|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mt. Pierce (attempt), NH|
||Dry River Trail, Mt. Eisenhower Trail, Dry River Cutoff, Mt. Clinton Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Wednesday, July 29, 2020|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Roadside parking. I was surprised to see a number of cars there for a weekday. I’d say almost a half dozen when I arrived at 10:15am and a little over half a dozen when I returned just past 6:30m. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||To my great surprise, they were all rock hoppable! I knew we hadn’t had much rain lately but looking at the USGS water tool, it appeared that water levels were about average in this area so I figured the major crossings would still be a wade. The only time I got my feet wet was while navigating mud :D The major crossing on Mt Eisenhower Trail would be a very shallow (just partway up the shin probably, definitely below knees) if going directly across but I didn’t want to take the time to take my shoes off and put my crocs on so I went slightly upstream where it appeared there were more rocks to hop on. I went partway across then I could either go left and hug a rock with a big step down to a much lower boulder over a little fall (didn’t feel too safe) or go to my right even further upstream on some wet, but safer much closer together, rocks and bushwhack a very short way back to the trail. I chose the latter. This crossing isn’t all that large but isn’t entirely flat which is what probably makes it potentially very difficult/dangerous. The crossing at the beginning of Mt Clinton Trail is the opposite; very, very wide/large but totally flat. Water levels were pretty low and I could pretty easily find rocks to hop across on. Big sand bar in the middle without water; just two smaller water crossings on either side of it to negotiate. The trail can be very hard to see here though; see notes on that below. Same with many of the other crossings on Mt Clinton Trail, one of the brook crossing on Dry River Cutoff, and one of the brook crossings on Dry River Trail. Notes on these in the comments section below. A small crossing on the upper portion of Mt Clinton Trail just above its jct with Dry River Cutoff. Right now, you could angle across some rocks up to the right but if those were wet/slick (they were mossy) or water was high you’d be forced to walk across on some logs a bit above the water which is what I did. Watch tour head as there’s a blowdown above one of them. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||I think I only saw one or two blazes the entire day 😂 None of these trails are officially blazed since they are other entirely, or largely in the Presidential Range Dry River Wilderness. Even the portion of Dry River Trail outside of it wasn’t blazed. There was one yellow blaze that looked like it someone may have tried to remove it at the very beginning of Mt Eisenhower Trail. There are some cairns, but mostly just where there are tricky water crossings, primarily on Mt Clinton Trail. Between this lack of trail markings, major washouts obscuring the trail, blowdowns, mud pits, and not very well defined tread ways due to lack of use, these trails can be very hard to follow and should absolutely not be attempted by a beginner. Some tips on some of the hard to follow sections below. Signage was in good shape although the way the Mt Clinton Trail points at its jct with Dry River Trail is misleading (more on that below). The sign at the jct with Dry River Connector has some mileages that aren’t in accordance with the book or the start of the Dry River Trail. Some more drainages would be nice on Mt Clinton Trail and Dry River Cutoff which have some long, major mud pits which were unpleasant. Many blowdowns on this route. The worst was probably Dry River Cutoff. Mt Clinton Trail was also pretty bad. Dry River Trail had some as well but most were just very old, large stepovers or straddles which were just less annoying than the fresher ones on Dry River Cutoff and Mt Clinton Trail. Luckily, I don’t think many, if any, of the blowdowns that were across the trail truly obscured it. Dry River Cutoff is overgrown and could really be trimmed back. It’s one thing to have ferns and that type of undergrowth encroaching on the trail but it’s another to have pine trees over growing it. |
||Lots of water and mostly easy to moderate grades but this is also a very long hike particularly if you add on Pierce and Eisenhower and my biggest concern would be a dog trying to negotiate the washouts. If they lost their footing, they could fall a long way and really hurt or kill themselves. Also, doing this with a dog (particularly ones that don’t like water crossings) at a time when water wasn’t low would be emphatically stupid. |
||I had to put on big spearheaded almost immediately due to mosquitos down low. I didn’t notice them higher up or any black flies. |
|Lost and Found:
||I picked up a small red Nalgene water bottle at one of the little camping spots along one of the trails. I think it was along the Mt Eisenhower Trail right after the water crossing but I could be wrong. It has an Anchorage Alaska sticker on it, and says “the hoarding marmot”. ||
||A nice midweek redline done which now leaves me with only one hike left to complete the southern Presidentials tab :) Dry River Trail —> Mt Eisenhower Trail —> Dry River Cutoff —> Mt Clinton Trail to Nauman Tentsite —> Mt Clinton Trail down —> Dry River Trail back to car. This hike was about 13.7mi with 3300ft of elevation gain. Including Pierce, it would be 15.3mi with 3900ft of gain. It took me just shy of 8.5hrs. A friend who is working on their 4000 footers and I originally planned on doing this together and thus bagging at least Pierce and hopefully Eisenhower but I ended up doing it by myself so between that and needing to get down early to be somewhere by 8pm and my phone losing battery at an alarming rate, I opted not to bag Pierce. Sort of regretted it as I did need it for my July grid :/ C’est la vie. |
I didn’t realize just how early on in the Dry River Trail you’d realize washout. It’s nearly immediately. Much larger, and tricker washouts come as you approach the jct with Mt Clinton Trail. There are some BIG dropoffs down to the river right next to a seemingly solid trail at times so please exercise caution and pay attention. The worst washouts where you have to go across some slides are after the jct with Mt Clinton Trail. Although there were certainly some wet and muddy spots this was the driest trail I was on by far. There was a point on the Dry River Trail between Mt Clinton Trail and Isolation Trail (probably one of the two brook crossings between 2.9mi and 4.2mi) where the trail crosses a small stream nearly where it dumps into the Dry River. I mistakenly continued straight up the stream. Instead, at a small cairn on the right, angle across the stream to the left up a little bank on the other side. Their is another small cairn there. Just easy to to miss.
