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Hiking Franconia Ridge

Scott, Mike, & I at Cloudland Falls

Mike, Scott, & I had decided to head up to New Hampshire to squeeze in some hiking.  So, on the morning of Tuesday, June 12th, we got started heading up to the Whites without having decided where we were going to hike exactly.  After some discussion, we had narrowed it down to either Franconia Ridge or Moosilauke.  Partly because they know I am working on the various lists, and partly because the weather was supposed to be great during the morning, we decided to hit up Franconia Ridge.  Scott & Mike had done this hike previously, but had never had good weather on the ridge.  They were hoping for a different outcome.  I had not read much about this actual hike, only had the views of the ridge (from across the notch) on my last hike fresh on my mind.

After parking at the Lafayette Campground hikers lot, we got onto the trail at 10:00am. We started up the Bridle Path to the junction of the Falling Waters Trail.  Crossing the bridge onto Falling Waters, I quickly realized how readily available I wanted my camera to be.

As the name implies, the trail follows, and crosses a couple of different brooks with waterfalls that increase in size the higher up the trail you go.  It really is a beautiful trail.  The first mile, mile and a half, seem to meander through the woods slowly gaining elevation.  It then begins a steep climb just before the largest of the waterfalls reveal itself.  Cloudland Falls is an 80 foot tall waterfall that was quite stunning.

Two Scott’s on the summit of Little Haystack – Mike’s photo

The steep climb continues over the next mile or so towards the summit of Little Haystack.  At about 2.8 miles, we took the .1 mile spur path to the Shining Rock overlook.  Shining Rock has a consistent flow of water seeping down it.  From the floor of the Notch, it glistens in the sun earning its name.  Unfortunately, the overlook wasn’t much of one on this day, as it was quite hazy at that time.

Back up the trail we pushed.  My heart was definitely pounding as we ascended the last quarter of a mile up to the summit.  As the trees began to thin out and get smaller, my desire to reach the summit and, finally, stand on the Franconia Ridge only intensified.  Also, I was freaking starving and couldn’t wait to dig into a PB&J wrap!

Even as hazy as it was, standing on the 4,760 foot summit of Little Haystack, it was readily apparent to me why Franconia Ridge is revered as one of the best stretches in all the 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  With 360˙ views, and the trail now above tree line, it is just a spectacular sight.  To the west, looking at the granite cliffs of Cannon & along the ridge to the Kinsmans, with Moosilauke hulking in the distance, I was able to reflect on previous hikes.  Looking to the east, overlooking Owls’s head, and off to the Bonds, and the south towards Liberty & Flume, I was dreaming of future hikes.  And to the north, miles of trail along the knife’s edge up to Lincoln and Lafayette were waiting to be imminently tackled.

Warriors upon Lafayette

The next 1.7 miles were a nice easy jaunt, up and over Lincoln, and on up to Lafayette.  We paused up on Lafayette to don our Warrior Helmets earned a couple days prior at Warrior Dash.  It’s funny to me that people looked at us, but no one dared questioned why we were wearing such ridiculous garb.  We enjoyed the summit for a bit, taking in the views and enjoying the highest peak of the day (5,260′).

On the way up, I had been setting the pace for the majority.  Beginning the descent, I was going much slower.  I think I was making sure I wasn’t feeling anything in my knees on the rough terrain coming off the peak of Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail.  Anyway, I caught back up with the guys just before the Greenleaf Hut.  We stopped here for a bit to use the facilities and grab a bit more water.  It was only my second time in a hut, having stopped at Lonesome Lake on my last hike.  Scott & Mike were extolling on the pleasantness of staying in one, and despite my desire to “tent it,” I’m certain that I will give a hut a try someday.

After leaving the hut, I felt like my legs were back and was able to continue on my normal pace for the last 3 miles or so, on the Bridle Path, back to the car.  It was a fairly easy 3 mile descent, with some great views looking back on the hike we had just conquered.

Scott looking back at Little Haystack, and Mount Lincoln

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 6/12/12
  • Elevation: Little Haystack – 4760′, Mount Lincoln – 5089′, Mount Lafayette – 5260′
  • Elev Gain: I’ll have to, once again, go back and calculate the total elevation, but from Lafayette Campground to the summit of Mount Lafayette: ~3560
  • Mileage: ~9
  • Trails: Up:  Bridle Path -> Falling Waters -> Franconia Ridge Trail -> Greenleaf Trail -> Bridle Path
  • Time: about 6 hours.
  • NH 48 Peaks #6 (Lincoln) & #7 (Lafayette)
 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Hiking

 

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Amazing Spring Day in the White Mountains

What makes a tree grow like this?

On Saturday, May 12th, I rolled out of bed early and headed on up to Franconia Notch for some peak bagging.  I had decided I would depart from the Lafayette Place Campground because that would provide the most options for the day.  I could bag Cannon and the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls.  Or, I could bag the Kinsmans.  Or, if I was feeling good, I could bag all four.  I had read in the AMC White Mountain Guide, that the approach to Cannon was fairly steep, so I decided to head their with fresh legs first.

I departed from the campground around 8:30 am.  It was a beautiful, cloudless morning and the temps were already in the 50’s.  I hit the Lonesome Lake Trail behind a couple of guys who had said they were heading towards the Kinsmans.  When I got to the turn-off for the Hi-Cannon Trail, they continued along the Lonesome Lake Trail.  The Hi-Cannon Trail was pretty narrow trail that had a few blow downs on it, but they were easy to step-over or duck-under.  The trail had several switchbacks, and before I knew it, I came to an unmarked trail junction.  I paused to catch my breath, and review the map, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.  According to the map, the Hi-Cannon Trail should have gone .8 miles before it reached a trail junction with the Dodge Cutoff.  I had read a recent trail log that mentioned that the Dodge Cutoff wasn’t marked well.  But, despite how hard I was sweating/breathing, I didn’t think I had gone .8 miles on that stretch.

Lonesome Lake & the Kinsmans

As I was putting the map away, I saw the two guys hiking up the trail that were supposed to be going to the Kinsmans.  At that point, I thought, “Hmph.  I guess they changed their minds.”  But, I didn’t say anything.  I continued hiking ahead of them.  After a few moments, I found myself at the shores of Lonesome Lake, looking towards North Kinsman.  Somehow, I must have missed a trail junction while on the Hi-Cannon Trail, and ended up back on the Lonesome Lake Trail.  Whatever trail it was, wasn’t marked on my map and the intersection certainly isn’t marked on the tail, either.  It was a bit annoying as I knew it was going to add some unneeded mileage to my day.  But, no harm no foul.  I pressed on, deciding to continue up the Lonesome Lake Trail to Kinsman Ridge.  Over the next mile, half of it was fairly steep.

Once onto the Kinsman Ridge Trail, I started my ascent of Cannon.  Immediately, the conditions changed.  In the shadow of Cannon, the air was much cooler.  You could hear the wind whipping.  But, thankfully, I was mostly protected by the trees.  I saw my first evidence of left-over monorail patches, but they were very easily avoided.  This .4 mile section was quite steep, and had some areas that were hugging a cliff on a narrow trail.  Once past the junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail (grrr….), the trail eased up on it’s approach to the summit.  I stopped to pee check out the first outlook I saw just short of the summit, looking back over the Cannon Balls.  It was beautiful for sure.  But, I was blown away by the 360 degree views from the summit tower!  Blown away, both in amazement and the high winds.  I thought I was going to lose my hat!  It was definitely intimidating standing on that tower looking down at 93 below.  I’ve always looked up at the cliffs of Cannon (where Old Man on the Mountain used to be), and marvel at how steep it was.  And now, for the first time, I had the exact opposite perspective.  Crazy.  The views were beautiful; still no clouds.  But, there was a bit of a haze to the air as you were looking off into the distance.

Looking along the Kinsman Ridge at the Cannon Balls & the Kinsmans

I turned around and started heading back down the Kinsman Ridge Tail to work my way to the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls.  I had remembered reading that it was an unassuming summit, but I thought there was some sort of marker.  Apparently, there was not.  I crossed the summit, barely acknowledging it’s existence without even slowing my pace.  I knew the Kinsmans would be more impressive, and I was on the longest trail section of the day.  At 2.4 miles from the NE Peak, to the Kinsman Junction, I had some work in front of me.  And, I have to say that I was not all that impressed with those 2.4 miles.  Very few views (I know. I’m greedy.) along those 2.4 miles, and no exciting nature sightings.  Blah.

Finally, I got to the junction and had to make a decision.  Do I continue on and bag the Kinsmans?  Or do I start heading back now?  I was definitely hungry.  I had not eaten my PB&J wrap yet, and it was calling my name.  I had been aiming to eat it on the summit of North Kinsman.  Plus, I had just done that long stretch of the Kinsman Ridge.  And to not summit the Kinsmans after that seemed like it would be a huge waste.  So, on I went.  (Sorry, Drea.)

