After leaving Blackberry campground I hooked up with Highway 16 north. JT said that if I only had one day left in the mountains, I should spend it hiking Tuckerman Ravine (wiki).
The trailhead lead east from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. It started as a 10 foot wide trail meant to be accessible by a snow CAT during winter. The snow and ice had melted away from everywhere except for a few patches on the last half mile, so it was ankle spraining rock hopping until then. At the top of the CAT trail there was a ranger station and ski staging area.
I was surprised at the number of skiers and snowboarders hiking the trail. It was a humid 65°F in the parking lot, and all I could see from the visitor center was a little dirty snow on the tops of the mountains.
Beyond the ranger station the trail continued up the east side of Mt. Washington. It was a proper single file hiking trail at this point, but it still opened up a few times into wide rocky staircases which were steep enough to make moving with hands and feet feel natural. I got to talking with a couple guys from Massachusetts. Well, Marshall was the talker, and with the thin air and steep grades Kirk was the breather. A mile from the ranger station we reached the end of the trail. The top of Mt. Washington is closed right now because of the danger of falling through the compacted snow which has been undermined by melt-water.
We sat down for lunch, and Marshall began rattling off the names of the ski routes and chutes that towered before us. Considering the limited amount of snow cover and the three miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain involved, I’d file the skiers up there into a special category of dedication.
We snacked, talked, and watched. The ravine is a reverse amphitheater. The observer is in the center with all the entertainment surrounding. I can imagine how fun it must be to watch people dropping routes while there’s still good snow. After an hour I scrambled back down the way I came, strategizing how to go about getting a NH flag as I went.