Dry River Cutoff is overgrown, very wet and muddy at times, is laden with blowdowns, and hard to follow sometimes. The upper section closer to Mt Clinton Trail is beautiful though and I think this could be a very nice trail of some work was actually put into it. Not far into the trail there’s a point where it seems to descend downward. I followed this a short ways and the trail seemed to disappear. Wondering if I got off it, I backtracked a short ways to the top of the hill and looked around. I realized a more obscure path to the right that ascends rather than descends. THAT is the trail. So watch for this fork and go right, ascending, rather than the more obvious path forward and down. I forget which one (pretty sure it was one of the smaller ones) but there was a water crossing where the trail seemed to disappear too. You come down to it and there’s nothing but a big blowdown and nothingness directly across. Look to your left. The path goes that way and there’s a small cairn where it crosses. While certainly not steep I found this trail to be a bit more vertical than the guidebook suggested but perhaps I was just tired.
Mt Clinton Trail was similar to Dry River Cutoff in that it was very muddy and wet, had lots of blowdowns, could be hard to follow in places, and had mostly moderate grades, but it wasn’t overgrown like Dry River Cutoff at least. The only places I recall wondering where this trail went were where it crossed water and maybe one other spot which was real muddy and the trail goes across the mud and down to the right. On some of the smaller crossings, the trail is not visible on the other side. At least once or twice I just had to cross, then scramble up the bank and look for it. Then it would be obvious. Sometimes you just had to follow your nose across and have faith that it was there on the other side. The major crossing at the start of the trail is trickier, particularly if you’re headed in the other direction I’d say. First, a short ways before reaching this crossing, the trail passes by a very washed out area to the left where the river is on the other side. There was a small cairn on the trail here so I figured I was supposed to cross. I headed into the waned our area but didn’t see any cairns or remaining semblance of a trail. That’s because it wasn’t the trail 😜 The Trail actually continues past the small cairn and continues, flat a short way until it comes into the open where there’s another small cairn and the trail clearly turns left to scramble down the bank toward the river. LOOK FOR CAIRNS for as to how to get across. The trail doesn’t go straight across but a bit to the right.
Note that these cairns are very hard to see if coming from the other direction. What I’ll now describe is how to get across this crossing if coming from the other direction i.e. from the jct with Dry River Trail. As you reach the trail jct coming from the south, the Mt Clinton Trail will point you to the left perpendicular to the way you came in. IF you follow that you’ll descend to a sandy area more or less facing a large slide/washout on the other side of the river. The trail does NOT go that way but almost perpendicularly you the right. Just before the sandy area there is a rock with some pink paint on it. I couldn’t tell what it said but if you reach this rock, turn 90 degrees to your right. There will be a large blowdown or two. Just to the right of the blowdowns, in the distance, is the long line of cairns you’ll need to follow to get across. Alternatively, instead of turning left where the trail sign points you to, there is a clear path straight ahead from the way you came (the Dry River Trail turns right). If you continue ahead you will see the line of cairns directly in front of you on the same line you’re on. The path sort of ends but you can easily scramble through some brush down to the sand and begin your crossing.
Lastly, on my way out Dry River Trail, maybe a half mile or so before the suspension bridge, there was a small cairn on the right side of the trail. I thought it may indicate that I crossed to the other side of the river although I was pretty sure it didn’t cross again until the suspension bridge. Too lazy to get my map out, I looked across the water to see if there was another cairn. There was! I have no idea why though as this was not the trail. Continue straight to the suspension bridge, then cross.
Saw two people out on the lower portion of Dry River Trail as I was headed in. Saw two trail runners at the jct of Dry River Cutoff and Mt Clinton Trail, then a whole bunch of people at the Nauman Tentsite. I walked along the path to it and used the slicker at the hut to fill my water bottles.
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.