When: August 11-13, 2007
Where: Great Gulf Wilderness, White Mountains, NH
A few weeks ago I had the idea of heading up to the Whites to view this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower.
I knew of a nice spot in the Great Gulf Wilderness (a relatively remote, rugged section of the Whites nestled at the base of the Presidentials) where we could set up camp for the weekend. We planned to hike in Saturday evening, attempt to summit Mt.Jefferson on Sunday, enjoy the meteor shower on Sunday night, and hike out on Monday. With a crystal clear weather forecast, we looked forward to a much-needed weekend in the woods.
In our usual style, we got a late start on Saturday, not leaving Boston until 2:30. We arrived in North Conway in time for an early dinner at Flatbread Company, a fantastic pizza place that uses fresh, organic ingredients. They also have incredible organic salads, fresh lemonade, a decent beer selection, and great coffee drinks for chillier days.
Fueled up, we set off for the trailhead a few miles past the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center on Route 16. After a quick 3 mile hike we arrived at camp (The Bluff along the Great Gulf Trail) to find it occupied by two other parties and a couple of dogs. We managed to find a spot, but didn’t have a clear view of the sky as we had hoped. We crossed our fingers that we’d have the site to ourselves the next night.
Sunday morning we continued along the Great Gulf Trail to the Six Husbands Trail, which very steeply ascends the east side of Mount Jefferson. It’s a fun hike, but not for the faint-of-heart – there’s plenty of hand-over-hand climbing and a decent amount of exposure. Just below the summit we hooked up with the Gulfside Trail and enjoyed a nice ridge walk. The weather remained pleasant and mild – a rare treat in the Whites – and we loved walking through the alpine meadows. A descent down the Sphinx Trail proved tricky; the trail was wet and slippery, but we got down in one piece. At 10 miles round trip, this is not an easy hike and we knew we’d be paying for it over the next few days.
We arrived back at camp, thrilled to find the site empty. After dinner we dozed off, waiting for the skies to darken and the show to start. At 2:00 am – the beginning of the peak hours – we crawled out of the tent, scrambled up a nearby boulder, and made ourselves comfortable. Though the weather was not entirely cooperative and clouds constantly rolled through, we saw several meteors – a few were truly spectacular.
Sore and tired from the previous day’s climb, we labored out of the woods on Monday morning, looking forward to our favorite part of the trip – the post-hike meal. Torn between Mexican food at Café Noche or more pizza, we opted for the latter and made our way back to Flatbread Company. We ended the weekend with a stroll around town and some soft ice cream, reluctant to face the long ride back to Boston.