Too many weekends since I last hiked to a summit. Basically, I skipped December for the holidays, and was feeling the built-up restlessness that comes with knowing you’ve got things to do. I’d planned for Hale, but latched on to other’s plans for Mount Jackson for the views and banter of friends.
Mount Jackson is a popular trail. We started early, meeting friends at the trailhead, but not early enough and parked along the side of Route 302. The out and back trail is roughly five miles of moderate hiking, with a short scramble towards the summit. Micro spikes were a requirement with a healthy dose of exposed ice and a couple of (frozen) stream crossings along the way.
The straight path up Mount Jackson is via the Webster-Jackson Trail. That’s the trail we took, and judging from the compacted snow on the trail, so do most people. The day started overcast at the trailhead, but it was one of those hikes where you walk into sunshine, and like a jet bursting through the clouds, we emerged from the tree line to find bright sunshine and undercast in the valley below. Incredible views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range greeted us, along with a few hungry Gray Jays looking for handouts.
Mount Jackson is named for a geologist named Charles Thomas Jackson who completed a geological survey of New Hampshire in 1844. According to Wikipedia, Jackson seems to have been a somewhat controversial figure in his time, with a pattern of taking credit for discoveries others made. His brother-in-law was Ralph Waldo Emerson. For those who can’t get enough information on Charles Thomas Jackson there’s a wealth of information on Jackson in an article published by The State of Maine and while doing a bit of research I saw that the Bangor Daily News just published a small bit about Mount Jackson a few days ago. Apparently I’m not the only one wondering about why they’d name the mountain after this particular character, but based on his controversies he probably just named it after himself and nobody challenged it.
After a lunch on the summit we started our descent, with plenty of butt sliding mixed into the walk back. A couple of side trails made for interesting views, we spent a few minutes at Bugle Cliff, but opted out of Elephant Head. After the stunning views on the summit maybe we were a bit spoiled.
On the descent a couple of us hiked down to the Silver Cascade, which is very popular near Route 302 but involves some sweat equity further upstream. The small falls we saw were worth the side trip, with blue ice putting on a dazzling display for the two of us that sought it out. Waterfalls change by the day, and even though most of our party had seen them before I was still surprised more people don’t make the trek down. I’ll never turn down a side trip to a waterfall with kindred spirits.
I’d circled this weekend in hopes of trying out my new Tubbs snowshoes. They’re a huge upgrade over the snowshoes I used to have, but we just haven’t had the snow accumulation to give them a workout. With the compacted trails today wasn’t the right day for them either. But that didn’t make the day disappointing. It turned out to be a spectacular way to spend a beautiful and cold Sunday; time with the closest of friends, relatively easy hiking and another summit checked off on the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footer list.