I always get a bit excited when I start walking on stretches of the Appalachian Trail.  From the junction, the Kinsman Ridge Trail heading over the Kinsmans onto Moosilauke & beyond is part of the AT.  The .5 miles from the junction to the summit of North Kinsman was rather steep and was kicking my ass.  Lots of granite with few handholds. Once on the summit, however, I was awed by the view laid out before me.  Looking down into the valley to Lonesome Lake, with the amazing presentation of Mr. Lafayette, Lincoln, and Haystack just beyond.  It’s a truly gorgeous view.  Plus, the haze from the morning had definitely burned off.  It was warm at the summit, mid 60’s I’d estimate.  Great spot for lunch – glad I waited!

From North Kinsman – note Lonesome Lake (center) and the tower on Cannon (far left).

After finishing up lunch, I definitely felt alot better on my approach to South Kinsman.  Interestingly, just after leaving North Kinsman, I came upon those two guys that I started behind that morning.  We had a quick conversation about how our hikes had been going, before we continued on our separate ways again.  Of course, that span of trail is a pretty easy mile.  I spent some time on the summit, but wasn’t as impressed with those views, in comparison to what I just had on North Kinsman.  I had heard a couple of guys talk about nice views of Moosilauke further down the Kinsman Ridge Trail.  But, I was less than interested in taking any steps more than I had to.  I was definitely a bit tired.  As I posted on Facebook (yes, I posted on facebook from the summit, shut it):  “Pretty amazing day for peak bagging in the Whites. Four peaks down. But, I’m about 4 miles from my car. If someone could please have a helicopter meet me at the ledge on North Kinsman in about 20 mins, I’d really appreciate it.”

On the summit of North Kinsman

But, I underestimated.  It was actually 5 miles from the car.  And, they weren’t exactly the easiest five miles I’ve ever done.  The mile back to North Kinsman was fine.  But, the .5 mile back down to the junction, was that steep section on granite with few hand holds.  I was certainly taking my time with my fatigued legs.  Once at the junction, I jumped on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail.  This was also part of the AT and I don’t think I had actually read up on this trail, at all.  The trail is in good condition, but it is steep and most of it is slippery granite.  There are several sections where there are stairs bolted into the granite to help you out (again, no hand holds).  Those were very handy.  I did notice one was missing/broken.  But, it’s the AT.  It will be repaired soon, I am sure.  Regardless, for a good mile or so, my pace was reduced to crawling.

For some reason, I had it in my head that the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was only 1.5 miles long.  In actuality, it is two.  That’s not much of a difference, but my legs were shot.  That half mile was feeling much longer.  Additionally, I drained my 3.0 litre reservoir for the first time ever.  That was probably about a mile from the Lonesome Lake Hut.  Of course, as soon as it was gone, all I wanted was more water.  The hut was a welcome site!  I refilled, grabbed a candy bar, and continued on down the trail.  I didn’t get far before being presented with yet another amazing view over Lonesome Lake.  What a beautiful spot!

What. A. Day.

The rest of the hike was uneventful.  It was a long, but great day on the trails.  There were tons of people out enjoying the day.  And, many had their dogs with them.  (It made me want one, even more than already do!)  I was also slightly jealous of everyone that was backpacking; heading to various shelters/huts/camps for further communing with nature.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 5/12/12
  • Elevation: Cannon – 4100′, Cannon Balls NE Peak – 3769′, North Kinsman – 4293′, South Kinsman – 4358′
  • Elev Gain: So many gains and losses – but from the Laffayette Place Campground to South Kinsman: ~2558
  • Mileage: 13
  • Trails: Up:  Lonesome Lake -> Hi-Cannon -> Unmarked Link -> Lonesome Lake -> Kinsman Ridge Trail -> Cannon -> back via Kinsman Ridge to Cannon Balls -> North Kinsman -> South Kinsman -> North Kinsman -> Fishin’ Jimmy Trail -> Around Lonesome Lake Trail -> Lonesome Lake Trail
  • Time:  8 hours 25 mins.
  • NH 48 – Peaks #3 (Cannon), #4 (N. Kinsman), & #5 (S. Kinsman)
 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Hiking

 

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Mount Moosilauke

I had been itching to do some hiking since my last hike up Monadnock a few weeks ago. So, on a Tuesday at work, I started getting the idea to take the next day off & run up to New Hampshire to hike Mount Moosilauke.

