Flags on the 48 is an annual event which marks the anniversary of 9-11. Each Saturday closest to 9-11, a flag is flown over each of the NH48 from noon until 2pm. I was able to sign up for Washington.
Alex initially said she wanted to ride up the Auto Road with her father and Sage, which was fine by me...I figured she might want to take a break from hiking after our big finish a couple of weeks ago. However, as she watched me get ready the night before, she became more and more anxious. Just as I was finishing my usual preparations, she burst out, "I changed my mind! I want to go!" I asked if she was sure, and reminded her that it would be a steep climb. She insisted that she was sure, but added that she'd probably take the Auto Road down. I gave my consent, and she went to bed happy and excited.
Our boots were on the trail at 6am. MadRiver and Susan were planning on starting out later and catching up. Tobit would meet us at the top, along with Hugh and Sage, after coming up the Auto Road.
My picture quality isn't that great, guess lack of morning coffee meant I couldn't quite focus...
Tuckerman Ravine Trail starts off easily enough. The trail is rocky but not too steep, and it leads past beautiful Crystal Cascades (which Alex very much enjoyed).
Soon after the Cascades, the trail took a turn for the Very Rocky and Sloggish. The grade was moderately steep for the next mile and a half or so. Finally, we found flat land again, close to the Hermit Lake campsite/shelter area.
Past the shelters we went, up a steep set of rock stairs that went on for a few tenths of a mile. We turned at one point and took a picture of the site below.
We moved forward on the trail a bit...
...before taking another look back.
We came to a nice rock which seemed to scream, "Lean on me!" So we did.
After we had fed and watered ourselves, we moved onward...
....and right on into the Twilight Zone.
I have no idea how we got off track...I had pages from a guidebook in my hand, plus the map and compass...we were keeping a first aid cache on our right and hiking up boulders, turning right as the guidebook described. However, we suspected we were not on the trail...there were neither cairns nor blazes, and the path we were following was a rock slide. We were about halfway up and had decided that this was absolutely NOT the way, when we heard voices coming from below. Looking down, we could see MadRiver and Susan beneath us, approaching the climb. After a bit, they disappeared to our left and did not reappear...so we had a decision to make. After checking map and compass, I saw that if we continued we would top out close to the Lion's Head Route. We could then take that toward the summit. Or, we could go all the way down and reascend on Tuckerman's. We both felt that, given our time constraints and energy level, it would actually be easier to keep going up than to climb down and reascend.
We kept to our left, close to the scrub and away from the looser rocks in the middle, and climbed the rest of the slide. It wasn't anything either one of us hadn't done before, and Alex thought it was fun, but I was happy when we were up and over it.
Interesting...at the top was a small cairn, and an old path leading away from the slide. It was definitely an old trail, it was clearly defined underneath the branches of old scrub that were growing over it. I re-checked the map and compass, then Alex and I followed this path for less than a tenth of a mile before running into the intersection of the Alpine Garden Trail and the Lion's Head Trail.
In retrospect, I regret not taking pictures of that part of our journey. During that half hour or so, however, my only concern was getting up and over the slide, and then putting ourselves back onto a mapped trail. I didn't even think about taking pictures until we were at the intersection of Lion's Head and Tuckerman. Once back on Tuckerman and climbing that last 0.3 miles to the summit, I remembered the camera.
Alex was phenomenal. She showed no signs of fatigue until heading up the summit cone, then she wanted to rest every five minutes. She's a tough kid...this was the greatest elevation gain she's ever experienced in one day...plus she climbed that rock slide like a seasoned pro.
Both of us were very happy to finally get to the summit!
The whole crew was there and waiting for us -- Hugh, Sage, Tobit, MadRiver, Susan, and a great fellow named Glen.
We took the PVC poles from my bag, attached them with connectors, attached the pole to the summit sign using bungee cord, then put the flag up (climbing cord tied into the grommets). The girls made sure the flag never touched the ground while we were tying it in. I was proud of them for taking everything so seriously.
Here's the finished product, with random hikers.
Now it was time to relax! We spent the next two hours hanging out, chatting with everyone, eating whoopie pies, and taking it easy.
Ed 'n Lauky appeared, which made the kids' day. Lauky gave everyone kisses and made instant best buds with both my girls.
2:00pm rolled around fast, and it was time to take the flag down. Unfortunately, the only static of the day came when a group of French hikers...or French Canadian hikers...were incredibly rude about not giving us space. We took the pole down in less than a minute, but they were pushing and shoving, wanting to get their summit shots NOW.
The girls had practiced folding the flag in the proper manner, and I moved them to a flat spot so they could perform the informal ceremony.
After all was put away, Susan, MadRiver and I said our goodbyes to Hugh, Sage, Alex (who was riding down), and Tobit. Then we descended Tucks.
It was nice, seeing the part of the trail that I had missed on the way up! There were lovely flowers everywhere.
When we got back to the bottom of the headwall, I tried to figure out where Alex and I had gone wrong. I saw where the path diverged...there was a yellow blaze hidden underneath a branch...that must have been why we didn't go the right way..???
MadRiver, Susan and I finished our hike enjoying each other's company and sharing some great conversation. Afterward, we stopped by Bob and Geri's to say hi to many other "Flags" folk.
It was a great day, and we were honored to be a part of this event.