Fitness | Hiking | History | Travel

Hiking Pierce and Eisenhower

201 years ago, in 1819, a father and son team of Abel and Ethan Allen Crawford cut an 8.5-mile hiking trail from what is today called Crawford Notch to the summit of Mount Washington’s summit.  A year later, Ethan Allen would guide an expedition up that trail, which became known then and to today as Crawford’s Path.  That group would name most of the mountains they saw after the early United States Presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. That we hiked on the oldest continuously maintained hiking trail in the United States wasn’t lost on me.  People have been walking or riding horses on this path since many of the Founding Fathers were alive.  The Crawford Path is a bridge of sorts, and 200 years later I hiked part of it to traverse the summits named for two Presidents who came after the trail was first cut: Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower.

Franklin Pierce was the 14th man to be President, and the only one ever born in New Hampshire.  He was President between 1853 and 1857, and was well aware of the threat that the abolitionists from the southern states posed to the young United States of America.  Pierce was a compromise candidate nominated to appease the south, but he wasn’t a particularly popular President, making controversial decisions like nullifying the Missouri Purchase (if we can have anti-slavery Maine be a state we let pro-slavery Missouri be one too) by signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act.  That may be a post for another day, but the act essentially fueled the vigorous anti-slavery movement that led to the Civil War.

“After the White House what is there to do but drink?” – Franklin Pierce

Pierce wasn’t a great President when the United States needed one.  He was also a vocal critic of Abraham Lincoln, which didn’t endear him to most northerners then or today.  But he is a native son, and New Hampshire named a 4310 peak in his honor.  It would be the first of two 4000 footers I’d climb for the day.  The second would be the 4780 foot Mount Eisenhower.

Dwight D Eisenhower was, like George Washington, a great General who became a relatively great American President.  He opposed McCarthyism, promoted civil rights, expanded Social Security and built the nations interstate Highway System.  He was a two-term war hero President who bridged the relatively peaceful decade between the Korean War and American escalation in Vietnam.  When he passed away New Hampshire took an existing mountain in the Presidential Range, Mount Pleasant, and re-named it Mount Eisenhower in his honor.

“This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” – Dwight D Eisenhower

Enough history, let’s get to the hiking.  Hiked up the Crawford Connector Trail to meet up with the Crawford Path, and made a point of stopping for a look at Gibbs Falls. I rarely pass up a visit to a waterfall, and today wasn’t going to be an exception.

From there we hiked up to Pierce and then Eisenhower. There was a lot of company on each summit (being a beautiful Saturday) but we managed to find a spot to stop for a quick break at each before moving on. Checked two peaks off the list of 48 and had a great day with three great people. We left Crawford’s Path for the Eisenhower Loop, summiting relatively quickly, had our quick lunch and descended via the Edmands Path, a rocky, wet trail that wasn’t a favorite. But it did the job of bringing us back to the quiet road that led to our car and cold beverages and hot showers. A long day, but a heck of a day. And I’ll publish this and enjoy the rest of a great Saturday.

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