The Great Gully to the summit of Adams August 26, 2009Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, White Mountains.
Tags: Great Gully, King Ravine, Mt. Adams, White Mountains
Total hike: nine miles, 4400 vertical
I had been up the Great Gully once before and remembered it as a place seeming very secret in its nature even though it is in the White Mountain Guide right on the next page after the King Ravine trail description. The trail up the Gully splits off from the King Ravine trail at the upper part of the ravine basin not far before the steepest part of the climb up the headwall. The trails diverge at 3800 feet, or about 100 vertical feet below the “let’s get down to business” part of the headwall, and they both get to the top of the steeps (5100) in little more than a half mile, though the Great Gully has its stiffest part at a point lower on the headwall.
A tributary of Cold Brook flows down the Great Gully, and that is what transforms the gully into a secluded, protected place that has a dense carpet of flowers and rhodora, dwarf birch and dwarf black spruce, ferns, and moss. The plants seem woven together in a tapestry of colors and shapes. From across the ravine you can see a deep greenish gash where it emerges above treeline, a moist protected world that contrasts with the monochromatic windblasted tundra.
The Great Gully trail is famous for one spot described in the White Mountain Guide as follows: “The trail then passes under an overhanging rock on a ledge with a high, sheer drop close by on the left, forcing the faint of heart to crawl on their bellies, dragging their packs behind them.” It had been a long time since I’d been up the trail, so I couldn’t quite remember whether this spot was quite as terrible as described.
I started at the Appalachia parking lot, took the Air Line to the Short Line to the King Ravine trail. Just before the KR junction, I saw some very pretty moss. Readers of this blog know that I am obsessed by moss.
I hit the KR trail just below Mossy Falls, which didn’t have as much moss as the rocks above.
Pretty soon above the falls the scrambling starts. No big dilemmas, but a lot of boulders that have to be negotiated. Each one is a puzzle that needs to be solved to figure out the best way up and over. Before long I emerged on the open floor of the ravine.
After clambering over an entertaining series of boulders, I came to the Great Gully junction. The lower part of the trail passed between big pillows of moss that were spangled with mountain goldenrod.
Soon the climbing got steeper, and I came to a beautiful cascade.
I was getting to the part where the trail has to do some serious contortions to get around cliffy areas. Right above the cascade I had a view that confirmed that I was making upward progress.
I knew I was approaching the tricky bit where the WMG talks about the “faint of heart.” Sure enough, here it was. You have to look at two pictures to get the full story. Here is the hole that you can squeeze through. It’s tighter than it looks in the picture:
The reason you squeeze through the hole is because this is immediately to the left.
I squirmed through the hole without having to take off my pack, though it wasn’t pretty. I guess there is a way you can do it without hole-squeezing, but I wasn’t going to venture onto the outward face of the ledge, especially since I was on my own.
I could hear a couple of distant voices wafting over from the King Ravine trail, which churns up the rubble pile under the high rocks seen below. I’ve been up that way a few times, too.
My route had less rubble and lots of ingenious combinations of rock and plant life.
It’s hard to say exactly where treeline is on the Great Gully, because the plants right in the gully remain taller than just outside it, though you definitely have a sense of being out in the open. I admired the dense mat of plant life.
Eventually the trail works its way onto a scree slide.
Looking back down to the floor of the ravine…
I finally tackled the summit of Adams.
I had a view over to George, the Great Gulf, and the Auto Road. I could see the glimmer of the Peabody River in the Gulf.
Much to my surprise, there was absolutely no one on the summit. In fact, I had seen a total of zero people on my whole way up the mountain. It was a Tuesday, but a beautiful day in August, so that was a bit odd. I took a dorky picture of myself on the summit with the timer.
I had to commemorate the moment because it was my birthday. After about ten minutes, a few other people straggled in. One nice guy named Scott gave an interesting lecture to me and a father and son who arrived, all about the evils of corn syrup in Power Bars, but I appreciate the fact that he sang “Happy Birthday” to me.
I decided to descend by the Airline trail, which oddly enough I’d never been on before. I passed the top of the King Ravine trail, always impressive from that angle.
The view down the Airline ridge:
My hours of seeing few people had come to an end. All down the Airline I encountered great numbers of humanity, including probably quite a few hutsters (Madison Hut, I mean). However, I must say that this route seemed better than the Valley Way, which is the main thoroughfare to the hut. I’m not quite sure why I’d neglected the Airline before.
My father’s railway book August 10, 2009Posted by Jenny in history, literature, memoir, railroads, travel.
Tags: Edward W. Bennett, G. Gibbard Jackson, railroads, steam locomotives, The World's Railways
The picture was taken by my grandfather as the family was about to depart on a trip to Europe. But it was not ships that my father loved best, it was railroads.
I have a book that belonged to him, The World’s Railways by G. Gibbard Jackson, published in London, 1927. It is a beautiful book with a color illustration on the cover showing a train as it emerges from a picturesque tunnel. The plume of steam coming from the locomotive smokestack is flattened and elongated as if by tremendous, impressive speed. A caption explains that this is the “Great Western Railway: Cornish Riviera Express.”
The book has been loved so much that it is literally falling apart at the seams. The front cover has become detached, and there is no spine. Some of the color plates are falling out.
After a few introductory historical chapters, the book plunges into descriptions of the railways of Britain, giving a full account of “The Seaside Lines,” “The London and the Joint Lines,” and other regional railroads before proceeding to Ireland and then bouncing over to Europe, Asia, Africa, India, Canada, and the U.S.A.
I will excerpt the section dealing with the “Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean Railway,” otherwise known as the “Blue Train.” In reading this, I understand my father’s enchantment, and I think you will, too.
I wonder how many have heard of the Blue Train? Another name for it is the Magic Carpet, since, when a traveller boards it in winter in Northern France, he alights in the summer of the Mediterranean—and the change has been effected whilst he sleeps…. In reality this train is a good travelling hotel; every convenience that you would expect at the best of hotels is here at your service. You are given a reserved compartment, which forms a charming little sitting-room by day, to become the most comfortable of bedrooms at night, after it has received some slight attention from the courteous bed-maker. There is a splendid dining car with numerous tables, each accommodating four people. Your seat is allotted to a certain table, and during the whole run you take that seat without question. After a meal you return to your little—cabin, I was going to say, and there is really no word which describes so well your compartment—and recline upon the comfortable couch, which at night becomes your bed. There is a cabinet, which, upon being explored, is found to give one not only a table, but quite a generous supply of hot and cold water. The electric lights are just splendid, and are so arranged that you get full benefit from them, one being conveniently placed over your pillow for night reading.
As I read, the riches of a disappeared world spill out of each sentence like items out of a steamer trunk whose brass locks have been popped open. There are so many delightful and old-fashioned details, so many ways in which the scene would now be utterly impossible, that I feel disinclined to ennumerate them. I simply present them.
I inherited my father’s love of railroads, and I came to be familiar with certain ones (now all merged into larger entities): the Norfolk & Western, Southern, Louisville & Nashville, the C&O and the B&O, the Union Pacific, the Burlington Northern, and smaller ones like the Lake Erie Franklin & Clarion. But that is a subject for another post.
The photo below shows a French steam locomotive that looks somewhat like the one that hurtles across the color plate that accompanies Jackson’s Blue Train description.