One of my goals for 2015 was to do a Moonlight Presidential Traverse. Back in December when I started looking into moonlight traverses the two full moons that landed on the weekends were in July and August. I chose August because it was later in the summer (and I knew I would be moving in early summer), and because it was a supermoon.
My plans for a full traverse of the Presidential Range fell apart when I couldn’t get a second person to commit to the hike. Two cars are pretty much a requirement when doing a traverse as big as the Presidential Range. It also wouldn’t be too smart to do my first all night hike alone.
In the end I convinced my friend John to join the hike when I scaled it down to a loop of the northern Presidentials with the possibility of tacking on Washington if we felt up for it.
Things took another turn when the forecast for Saturday (the full moon evening) was calling for fully cloudy skies. It would not be worth doing the hike as we’d just be hiking in the dark. At work on Friday afternoon we decided to depart after work. We would miss sunrise from Madison (which was part of the plan), but the sky was going to be clear.
By the time we got to the Appalachia trailhead it was 9:30 pm, but the parking lot was bustling with activity. Plenty of other people had the same plan as us. We headed up Airline Trail in order to get above the treeline as soon as possible.
The hike through the forest was peaceful; the temperature was just about perfect, it was absolutely quiet (no far off trucks and motorcycles on route 2 below) and occasionally we could see the twinkling of the lights from Berlin through the trees.
When we got above the trees we were surrounded by a landscape neither of us had witnessed before. The moon lit up the surroundings so that we could shut off our lights for flatter sections of the trail. The rocks around us glowed with a pale light and the distant peaks for Madison and Adams were silhouettes against the backdrop of the starred sky. Along the ridges we could see marching chains of headlamps from other groups traversing the mountains.
By the time we got to Airline Cutoff (which we were planning on taking to the summit of Madison) we were both pretty beat. We decided that we would stay on Airline Trail and just do a loop of Adams and Jefferson. On our way up to Adams we passed a group heading in the opposite direction to Madison. They were from halfway across the country and came to New Hampshire just to hike the Presidential Range under the supermoon.
Eventually we made the summit of Mount Adams. It was just after midnight and we were both really worn out.
We spent a little while on the summit of Adams and had some food to celebrate John’s birthday. There was a group on the summit when we got there but they soon left when they realized that one of their group members had already headed towards Mount Jefferson. The temperature was cool and there was a breeze but it was relatively pleasant considering it where we were.
We couldn’t see ourselves enjoying the slog over to Mount Jefferson so we called it a night and started down the mountain. We headed toward Spur Trail and I finally got to see the enormous cairn at Thunderstorm Junction.
The hike down was slow in the dark, but we made it without incident. We stopped for a short while at Crag Camp to marvel at King Ravine and the Airline Trail following the ridge above. After Crag Camp it was a progressively easier decent through the forest back to Appalachia parking lot. We got back to our car at 4:30 am and started the very tiring drive back to Maine.
Though our moonlight Presidential traverse got downgraded to a moonlight Northern Presidential loop and then to just a loop of Mount Adams it was still an amazing experience. Being in the northern Presidential alpine in the middle of the night under a supermoon is something you can’t imagine. It is something you should experience firsthand.
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.
Date Hiked: 28-29 August 2015
Trail Conditions: dry
Weather: clear, hazy
Wind: E 10-20mph
Highest Elevation: 5774′
Elevation Gain: 4500′
Distance: 8.1 miles
Book Time: 6:45
Actual Time: 7:00
Tracing White Mountains Trails: