Trip Report: Tom, Field, and Willey

After spending a wonderful day hiking up to Mitzpah Springs with my family, my wife had given me the ok for a day of Ryan time doing bigger/new mountains.  I had my eyes on this trio for a while because they were always sold (thanks Mike Oltmans) as a great long day trip to do as a series.  That combined with the fact that they were now (as of my Waumbek hike two days earlier) the most remote mountains from Boston and that we were staying at the Highland Center, made this hike a no-brainer.
Trip stats
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3000 ft
Total time: 3.6 hours
Weight: 12 pounds
Peaks: Tom, Field, Willey
Another early morning start, this was
going to be a REALLY long day.

The trip started with yet another early morning start (these hiking trips are brutal on my sleeping schedule) at the trailhead for the Avalon Trail.  You need to cross the railroad tracks by the Crawford Depot which was interesting.  I didn’t even realize their were trails over there, I assumed it would have started closer to the Highland Center.

The initial climb was hard, but pretty much your standard valley ascent.  Lots of dirt and roots, crossing over a couple of ridges, maybe a couple of stream crossings, and never seems to end as you stare at the perspective on the neighboring mountains, willing them to look shorter.  I was also pretty tired as this had been my third day of serious hiking so I couldn’t run up it quite as easily as I had Waumbek.  It gets steeper after the intersection where the Avalon Trail breaks off and becomes the A-Z Trail.  At that point I was even considering running up and tagging Avalon for fun, but I wisely held myself back and kept the original plan of going straight for Tom first.

When you get to the top of the valley climb you are in a saddle between Tom and Field.  You need to run to the north to tag Mount Tom on the spur.  This is a pretty fast jaunt, the beginning is even joggable for me and then it becomes a bit rocky as you approach the actual summit.  When you get to the false summit there are two paths, the right one is just a quick dead end but the left one leads to the “real summit” which looked barely higher if that than the first intersection I had come to.  But it seemed to have a better view if it hadn’t been fog-laden.

I was really impressed by these stairs, they went on
for a long while near the top of Mount Tom. 
This is NOT the summit, do not be fooled.
The actual Tom summit is up the path to the left.
After this, I ran back down to the junction and proceeded on the Willey Range Trail.  This again is a pretty fast trail with easy terrain and only a couple hundred feet in elevation gain to speak of before you reach the even less exciting summit of Mount Field.

It really looked like this would have been
a great view from Willey…:(

From here you can continue on to Mount Willey, although you quickly get the feeling like a lot of people do not and take the Avalon Trail down to complete the loop.  First of all, it drops precipitously after the Field summit in a way that the previous trails had not.  Plus the trail was a bit more overgrown (though still very well maintained).  But do not despair, you are on the right trail.  I checked my GPS twice through this section because I was concerned, particularly because OpenStreetMap didn’t have the trail on the map.

The trail is definitely tougher terrain than what I had faced that morning, but you can find much worse in the Whites.  It’s actually a pretty gradual, but longer than expected ascent over a couple of small rises to get to Willey.  Once you get there, the view looked amazing…or it would have…again, I was in a glowy fog bank but the couple of glimpses I got through the clouds looked like it would have been amazing view across at the southern presi range.

Normally I don’t talk much about the descents because they go so fast and I don’t notice them greatly, but the descent off Willey deserves some comment.  It is possibly the steepest section I’ve faced in the White mountains so far.  There are more consecutive constructed staircases in one section than I’ve seen before and I was constantly slipping and sliding down the gravel.  So if you like the steep, challenging wooded ascent/descents look no further than the upper slopes of Willey.  The bottom of the slope even out as it picked up the Appalachian Trail until I was jogging to the bottom parking lot.  I chose to get picked up at the very bottom of the Ethan Pond Trail but if I had to do it again I would have gone down the harder trail to the Willey House, just because it was a MUCH nicer place to wait than a random parking lot.

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