Mt. Clay (June 4, 2011)

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Mt. Washington.    Bretton Woods.

As the AMC volunteer in charge of the Mt. Clay Loop I must inspect and maintain my trail three times a year, which is no hardship at all since Mt. Clay is such a beautiful place. This was my first visit of the year. I went up the Jewell Trail, which is the most direct route and a wonderful trail with good grades and good footing. The first views on the trail are from a blowdown at 3,600' (at left toward Mt. Washington), after which the trail becomes distinctly rougher. There are unofficial campsites at 4,200-4,300', just below treeline at 4,400'. Above treeline the views are continuous and fabulous. At 5,300' the Jewell Trail ends at the Gulfside Trail (see my November 13, 2010 hike report for a picture of the junction). From the junction I kept climbing straight up to reach the Mt. Clay Loop. On the way I dismantled an off-trail cairn put up by previous hikers presumably for their entertainment (these are called "prayer cairns" and must be removed to avoid hiker confusion). From the junction with Mt. Clay I had a great view looking down to Bretton Woods (right - notice the flowers in the foreground). In fact I had great views in all directions but have previously shown those in my reports of previous Mt. Clay trips (July 30, August 8, and November 13 2010). They haven't changed!

The Mt. Clay Loop.    The Mt. Clay Loop.

Now my job was to inspect the trail. The Mt. Clay Loop starts and finishes at the Gulfside Trail, looping over Mt. Clay hence its name (ha!). I was close to the S end of the trail so I walked there and back. There were a few patches of snow left on the E side. Clay has two summits, south and north (north is slightly higher). On the south summit I noticed an area where the trail was not defined so hikers were tramping all over the place. I had actually noticed that on previous trips but was more sensitive this time because the tundra was carpeted with flowers and I felt an urge to protect them. So I built a non-obtrusive scree wall (left) and hung out for a while to observe with satisfaction that it had the desired effect - hikers were staying on the path. After that I headed to the N end of the Mt. Clay Loop and repaired a few cairns on the way (like the one on the right, after repair, with view of N Presidentials). There was little wind and black flies were unusually bothersome - the few times I've been bothered by bugs during my rambles in the White Mountains have been above treeline under low-wind conditions in June. I've never had a problem in the woods, where there are no black flies because they like the Sun. There can be mosquitoes in the woods but they are easy to discourage with DEET repellent. Hungry black flies are harder to discourage.

Mts. Clay and Washington.    The southern Presidentials.

Upon reaching the N end of the Mt. Clay Loop I decided to continue straight on the Gulfside Trail to the Cornice and then down by the Caps Ridge Trail to Jefferson Notch Road. The Road was not yet open for seasonal traffic so I would walk down the road and take the Boundary Line trail to loop back to the Jewell Trail. I had never done the Boundary Line trail, which looks like an odd abandoned trail on the map, so I thought that would be fun. Going up the Gulfside Trail I had a good view of Mts. Clay and Washington looking back to the south (left; notice patches of snow on E side). Here I saw my last hiker of the day - a skier, in fact, who had gone down the Six Husbands trail on his skis and now was headed back to the Jewell. From the top of Caps Ridge the view to the southern Presidentials was beautiful (right).

Jewell to Caps Ridge loop.    Stream crossing about halfway.

I had previously done this Jewell to Caps Ridge loop hike in reverse last year, spotting a car at the Jewell trailhead and heading up the Caps Ridge Trail from the top of Jefferson Notch Road (see report of July 30, 2010 hike). This time my trip added the walk down from Jefferson Notch. With the road closed there was not a soul in sight the whole way down Caps Ridge. There are some fun scrambles on that trail and I did them carefully, because if I got hurt there would be no one to save me! Just before disappearing into the woods I took this great picture at left of the southern Presidentials from behind the "kettle rock" landmark. Notice the intense lime-green color of the birches in spring. Going down into the woods I had to deal with a lot of blowdowns - the maintenance crew was obviously waiting for Jefferson Notch Road to open to deal with the Caps Ridge Trail. I eventually reached the trailhead and walked down Jefferson Notch Road to the Boundary Line Trail. I entered the trail with a little trepidation because it was a flat featureless path through the woods and obviously little visited except by moose (tracks in the mud). But I found it to be in fact very well blazed, with a clear though slightly overgrown tread and even a new bog bridge along the way. It was more pleasant and interesting than I had presumed, including a stream crossing about halfway (right - blow up picture to see the yellow blaze). After 0.9 mi. of the BLT I reached the junction with the Jewell Trail and from there is was a quick hike to the trailhead.

See also: 2011 Hikes