It was a relief to shut down my computer and jump in the car. We stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts to grab some snacks on the drive up to New Hampshire, but otherwise the drive up to the Gorham Motor Inn on Main St didn't get interrupted by any other stops (yay light traffic!). We checked in and dropped our stuff in the room, and I admired the nice bathroom tiles (heh, just going from my trip notes almost four months later, don't recall why they made such an impression, maybe because for such a cheap motor inn it was a surprise to encounter a renovated bathroom). The air conditioner was lackluster though, we cranked it up before leaving for dinner in the hopes that it would reduce the humidity in the room. We drove into Berlin to see if we could find a restaurant, but it turned out that it was all closed up due the the holiday. Passing over the river, it was sad to see suds in it from industrial pollution. We came back to Gorham and went to J's near the motel, for shrimp milano and a G&T for me. The sunset was lovely, and we saw a double rainbow out of the window of the restaurant during dinner. We were back at the hotel by 9pm and in our beds soon afterward, anticipating a fairly early morning (but with no alarm because we were on vacation, dammit).
We started up up along Brookside I think, there were lots of water falls, it was gorgeous. We saw few other hikers, maybe 12 all day, so it was nice and quiet. It was still humid, and we were climbing a lot, so I was pouring sweat, completely soaked through. We stopped for a snack, having an apple at Dome Rock where we had views back. We did the flat part of a steep trail, Watson Path, but the map + book descriptions we were following (King's Ravine in Best Backpacking New England I think) were a titch hard to translate into trail turnings, there were a lot of them criss-crossing in that area and I kept arguing that we hadn't done bits that we had already. :-) There was a lot of climbing up stream beds, stepping up from rock to rock. We made another food stop to eat a bagel, I was burning through calories quickly, but all the training I'd been doing all summer made the hike easier than it would have been in previous years (the lighter pack helped too). We came out above tree line (much less humid!) and had a great view across King's Ravine toward Crag Camp on the other side of the big ditch. Then we had to keep climbing up to get to the ridge line and go across it and then down again to get there (needs a zip line), we weren't even half way. We did the Gulfside trail, it was nice where the rocks were flat then it became more treacherous. The weather started to threaten us, clouds rolling in and a few spits of rain. It was very breezy as we followed the familiar cairns with white rocks on top. The Spur trail down to the Crag Cabin was really steep, buggy, and narrow as it was hemmed in by the trees that came up as we dropped back down below tree line again. We made it to Crag Camp at 4:30pm and threw our packs in an unoccupied bunk room to claim sleeping space.
The cabin is lovely, with a big open cooking and eating area enclosed by huge windows. The cooking area is set up to use your own camp stove on a counter and there's a spring a short horizontal walk away (though still on a fairly rocky path, I sent Cris with our water bottles while I set up the stove). We had lentils and rice for dinner, Trader Joe's boil in bag Indian food being my preferred camping food, paired with boil in bag rice. We over along the spring path, Grey Knob trail toward the Grey Knob cabin, to watch the sunset at 8:30pm, perching on an exposed boulder next to the path, with a steep drop off below us and the valley spread out in the dusk below. We could see blooms of fireworks from Berlin, it was really neat seeing them going off below us (we were at just over 4,200ft). We used head lamps to light the way back to the cabin. There was a couple staying at Crag and we chatted with a bit on the porch with a great view back across the ravine to where we'd been hiking earlier. The woman had worked as AMC hut crew for two seasons, the man was a wildlife biologist (birds), and he identified that we were hearing a Bicknell's thrush (an alpine bird, only 35k left). Once it was dark, I was more than happy to climb into my sleeping bag and pass out, it had been a physically taxing day with 8 hours of hiking. I loved the bunk room, I took the sleeping pad in the corner by the window and felt like I was in a roomy cave (I have unfulfilled bunk bed wishes from childhood). I blew up my thermarest sleeping pad and put it on top of the provided one for some extra padding on the board and slept really comfortably (I also have a pair of blow up pillows that I always bring, camping for old joints for the win).
First up, we went back along the trail to the spring and past it to check out Gray Knob cabin, for future reference. It felt much more cozy than Crag, and is insulated for winter use as well. The caretaker there gave us a recommendation for the Emerald Col trail so we went that way and checked out the final facility of Randolph Mountain club, the < a href="http://www.randolphmountainclub.org/sheltersinfo/theperch.html">Perch. That one is just an open shelter and tent platforms, but it has an amazing view. We sat with feet swinging over the edge of the shelter and had bagel there. From there we backtracked a little to head up Israel Ridge Path toward Mt. Adams. It was mostly foggy, but cleared once we were on our way up Israel Ridge. While visibility was low, a train of 4 punchy but fast hikers barrelled past us as we were heading over to Adams Access. We were moving cairn to cairn on the spurt trail up to the peak of M Adams as we got socked in again. We saw a few groups of hikers up there, it's more integrated with the Presidentials trails and the AT. We made it up to the peak of Mt. Adams and took some foggy pictures, but passed on trying Mt Madison or Jefferson, the weather was too tricky. Also, my knee was starting to get sore and really painful by the time we hit Spur Trail on the way down, I sent Cris ahead so he didn't have to keep waiting for me, just asking him to boil up water for tea and soup. I was limping down the steep path one slow step at a time, I couldn't bend my left leg by the end and was very glad I'd brought my hiking poles. We were alone in the cabin, stretching out and relaxing, and I think we even played a game of Scrabble, until 3 guys and the caretaker came back. I had soup on the porch, relaxed on the wooden furniture there. We talked a bit with the hikers and the caretaker. The guys had outdistanced one of their friends and were waiting somewhat impatiently for him to catch up. I was glad that I've generally gone hiking with people who stick together, I don't like being out of sight of my trail mates just in case of freak accident or trail finding mistakes. When he arrived, his leg was bleeding in multiple places from black fly bites, and I realised that I'd been scratching and had been bit as well. Those things scar, I still have the marks four months later. :-( Again, took an early night as once it got dark there wasn't much to do. Oh, we did go back over to the view rock to catch the sunset again, it had cleared up after we got back. More boil in bag food for supper as well.