The climb down

It was 2 PM; we were at the peak of Mt Washington. The wind had picked up, it was chilly. Hydrated, fed and bundled up; it was time to head back down. Battling the inner voice telling me to take the train back to the base, we set out to find the Jewell Trail to go to the Cog Rail base station, from where we would walk half a mile on level ground to our cars.

The great gulf wilderness is a part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System which provides provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals.
The cog railway line
Walking along the rail line
The trail was longer; therefore more gradual than the Ammonoosuc trail took up to the summit. It runs alongside the Cog Rail for a while above treeline; which also had some breathtaking views. It was surreal to see the tiny train chugging slowly up the mountain- a little machine in a vast expanse of rocks. 

Chugging along ..
The Cog Rail that runs from the base station in Bretton Woods NH to the observatory on the summit, was conceptualized by a businessman and investor from NH, Sylvester Marsh. His proposal to build a railway lie to the top was ridiculed by the town initially but he set out to build it by hand along with a father and son team, investors Herrick and Walter Aiken. Oxen and cattle had to haul up the materials from the nearest rail town that was 6 miles away; the average ascent is 25 degrees.  In July 1869, the first Cog Rail train ran up to the top of Mt Washington. In keeping with the times, the Cog Railway has now added a fleet of biodiesel cars in addition to the steam cars.

"Mooning the cog" can get you arrested. 
The sun is shining, but it was cold ! 
If the climb up was tiring, the climb down was even worse on the already tired knees. I promptly fell behind the group, trying to steady my quavering knees while hopping on the rocks. I thought, a lot, about going back up and taking the cog rail down; the views and the sight of the summit being so far above us  cheered me on. 
Uncurated views
After  rest stops and a lot of coaxing, we managed to make it below treeline; a relief to be on mud again. The rest of the descent was pretty uneventful, we ran into a few more hikers; some of them who were doing this solo ! We also saw some campsites on the way, signaling that we were close to the base. 
Finally, back to a "regular" trail. 
At the end of the jewell trail

3.5 hours and 4000' later, we were on level ground ! We walked the half-mile to the car, exhilarated and shocked that we made it in one piece. Spicy thai food and a lot of rehydration made us feel somewhat human again. 

Day 2 was a day of discovery : we discovered new muscles and aches that we had never known. Climbing up stairs was alright; climbing down was excruciating. A lot of stretching and tough love helped- we were out and about on day3. 
We climbed that !
PS: These were not the himalayas, but I do feel a sense of achievement, since it was the highest peak in the Northeastern US. Being strong is key - the hard work with all the cardio and strength training is worth the rush standing on the peak brings. It would also be good to do some "practice runs" before - we did not, but I can see how it would have helped. Good shoes and knowing how to tie your laces properly go a long way.

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