And that is exactly what I did. Up at 5:30 & on the road from Waltham at 6. It was a beautiful crisp 60 degree morning. Perfect weather. However, I realized as I was driving that while I was packing the night before, I had forgotten to pack a long sleeve shirt, a jacket, a sweatshirt, anythingfor warmth at the top of the mountain. Given that it was going to be in the 70’s for a high at the base, I figured the top was going to be chilly, especially if there was wind. So, I knew I had to stop somewhere in Lincoln, NH to grab something. I had a feeling that when I got up there at 8, I was going to be looking at Rite Aid as the only open place to grab some cheap tourist gear. And, I was right. I had also grabbed my camera without a camera card, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, they were sold out of camera cards. But, I was able to get a cheap sweatshirt for $14.00. For insurance, I’ll take it.

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Moosilauke Summit Survey Marker

I had selected to hike Moosilauke on this day for several reasons. First off, it is one of the southern most peaks in NH on my lists to do that is not in/around Waterville Valley (where I am hoping to do some camping/hiking with Drea soon). Secondly, I know New Hampshire better than I do Vermont. So thus far, I’ve done more reading of the summits I need to tackle there than I have Vermont’s. I’ve been wanting to test my legs on a longer hike than I have done so far (5.6 & 4.4). And lastly, I had read the section of “Best Loop Hikes: New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Maine Coast,” which highlighted an 11 mile loop over several peaks that sounded perfect for a day trip.

Moosilauke is an interesting mountain in that much of it is owned by Dartmouth College & maintained by the Dartmouth Outdoors Club. They even run the Ravine Lodge at the base of the mountain. Their work is felt as soon as you arrive at the “parking area.” You are basically parking on the side of a dirt road that dead ends at a turn around. There are several clever signs hanging, including one that says “Warm up for your hike. Park far away & walk!” I found the trail head, signed the register & began my hike.

I have to admit, the club is doing an outstanding job at trail maintenance. For as soon as I began my trek up the Ridge Trail, I could see how much maintenance they were conducting. There is a stretch just after you cross the first foot bridge that is just remarkable. I’m not sure what kind of storm ripped through there (relatively recently). But, there were many downed trees. Their roots structure are still clutching to the earth that they peeled away, as they fell. One of the pine trees that had fallen, still had an abundance of small pine cones developing on the tree top, which was no abutting the trail. There were so many down trees, that that section of trail could have been rendered almost impassible. However, not one tree was obstructing the trail as the club had already removed them. The Ravine Trail, in particular, was just a gorgeously maintained trail.

I had hoped that with a name like Mount Moosilauke, that perhaps my chances of seeing my first ever moose would be higher. It was wishful thinking, I know. (And the name doesn’t actually have anything to do with moose. From Wiki, “Its name is thought to be derived from a contraction of the Native American words moosi (Bald), and auke (Place).”) However, I had taken note of the many cars parked along the road. And, on the moist trail, I had certainly seen evidence that there were hikers ahead of me. Not surprising given my 9 am start time. I did pass a group of about 6 men & women in their 60’s early on. And, I’m sure partially for that reason, I never did see any moose or significant wildlife.

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Me near/at the Summit of Mount Jim

For the first couple of miles of the Ravine Trail, the slope is very easy going. It is not until you are about 3 miles in when the trail starts its first serious climb as it nears Mount Jim. I was feeling very strong at that point & did not want to slow down when I came upon a gentleman who stepped out of the way for me. As I passed he said, “Show off!” It is within these switch backs on this climb that you get your first views. You definitely feel like you are stealing them, as there are no real outcroppings, and even the summit of Jim is covered in trees. Your only views therefor are in breaks between the trees. But, one summit down.

About one third of a mile past Mount Jim’s inauspicious summit, you come upon a junction with the Beaver Brook Trail. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just the next trail that I need to hop onto to progress to the summit. However, I went total geek time. You see the Beaver Brook Trail is a part of the Appalachian Trail. And, as far as I can remember, this was my first experience stepping foot on any section of the AT. (I have a vague memory that I climbed one of the Presidents back in the day & could have crossed onto the AT then… but I truly don’t remember.) As a result, I stopped to take a couple of ridiculous pictures. Like I told you, total geek time.

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I got way too excited seeing the AT logo

There are a couple of other significances to this trail. The first, is that it follows along the Beaver Brook cascades. Which appear to be very nice in the pictures that I linked to. Unfortunately, I would have had to turn the wrong direction to go see them. Secondly, it heads towards the summit of Mount Blue. However, the trail skirts around the summit about 250 feet below it. In order to actually get to the summit, it would have required some bushwhacking. Therefor, I have a hard time claiming that as a summit for peak bagging purposes. So, I am not going to. However, I might be inclined to do that in the future. I could come up the Beaver Brook Trail from Kinsman Notch, see the cascades, and leave myself plenty of time to bushwhack to the Mount Blue summit. However, despite it’s summit being at 4529′, it is not a summit of prominence. So, that idea is very low on my priority list. (Although it might be a good place to get some bushwhacking experience, which I will require down the road.)

