack-knifed. Crap. Things got slow after that. Worse, I could see clouds up north.
I pulled off in Ashland, and the going got really slow, especially worming around Squam Lake, where the turns threatened a cold bath. Basically I was doing 20-30 the whole way. I got to the trailhead at 6:30, and was thinking I might be getting sunrise on Morgan, but a check of the GPS showed that wasn't going to happen. Ah well, at least I'd get low angle sun on the south facing views. Except the clouds look menacing to the north. I put on the headlamp, but quickly found I didn't need it.
Four paragraphs later, I struck out on the trail. Fortunately it was well marked to avoid trudging off on numerous herd paths and logging roads. It was a nice hardwoods climb of easy grades, and I moved quick to try to warm up. I kept checking behind me to see how close sunrise was coming, and about half an hour after I left it hit. OK, time to really check out the camera. I fiddled here and there, and cam up with this.
Not great, but a lot better than what my old (waterlogged and thus dead) camera could do. It pleased me. I chugged along counting down the vertical and the slope picked up right before the junction, which I gladly reached. Most of the climbing was done, it's ridge time! Had the clouds lingered, I was going to go tag Mt. Webster first, but it was clear as could be, so I had to go check out the views from Morgan first, despite having to backtrack. A couple of steep but short pitches brought me to a junction. “Mt. Morgan via Cliffs.” Hmmmm. Well, I did want to redline what I could, so I decided to check it out.
The rungs were coated in frost, but I was super careful. I could not afford a fall here. And so, I made it to the top of second ladder and said to hell with this. One has to step laterally onto another ladder, and then there's only small footholds. Screw that. I descended and went to the other junction, graced with a big blowdown right across it. The way was icy, but manageable, and then I came to another junction. One went up to the north view, and the other went to the south view. Hmmm, north view first. Some scrambling and I popped out on the rocks, which I quickly found were coated in black ice. Much awkwardness as it was all but impossible to see. Not a lot to see as the Whites were mostly in the clouds, but I at least spotted Tecumseh (which I had to ID later from this angle that was foreign to me).
Off (carefully!) to the south view. This was far more expansive and I was now glad to have gotten up here so early. More camera fiddling, including the polarizing filter, and again, I was pleased.
The 50X zoom didn't suck either.
OK, time to head over to Webster. Back down to the junction which stated it was 1.6 miles away. Huh? GPS only showed 0.9, hard to imagine there was enough squigglys in the trail for that distance. Anyway, off I go. The trail definitely showed less wear here and this, too, pleased me. It was a great ridge walk through alternating hardwoods and softwoods. At one point, I saw a cairn, a lid nailed to a tree and a flagged herd path. Huh. View, maybe? I followed it for a bit but it was evident it wasn't views. Come to find out it was the abandoned Cascade Trail. Neat.
Getting near Webster, I finally found an ok spot to enter the woods, just below the summit. It was a bit scrappy with some hobblebush, but ok. Coming to a line of ledges, I circled about and set about for the summit. The problem with this summit is there was likely no canister, and it is a long flat summit. So I started searching every bump, trying to judge which might be higher. Maybe 6 bumps later, it seemed I covered them all. I found one that seemed highest, but another had a cairn on it.
Well, I definitely covered it. I pretty much went back the way I came, avoiding the ledge, hit the trail and cranked on back towards Morgan. I was debating going back up again, but seriously, it's so close to the trail, and maybe the north will have cleared off by now. As I came to the cliffs trail again, I couldn't resist another try. This time the rungs were de-iced and while I was being careful, it was climbed easily enough. Cool. The trail had an interesting passage.
The south views were getting washed out by the sun, but the northern views were better. I got a decent view of Whiteface.
Onward. Next stop was the true highpoint of Morgan, just off the trail further up. The WMG describes it as “short but thick.” Well, now it's short, but herd pathy. Easy 100 feet, and with the view as promised, different than that from the trailed Morgan. Here's Percival with Chocorua behind (yeah, the exposure sucks).
The highpoint likewise was cairned. Kinda neat from the summits with registers. Low key. I might have been tempted to hang a pill bottle here if I had one, but I kinda liked things the way there were. Back to the trail and I finally ran into the first people of the day. A short chat and I came to another view looking north with a great view to Sandwich, and a couple of its goodies, Jennings Peak and some ledges on Aceton Ridge.
Quickly enough I came to Percival, all to myself. There's something to be said for getting up super early. The views north here were the best. Here's a spiffy view to Franconia Ridge, with Flume looking unusually puny.
Here's Whiteface, Wonalancet Hedgehog, Paugus and Chocorua.
And who could resist a Chocorua close-up?
A view of East Osceola and the Hancocks, with the Arrow Slide showing.
And an usual view of Carrigan appearing as a twin hump presented itself.
Eventually, I could hear people coming over from Morgan as well as below. Ah well, it had to be expected, and I was glad for what solitude I had, so I headed off, choosing the easier way off to the right. It was steep and tedious but I finally came to better grades and quicker moving, and plowed my way out of there, meeting a number of people coming up. I got out around noon, pysched to have put in a decent hike and still have most of the afternoon ahead of me. Who says insomnia is bad!