Alpine Gardens: Mount Washington

July 15 2015

Glacier just below Lion Head

Overview: My dog, Glacier, and I wanted to hike up to the Alpine Gardens on Washington (not sure about the dog, but I did). Two easyish ways to get up there are Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail up the headwall until you intersect (on the right)  the Alpine Garden trail or up Lion Head trail, which intersects with the Alpine Garden trail.  I hadn’t hiked either the Tuckerman Ravine trail or Lion Head trail with a dog before.  I decided to go up Lion Head because I was worried about Glacier (the dog) on that steep part of the headwall that you always hear about people falling off of. I had forgotten about all the steep scrambles on Lion Head (had only previously hiked down it). After scrambling up the steep spots I was worried about Glacier coming down.  I am a big baby about scrambles-you won’t see me doing anything that involves climbing or cliffs.   Glacier turned out to be fine both going up and down but it made me very nervous–I wouldn’t bring a dog up that trail again. Too big a deal if they fall.

The Hike: There are two possiblities (actually more, but these are the most straightforward and quickest)

1. Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Alpine Garden trail is 3.4 miles/3100 feet/3 hour 45 minutes

2. Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Lion Head to the Alpine Garden trail is 3.4 miles/3150 feet/3 hours 20 minutes

We took option #2.  We started at 9:50,  It took us  about 3 hours  to get to just below Lion’s Head. We turned around because the weather looked threatening–it was brutally hot going up, but once up on the ridge the wind was cold and clouds were descending.  People coming down said it was less than 10 feet of visibility and cold.  It looked like it was going to thunder and I didn’t want to get stuck above treeline, and, was worried about getting down the steep parts with Glacier, so wanted to get that over with.

Dog friendly?  I know a lot of people bring dogs up–but there are so many places a dog could get hurt and they are so far from help I wouldn’t bring one again.  Something like Eisenhower is a better bet for a dog.

Our turnaround point
Going back down the trail with Glacier
Diapensia in bloom-crouchedon  in the rocks
Labrador Tea and bunchberry

Plants:  We saw lots of Labrador Tea, Black Crowberry, Mountain Cranberry, Bunchberry, Bluebead lily, but only the Diapensia was in bloom where we were.

Looking down into Tuckerman’s Ravine

Ramblings about the hike:  Coming down on this particular day I met a birder who was calling out a cute little female redstart (a small warbler that I never would have identified) and a Swainson’s thrush.  You can hear thrush calling for most of the wooded part of this hike.  Fun fact learned from the birder-Swainson’s thrush are typically found between 2500-3500 feet, Hermit Thrush are found at lower altitudes and Bicknell’s at high altitudes.  He also said you can remember the Swainson’s call because it ends on a high note in the same way it likes to live higher up.

I have been up Mt Washington at least 15 times, mostly via the Tuckerman Ravine trail up and down Lion Head. These hikes start at Pinkham Notch.  This is a beautiful but grueling hike for those of us not in great shape.  I have learned that using poles to bear the weight on your knees makes recovery much faster. Going both up and down Tuckerman Ravine trail is probably the easier way to do it.

I have also hiked the Jewell trail. Going up and down Jewell is the easiest for me (I don’t like all the slippery parts of Ammonoosuc trail -both the Jewell trail and Ammonoosuc originate at the Cog Railway station) and the views are spectacular, but going up over the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine and the views out towards Huntington Ravine and beyond can’t be beat.