Adam's via Lowe's & Spur | 7/12/23
It’s peculiar, how after three years of absence from the Northern Presidential tab, I was unignorably beckoned by them this week. Since my last hike in the Whites, I’ve seen the central Rockies for the first time, flown without my parents, and gone through an unexpected life change. A strong leap out of my teenage years, perhaps. It was admittedly the longest I’d ever gone without looking at my tracing spreadsheet, my glimpse away from reality. Rather, I spent a lot more time buried in my noise-canceling headphones listening to folk rock, doing some personal writing, and working on the summer course that’ll allow me to graduate early.
One song stuck out to me. Stevie Nick’s Crystal metaphorically paints a journey across the mountains and to the sea, in search of something you know is out there. For me, it’s my limit. It’s the goals I’ve put a lot on the line for and the strength I’ve only dreamed of achieving. I said I'd challenge myself this summer, yet I hadn’t touched the range that keeps me from thinking I'll ever finish this project. So, with the power of a hiking partner that’ll say yes to anything if we don’t plan on setting speed records because “she’s old,” (she hikes faster than me), something about repeating our toughest day of the NH48 felt right.
Though we had initially hoped to do Madison via the Watson Path loop, the plan got killed in the final hours due to ordinarily dangerous water crossings, which are surely worse now. I had long been interested in Lowe’s Path, notably its reputation as an easy way up Adams, so I threw together a loop up Lowe’s, over to King Ravine, Spur, and then back down Lowe’s. This route passes three RMC cabins, goes right up to Thunderstorm Junction, and was plenty above the tree line- something we fully experienced as we walked through the rain along unstable rocks.
While we had hoped to park at Lowe’s Store, someone with a deep Connecticut accent yelled at us and though I think if we’d just moved in front of the store rather than the pile of rocks, we’d have been fine, we decided to just start from the Castle TH, adding 0.8 on the Presidential Rail Trail on both ends of the trip.
Once we’d done our rail trail walk, Lowe’s Path choose violence- wet, grassy, and deep mud. This was an unfortunate sight for dry shoes. Nevertheless, we accepted our fates and kept going past the “PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE” sign, and towards the first of our many junctions. The first 1.7 of Lowe’s was pleasant and had a noticeable gain, but not enough to stop me from talking through the entire 45 minutes that took us without stopping to breathe. Maybe the altitude change from last week DID help! Or I just had a lot to say. Likely both.
Soon, we had to make our first alternation upon realization Randolph Path would gain and then lose us much more elevation than the straightforward King Ravine. This said, we instead took King Ravine to Spur Trail, which was an excellent decision as we passed fresh moose tracks among a well-manicured trial in a lush forest. I probably won’t speak as pleasantly of the rest of King Ravine, but that is for another day.
Once we again intersected Randolph Path, we only walked it a few paces before officially beginning Spur Trail- something I had no positive expectations for. My guidebook impression and word of mouth, I expected tricky scrambles, exposure, and struggles. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Spur isn’t easygoing by any means, but the gain was never unreasonable. Additionally, the early follow of Spur Brook and views of Chandler Falls took the pain away nicel. We weren’t above treeline for some time, making this a rather protected route compared to Lowe's.
At Crag, Liz and I took a sizable break for charcuterie and I showed myself around the cabin. I'm looking forward to returning, I’ve been looking for a “solo” overnight for some time, so knowing the caretaker is such a good hack for making it less intimidating! Beyond the incredible views and perfect location, the cabin has several; mattresses in 2 bunk rooms, a library, and somewhat of a kitchen area. The privy was just as impressive!
Once we moved past Crag, the final climb began. With just over a mile to Thunderstorm junction, we had well over a thousand left to gain and had to work hard in the bad air quality and accompanying fatigue. Nevertheless, we got the job done. First, through our shock that we’d already gotten to Knight’s Castle, then in seeing a badass solo hiker who’d packed climbing shoes for King Ravine just in case, and then, meeting our turnaround!
Since we were socked in and had already done the cone-portion of Lowe’s, we turned around at Thunderstorm where we promptly got stuck in a windy rain storm. All politely above the tree line!
Many of the rocks were unstable as we moved from the junction toward the tree line. We hit the true summit of Abigail Adams, which was no feat by any means, and after that, it was all rain until Gray Knob! Thankfully, the rain stopped here, a great relief as the lower portions of the slopes did not need to be any wetter.
Gray Knob was a gorgeous sight. I peeked inside and met the caretaker, Lea, whose name I only figured out because RMC posted her on Instagram that night. What a coincidence! While Liz took a seat, I walked about 3 minutes towards Crag Camp for the spring where two plentiful pipes with ice-cold water poured by the Nalgene-full.
I filtered the water, just in case, and we made our way down much faster. Despite losing a lot of elevation, the footing was reasonable the whole time- only mild sections of wet rock annoyance around Log Cabin! Most notably, there is a very wet and mossy slab right after the junction with Log Cabin Cutoff.
The Log Cabin was highly reminiscent of a Long Trail shelter- a weird smell about it, no door, and sturdy as hell. Good quality craftsmanship by the RMC, as usual.
After the cabin, we soon intersected back with the repeat section of Lowe’s, which felt much longer on soggy feet than the morning. My feet were so wet that I slipped on the hardwood floors and into a generous split as soon as I took my shoes off. Yikes.
This past Wednesday’s jaunt up Adams was rewarding, physically validating, and something I wish I’d been able to write about sooner! But, despite the fact I always got these on time during the school year, summer homework is apparently much more involved!