The trip started at the Castle Trail Parking area where we started our hike at 8:30 am. We were a half hour later than we wanted as the road near the Washington Auto Road was temporarily closed due to a roll-over accident. The first river crossing was a little difficult, a family of five having a particularly hard time. We ascended Israel Ridge Trail which proved to be pretty steep and rugged. Black flies were swarming but weren't biting, just being annoying! We climbed a ladder before climbing out onto open rock and the Cabin Cascades at 10:30pm. We took a well needed brake from the hazy, hot temps. The cold water on our faces was heavenly!
Onward and steeply upward we continued on. Once past the Randolph Junction we began to get views of the rock pointed "Castles", a magnificent sight. Around 12:15pm we found a bit of a windy open spot where we decided to have lunch. This done we set off for the Alpine Zone with views up to the minor Adams summits, the Castles and Mt. Jefferson. We finally broke timberline about 12:45pm with Jefferson's summit off in the distance across Edmunds Col. It was beautiful, with perfect sky's and an occasional breeze.
Across, down and back up the long ridge we passed a still snow covered Spalding Spring and began the climb up the North West side of Jefferson's cone. There were plenty of hikers around here and all across the ridge to Adams. We crossed over another large snow patch near or on the Gulfside Spring which was a good 8 feet deep.
Once up to the small plateau that partially surrounds this peak we sat down for another break at 2:30pm with spectacular views to Washington and the Southern Presi's. The wind was blowing at a wonderful 30/40 mph clip was felt so good. This is my favorite summit on the range as the feeling of being smack dab in the middle of the two tallest peaks in the North East is incredible! Once done our break we crossed the summit of Jefferson, 5, 716 ft.
We made our way down the Castle Trail, the Castles looming ahead looking like a serrated knife edge. This trail is probably the closest you will get to Maine's Mt. Katahdin's Knife Edge. I forgot just how tuff this trail is. The two large castles are the obvious ones, but what you don't see is all the little ones above and below it. There must be a dozen of these outcrops! The descent was slow, steep and agonizing but we were very happy to have the wind on this side. The castles are a sight to behold, a must see in the White Mountains. I made it a point this time (this being my second hike on this trail) to tag the top of each castle. Back into tree cover the trail continued to be very steep in spots, with a couple scrambles, or in the case of descending it was more like sliding and grabbing tree limbs!
The black flies picked back up now but they were not as bad as the earlier ascent. We trudged our way down the long trail, our sore exhausted body's getting a brake now and then with level areas. We were very excited to arrive at the Israel Ridge junction knowing we had just 1.3 miles left. That one little mile of course felt like forever. We re-crossed the river and arrived back at our start point at 6:00pm.
View Pictures HERE
Trip Break Down
Total Time: 9.5 hrs.
Total Mileage: 10.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: around 4,000 ft.
Weather: Hazy, Hot and Buggy! Sunny, a nice strong breeze in upper areas.
Trails: Steep and rugged. Jefferson's trails always leaves me sore. But they are some of the best for those who like steep, wild climbs. The very beginning of Castle trail needs some brush cut back, but otherwise trails looked good.