Willey Range (June 28, 2014) - 7 hours - Click on pictures to enlarge!

The Willey Range is in my Bretton Woods backyard - I can see it from my deck. I had done bits and pieces of it, and had gone around it, but had never hiked the full ridge. We started by climbing Mt. Tom, which has two fine viewpoints (left and right). The viewpoint to the right is the result of a wind blowdown a decade ago and the trail guide keeps warning that it is filling in but I was glad not to see much difference compared to my trips in previous years.
There was no wind at all on the summit and the black flies were really annoying in the sun, so we didn't stay long. However I was very pleased to see a pair of grey jays (left). They reside at 4.000' and used to be a reliable presence in the White Mountains anytime you got to that altitude but I had not seen them as consistently in the past few years and was concerned that they were in trouble. It turns out that I would see many pairs of grey jays along the ridge today. From Mt. Tom we dropped back into the saddle and went on to climb Mt. Field (right).
Mt. Field also has two fine viewpoints including one of the best views of Bretton Woods (left). The view is thankfully assisted by deliberate tree cutting. From there Roger went back down by the Avalon Trail, while Peter and I continued on to Mt. Willey. I had never done that segment of the trail before. It follows the ridge with lots of little ups and downs and some limited views (right).
The top of Willey again has two excellent viewpoints, one to the south across the Pemigewasset Wilderness (left) and one to the north towards the Webster cliffs and the Saco valley (right). The last time I had done Mt. Willey was with Oscar 8 years ago, it was October and snowing. Here it was June and warm and windless and the black flies were having a field day.
We descended the Willey trail, very steep and rough. This is a classic White Mountains trail with no wimpy switchbacks - just straight up, wet and rock-hopping. It didn't look like it was built with much care. But then I was amazed to find an intricate system of connected ladders (left and right), where you go down one ladder and the bottom rung connects to the top platform of the next ladder, and so one. There are about 10 ladders connected in this way - a trailbuilding marvel. After that it was down to the Willey trailhead, from which we hitched a ride to Bretton Woods in the back of a pickup truck - a fun ride through Crawford Notch!

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