From Mount Madison all the way down to the treeline, there was no trail at all. Only cairns to make sure we were headed in the right direction. It was boulders upon boulders. We went pretty slowly as no one wanted to twist an ankle or fall. It made so much sense why New Hampshire makes people pay for being rescued – getting up here would be difficult and expensive for them. It also emphasizes that you must have hiking experience to tackle this mountain range. Looking at this terrain, I was very happy I paid for the rescue insurance! We eventually reached the treeline. My knees and legs were not too happy with me for all that stepping down onto hard granite. I felt my body and brain relax when I reached the trees and trail. It had been pure focus for a couple hours, making sure I didn’t trip and die.
Despite not being on the granite boulders anymore, it didn’t mean this trail was much easier. Sure, I didn’t have to worry about falling off a mountain but it was still fairly steep downhill for what seemed like forever. It just didn’t seem to end! We climbed over rocky rivers, up and down small hills, admired babbling brooks, reveled in the leafy shade, and tried not to curse the periodic open space where the sun tried to suck what little energy I had left. Once we sat by a stream for a rest, the chilly water reviving us somewhat. But by now, I was seriously sick of protein bars and just wanted some real food. I knew I was getting pretty hangry when at one point, I was maybe ten steps ahead of the others on a hill when they exclaimed about seeing a mother moose with her youngling in the trees. I absolutely refused to walk down those ten steps to see them because it would mean that I would have to re-climb those steps.
Finally, FINALLY, we reached Old Jackson Road Trail which was pretty flat, running through a forest. We came across a number of people, most of whom were doing day hikes from Joe Doge Lodge, our final stop. As much as I was sad this was coming to an end, I wanted food. And after three days of being careful of rocks, it was wonderful to lengthen my steps and just stride. I fairly flew along, leaving my hiking mates behind. Though, I did stop pretty close to the end so we could finish close together. As we approached the lodge, we realized that our two friends who’d left at Mount Washington had been looking out for us. It was a great reunion; they had gone shopping and there was chilled drinks waiting for us in our rooms as well as lovely toiletries. We all scrubbed and then relaxed while regaling each other with stories. And of course, we (i.e. me) stuffed our faces at dinner. The next morning, we took the shuttle back to the starting point, Highland Centre Lodge, to pick up the cars and head back home.
So would I do this again? Yes, definitely. The landscape was phenomenally beautiful. Two things I would change, though. I would train a bit more before going and I would be more careful of the times – guidebooks, websites, and the huts crew generally said that the daily treks would be about half a day. Not true. While we weren’t the fittest folks out there, none of us were inexperienced and we were in decent shape. Still it took us on average eight hours each day, not half a day! Overall, this was a fairly difficult trek for me but it was amazing, beautiful, challenging, and fun. It helped tremendously that we had great weather as I would not recommend doing it in inclement weather. At all. But if it’s sunny, you’re prepared, you’re fit, and you have hiking experience, then I definitely recommend hiking the Presidential Traverse!