Ken MacGray
Writer / Author / Hiker

The Story of Mt. Resolution

(This article was originally published in "They Said They Wanted More: A Hilarious Journey Hiking the NH 52 With a View" by Kenneth Bosse.)

When Nathaniel T.P. Davis conceived of what we know today as Davis Path, his vision was that of a 15 mi. trail that could be traveled by horse from Crawford Notch all the way to the summit of Mt. Washington.

It was in 1844 when he began the monumental task of laying out, clearing, and cutting this path. The work was difficult -- thick forest, steep terrain, rocky ledges -- the type of White Mountains experience we are used to now. Add to that the sheer length of this route and it became one of the most ambitious trail construction projects ever.

I imagine Davis was quite enthusiastic about the project at its start. On the surface, such an idea must have been very exciting. But by the time work commenced to a point just beyond Mt. Crawford, the realities of the difficulties set in and this caused him to rethink the entire project. Maybe this wasn't a feasible goal? Perhaps the work involved was just too much? He had only proceeded a little over 2.0 mi. with about 13 left to go until Washington.

At this point Davis temporarily abandoned the project to weigh his options. While having his doubts, deep down he was determined to see his vision through to the end. After a break, he soon returned to work, cutting his path across the ridgeline, passing by Mt. Crawford, Mt. Resolution, Stairs Mtn., Mt. Davis, Mt. Isolation, and finally reaching Mt. Washington a year later in 1845. In honor of Davis’ resolve to complete the trail, it was Boston dentist and Crawford Notch resident Samuel Bemis who bestowed the name “Resolution” upon the mountain where work on the trail had resumed.

Flash forward 171 years to 2016.

I was on my fourth visit to Mt. Resolution, one of the wildest and most beautiful peaks on the 52 With A View list. Its remote location and rusty cliffs and ledges evoke more of a feel of the western US than New England. Reached by a short side trip off Davis Path on Mt. Parker Trail, the open ledges near the summit of Resolution provide stunning views. Notice I said "near" the summit. The true summit and highest point on the mountain is not reached by any hiking trail, although Mt. Parker Trail does get fairly close.

What's that saying about close? Something about horseshoes and hand grenades?

Anyway, on this visit, part of the plan was to finally visit the high point. I had heard tales of a gravelly clearing, a rare jack pine, views to the north of the Presidential Range, and perhaps an old AMC 3,000 footer register placed years ago.

In theory, the short bushwhack to the true summit sounded doable enough. I mean, it was less that 0.2 mi. off the main hiking trail so how tough could it be, right?

I launched my trip from the main ledges which Mt. Parker Trail traverses. A herd path appears! Perhaps this will be a cake walk. This path didn't lead me too far, but did head off in the direction of the "summit" of Resolution's southwest bump, where there was a small cairn. This was a nice bonus, but not the main objective.

Taking a compass bearing to the northeast, I set off for the true summit. Bushwhacking across the summit ridge in this direction requires some sort of navigational aid as the terrain is quite flat. You can't just visually head uphill. From research I knew this and also knew that the woods ahead were dense.

What I didn't realize, and what one can't experience until you get here in person, is that not only are the woods dense, they are nearly impenetrable. The first little bit of off-trail travel was doable, but scratchy. I could do this. There will probably be some scratches and blood, but I could do this.

That confidence quickly turned into "what am I doing" when suddenly in all directions the forest put up a wall that may have been bricks at that point. Maybe enough room for a chipmunk to slip through, but not a full-sized human. The elusive summit, which I knew was RIGHT OVER THERE, seemed to be mocking me as if to say, "LOL not today!"

Still, I persisted. Wandering from side to side, I searched for any opening where I could make even a few inches of headway. To the right? Nothing. Left? Nothing. What if I scoot around this way? Nope. Sigh.

Weighing my options, of which there were few, and given the time of day and distance to hike back out to my car, I begrudgingly let the forest win this battle and retreated to the ledges.

While I was a bit disappointed I didn't make it to the high point, I wasn't feeling defeated. If anything, it's important for us hikers to know our limits. Sure, I guess I could have thrashed through the woods ripping up my gear and myself in the process, but that didn't sound too appealing at the time.

As with Nathaniel T.P. Davis pausing work on Davis Path because of the difficulties involved with building his trail, not reaching the true summit of Mt. Resolution is just my taking a break from eventually completing the goal. I'll be back to finish the job. If he can find a way to cut through 15 mi. of wilderness, I can find the resolve to make it an additional 0.15 mi.