Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jackson with Gray Jays--11/1/2016

Jackson Branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail
5.2 miles round-trip
2,150 feet of elevation gain

It was a fairly chilly day when we started hiking up Mt. Jackson.  I started in my fleece with my raincoat wrapped around my waist.

There was some snow lightly covering some of the trees and the leaves on the ground.  Winter feels closer than I expected!


We went around and stepped over the branches.

More snow and frost were appearing around the trail.

Still mostly rock, though!

The rocks became slippery and some of them, icy.  There was black ice we had to be careful of; it was disguised as water.

We carried traction with us but never put it on; the ice was never thick or constant enough to use microspikes.  We could have tried to use them, but the ice was so thin that we might have smashed our 'spikes on rock for most of our hike.  It's the in-between season here in the Whites. 

We arrived at the intersection about half way up to the summit.

It became a little bit steeper after that.

We could see Jackson's summit!

Once I got above tree line, there were gorgeous, snowy views all around us.  The faraway forest had received a nice dusting.

Up, up, up the ice!

It felt warmer up here than in the trees because of the immense and direct sunlight.

It was like two worlds...on the left there were snow-covered trees, and on the right (in the below image) there was a lot of green.

This was what it looked like to the left.

Rime ice!

The first gray jay (scavenger birds that hang around the summits of certain peaks) was spotted.

There are two (as usual)!

They flew above us and followed us to the actual summit.

There's one on the intersection sign!

So cute!

This one let me get pretty close for some lovely shots.

Even closer!!!!

Its feathers are gorgeous!

99% of White Mountain hikers feed gray jays, and we are no exception.  Please note this is the ONLY wildlife we feed.  Never feed a bear, moose, or any other wild animal...except perhaps a gray jay if you find yourself on a White Mountain summit.  The reason we make an exception for gray jays is this -- they are scavenger birds and will regularly raid campgrounds for food...but unlike squirrels, raccoons, bears, etc. who do the same thing, gray jays don't really become a nuisance or a problem for humans if fed.  Alan Belford of NY's Saranac Lake puts it like this, and my family agrees with him --

"’s a stretch to call a 70g bird a threat and the worst they might do is become a nuisance in a campground where they can steal food. It is true that in some locations out west there are concerns about feeding jays (mostly Stellar’s Jays) potentially increasing their populations - the rising numbers of which may increase their predation pressure on the young of regionally uncommon bird species. But I have not heard of such concerns with Gray Jays in our region.

And so when I first went out to visit the Gray Jays myself when I moved here I didn’t feed them – wanting to be sure it wasn’t going to lead to an unforeseen problem for the jays or any other species. But I was soon converted to the activity – so many folks were already feeding the birds anyway that my abstinence accomplished nothing except to deprive myself the fun of doing so."

They are so graceful, agile, and adorable.  One was kind of a bully and shoved the other one off our hands a couple of times!


There's Sage!



Mt. Washington bird!  I love how these photos came out.


The gray jay's feathers fluttered about in the calm air as it flew down toward Mom's hand.

There it goes...


My summit snack from Halloween...

Mt. Washington with snow on top is beautiful.  Especially with a gray jay and a rime ice-covered cairn.

Flying, flying...

On the way down we saw some mouse (we think) tracks.  So tiny, so priceless.

Sorry about the countless gray jay pictures--I couldn't help myself!  That was a nice hike, and a good preparation and reminder for all the snow that will soon fall.  I hope everybody had a great Halloween!


  1. Great trip report and pics - the jay and rime photos are outstanding!