A Presidential Orbit

By:  Greg
July 11, 2011

Ahhh… The Presidential Traverse in the White Mountain National Forest. It’s a classic. Sam and I did it a few years ago, and lucked into a hundred year high pressure system. Even though Sam and I had undoubtedly the best weather that will ever occur in the Presidentials in the next hundred years, I still always want to go back and traverse the “presis” again… or–in honor of the final space shuttle mission--maybe even orbit them…

“Orbit?” you ask.

“Sure, ‘orbit,’ like a planet from Utah (or see here too for a planet from Vermont).”

Indeed, as regular readers of FIS might know, I like to produce so-called “planetary/panoramic orbs,” which I think are the most natural way to display a 360 degree panorama. The idea is that the “core” or these images is where the photographer is standing, and if you rotate the photo (or twist your head around sideways) you can simulate rotating in place from the point of view of the photographer; you get to see all 360 degrees without some super wide and short panorama which doesn’t really simulate the experience of being there. Plus, they’re oftentimes just cool to look at without any fancy interpretations.

Consequently, I thought it would be neat to show all the peaks of the Presidential Traverse (in order: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay [not actually an official summit], Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, and Pierce) as such “planets.” In my opinion, viewing these planets is as close as you can get to actually standing on the summits of the peaks without doing the hike yourself. Moreover, I think it’s kind of cool to watch the weather and light change throughout the day as we travelled from North to South along the Presidential Range. And so with that, here’s what one might call an “FO” (first orbit) by a cadre of highly skilled, expertly trained and supremely equipped interplanetary explorers…or you might also call us a bunch of dorks. Enjoy.

The first peak was Planet Madison at the Northern edge of the Presidential Planetary Solar System. We approached from the Pine Link, which allows the orbiter to not have to “out-and-back” Madison from the Spring Hut. I personally find this better for the morale of the group as well as less taxing on our rockets’ fuel supplies. In this picture KC is seated in the teal tank top, facing north staring across the Great Gulf at the route ahead. Wildcat ski area’s trails are visible at “10 o’clock;” the Mt. Washington Auto Road is visible at “noon.” Clouds hung ominously on what was supposed to be a crystal clear day. We debated bailing as Planet Washington went in and out of the clouds across The Gulf, but we were well equipped, and agreed to press on.
KC on Planet Madison

We turned the thrusters on as we passed the Spring Hut and Star Lake, and quickly came into the gravitational tug of Planet Adams. The sun poked out, and instantly rejuvenated the spirits of the fearless explorers, from left, Chrisil, Kristin (KC), and Christian… that’s a lot of “Christ-based” names. Sheesh!
the crew on Planet Adams

We all decided we should press on, and not take any significant breaks until we had made it up and over Washington. In all honesty I think this is the best advice you can give a traverser: don’t stop for anything longer than a water sip/snack munch until you’re over Washington. It’s tough on the engines to shut them down and warm them back up multiple times on the rough rocky terrain of the Northern Presidentials. Not to mention, Planet Jefferson–the easiest summit in the Presidentials to reach on foot with the trailhead poking just above 3000 feet–is often incredibly overcrowded, and not worth lingering on. Astronaut Christian needed only to touch down for a brief second to flex his muscles on this overcrowded planet before continuing.
Christian on Planet Jefferson

Despite the fact that Mt. Clay doesn’t qualify as a peak–it’s key col with Washington doesn’t lend it enough topographic prominence–we briefly made terrestrial contact anyway. The bugs were surprisingly bad though, so we fired up the auxiliary engines for the last “big thrust,” and hurtled up into space as we went up, up up to our “deepest orbit” atop Washington.
Planet Clay

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Read about the author:   Greg


  1. icelanticskier
    wrote on July 11th, 2011 at 10:36 pm  

    i shoulda gone into this one, chem free;)

    now i’m really fahked……….



  2. Greg
    wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 10:15 am  

    got a bigger copy josh? the link goes to a thumbnail!

  3. MadPatSki
    wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 11:02 am  

    Awesome…your planet feel almost as crowded as Sluice on that day. :P

    Always have to be careful with the gravity and not falling off the face of the Planet. I hate when that happens.

  4. surf88
    wrote on July 14th, 2011 at 4:40 pm  

    Nice!!! With all the times we crossed paths I’m glad I made into a pic. On Planet Adams Im in the blue shirt at 8oclock. Clay is probaly my favorite orb Great Gulf looks really cool and extra steep in it.

    • Greg
      wrote on July 19th, 2011 at 8:29 am  

      sweet! I’m glad you spotted yourself. I saw your post over on surf88.wordpress.com, and tried to comment, but it didn’t show up. Any thoughts? I also noticed there is some misaligned sidebar issue in google chrome on an Apple machine…. let me know if you want a screenshot…

      hope to see you in the mountains soon!

    • Anonymous
      wrote on July 19th, 2011 at 9:30 am  

      huh? not sure why the comment didnt show up. Usually I get notified on comment attempts, and I didnt. The chrome/apple issue I probably wont be able to fix because I’m using a WP theme on WP site, and this is the best theme I’ve found for my blog. I’ve recently purchased a domain and server space and am working on starting a new site to move my TR’s to.

  5. TEO
    wrote on July 23rd, 2011 at 8:45 pm  

    Uh, it’s M-o-n-r-o-e, as it President James Monroe. Apparently, you’ve been wisely breakfasting at the diner in Twin Mountain, Munroe’s (Family Restaurant).

    • Greg
      wrote on July 24th, 2011 at 8:43 pm  

      oops! Noted and (more importantly) corrected.

  6. Beef Wellington III
    wrote on August 10th, 2011 at 9:59 pm  

    Most excellent, Greg! Question: how did you produce these pictures? I’m guessing: a fisheye lens & photoshop.

    • Greg
      wrote on October 2nd, 2011 at 10:23 pm  

      Sorry for bot replying sooner. These are produced as follows:

      First take a 360 by 160 (YES, 160) pano by whatever means u like. I use a sigma 12mm on a full frame sensor camera held in portrait orientation.

      Then stretch in GIMP or Photoshop into a square image.

      Finally hit the image with a polar coordinate transformation with x=theta and y=r. Done! :D

  7. christian
    wrote on December 4th, 2013 at 11:00 am  

    what an awesome day this was!

    • Greg
      wrote on December 6th, 2013 at 7:01 am  


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