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Some geek next to his first ever White Blaze

As you enter the Alpine Zone, and emerge from the tree line, you begin to realize whey the mountain earned it’s name. As opposed to Mondadnock’s “bald” which was pure granite, here fragile grasses and plants that hug tightly to the soil cover the top of the mountain area. In order to protect the plant life, the various trails that approach the summit are rock lined, & bordered. And, if that wasn’t enough of an indicator as to where to go, there are 6 foot tall cairns marking your way.

The summit itself is a series of boulders in which you can either use to sit and savor the views, or use to shield yourself from the elements. On this particular day, it was an incredibly comfortable day at the summit. The temperature was in the low 50’s & the wind was virtually still. Because of my sweat-soaked t-shirt, the lower temp was definitely borderline chilly for me. The $14.00 insurance policy was put to use, and I was glad to have it. It allowed me to savor the 360˚ views for much longer than I would have been able to otherwise. At 4802 feet, we were above the clouds looking over towards Benton, and underneath a cloud that was over us and stretching towards Lincoln. The clouds & a bit of haze blocked some of the view of the various mountain tops, but it was still a beautiful view.

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Unfortunately, there is nothing in the shot for scale, but those cairns are about 6 feet tall!

I wasn’t sure how my out of shape ass was going to feel once I got to the top. I knew if I was feeling beat, there were a couple of other trails that I could have hopped on to make the treck back to the car much shorter. But, I was feeling great & really strong. So, on to South Peak I went. The peak had a bunch of people on it once I got there. And, I knew there was another group of about 10 that departed the summit in the same direction as I did just a few minutes after me. So, in an effort to get away from the crowd, I just continued on.

The Carriage Road afforded some nice views on a relatively easy down slope. After passing the Snapper Trail junction, I was surprised at how almost overgrown some of the vegetation on the trail was. Clearly, this trail was not getting as much use as the others as it is not the most direct route to or from the summit. The other evidence that I was probably the first person on this portion of the trail, was the plethora of spider webs I was walking through. I did not clear a single one, on the approach. Well, believe me, I certainly made up for it on the way down!

After turning onto Hurricane Trail, you could start to hear the faint sounds of Baker River. (Is there any sound more soothing after a long hike?) I passed evidence of a couple of crews building bridges. Their equipment was there, but the people were not. Had it been a hot day, Baker River would have been tantalizing to soak your feet, or hop into. But, I pressed on, reaching the trail head again, signing out of the register, and getting back to the car.

The book had estimated that the hike should have taken 7 hours. I am not by any means trying to race but, I did it in 5. And that included a good half hour or so of rest at the summit. (Basically, I’m just trying to gauge the accuracy of the hike times that are published.)

Map taken from the "Best Loop" book. The trails in bold are the ones I followed.

—–Hike Stats—–

  • Date: 8/3/11
  • Elevation: 4802
  • Elev Gain: 2750
  • Mileage: 11.0
  • Trails: Ridge Tr -> Beaver Brook ->Glencliff -> Carriage Road -> Hurricane
  • Time: 5 hours
  • NH4000 #10
  • NE100 #11
 
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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Hiking

 

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Where is your sense of adventure?

Something is calling me.

I’m itching to do things I haven’t (for one reason or another) done ever, or in a long time. Here is a short list of things, I may want to tackle in the future.

Machu Picchu

Couch Surf in a foreign country.  Travelling more, in general, is certainly on the list.  But, I love the idea of couch surfing somewhere like Europe.  Getting to meet people and truly getting immersed in the culture, rather than cookie-cutter hotels.

Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  I have never been to South America.  And, a trip to do the Inca Trail seems like the perfect reason to go!

Learn to Sail. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. I think $ has been holding me back more than anything else. I could see residing on the right sailboat at some point.

The New England 100 Highest Peaks List. I’m sure this would be a combo of day hikes and multi-day hikes. But, it would be fun to tackle this whole list. Maybe, I should start with the goal of the New Hampshire 4000 Footers, so I can have the goal of getting a T-shirt in the mix.

The Long Trail. The actual trail. I have been consuming the beer on a semi-regular basis for years. Depending on how that goes & how I like it, I think the Appalachian Trail could be a goal for later in life. (Read: when my hair goes completely grey.)

Mountain Biking in Moab, UT. This has been something calling me seemingly forever!

The Mongol Rally. I read a bunch about this a few months ago. This just seems like a crazy fun thing to do someday. Maybe, I’ll be able to talk some friends into doing it with me sometime.

 

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