June 29, 2014.
My first time out since coming off the AT and of all places to go is back on a piece of the AT. At least it is one of my favorite sections of trail, high up on Franconia Ridge. The hike today is with family...Andy, Phil, Jen, Kevin and John (OK almost family). Meeting up at Lafayette Campground and heading up Old Bridle Path and across the ridge then down Falling Waters Trail.
Getting started right around 8:30, the plan was for 8 but someone who shall remain nameless had some personal issues to deal with at the privy. So while waiting I got my shot at Cannon Cliff from the parking lot.
Finally we set off and it is another glorious day and feels good to be back on any trail. The sun is out and the winds seem tame at least down here in the notch. The only down part is I am still dealing with my decision and being this close to the AT does bother me. I have been beating myself up since leaving on whether I did the right thing or not. It's just this constant gnawing that will not seem to go away. But on the flip side it is good to see everyone and they are all supportive of my decision so that helps. Up the trail and we are making fairly good time and I forgot how relatively mild this trail is. I have not been on this trail since my second hike back in October of 2011. That was on a perfect day and that day I extended this hike to include Liberty and Flume. Reaching the first views and they are always spectacular looking up at Lincoln and Little Haystack.
Further up and a look at the part of the trail they call The Agonies, an up and down section of the trail. To its right is Lafayette which looks lower in comparison to Lincoln but it is deceiving as it sits back further at least from this angle.
A clear shot of Lincoln and a slide that heads up towards its summit called Lincoln's Throat. This is often used in the winter time by back country skiers using Walker Brook as the way in.
Across the notch is Cannon Mt and its impressive cliff face.
We make it up through The Agonies with no issues and I think it is more hype about this section than anything. The bumps are not that bad and if anything one little section is slabby and steep but very manageable. Two hours and twenty minutes from starting and we are at the hut and a break is in order.
While sitting on the steps of the hut straight ahead is Lafayette and to the right Lincoln looks more appropriately sized from this vantage point.
Refueling and refilling the water at the hut and off we go for the more serious climbing once we get past Eagle Lake and hit tree line. Looking back is the hut with North Kinsman and Cannon in the background.
We slowly pick our way up the crumbly rocked trail that is so typical of the White Mountains. Turning around there is a view to the north towards Littleton as I-93 snakes its way through the valley.
Just before 12:30 and we arrive at the summit and it is a perfect day for Lafayette. The temps are warm and the winds just barely a breeze as we stop to have lunch.
The views are pretty decent considering the summer haze with Mt Washington visible off in the distant behind the Twins with Garfield in the left foreground.
The remnants of the old hotel foundation are amazingly intact after all these years. By 1875 this shelter had seen its last days and all that is left is the stone footprint.
The view ahead towards Lincoln with Flume and its pointy peak just beyond.
Back to the trail and the favorite part of the hike, the ridge walk! There is no explaining how it feels hiking on top of an open ridge with views all around you. It is an exhilarating feeling and one that never gets old. There are drop offs on both sides while it never gets too narrow it still gives the feeling that you are on top of the world.
The next bump along the ridge is North Lincoln also known as Truman.
After that is a stroll over to Lincoln and the occasional view back towards Lafayette.
To the left is the Pemi Wilderness, one of my favorite spots rich with history and a great place to get away from the crowds.
A couple of zooms one of Washington and the other Garfield with its concrete bunker-like foundation, a leftover of when there was a fire tower on that peak.
My first good look at the slide on Owls Head can be seen along the way. Still on the to-do list as the only time I was on Owls Head I went up via the Brutus Bushwhack back in February of 2012.
We make it to Lincoln and atypical for this ridge there are more people than I care to see. The trails and the summits up here are always crowded due to its closeness to the highway. A look back at Lafayette with Greenleaf Hut just a speck on the shoulder. Phil, Jen and John are enjoying the fantastic views with Lafayette in the background.
Leaving Lincoln and making our way to Little Haystack, the four thousand footer that doesn't count. Just before reaching the Gargoyles I notice a new formation and dub it Turtle Rock complete with his poking out of its shell.
The Gargoyles Are a bunch of rock protrusions along the ridge trail. Monoliths standing guard of all that pass.
Coming up out of the Dry Brook Ravine looks like a trail. I assume it makes its way down towards Falling Waters Trail, something for the future to look into. Kevin makes his way to the high point at this location.
The final summit is Little Haystack and we make it there where the crowds are thinner. Looking back is Lincoln blocking out Lafayette. In the opposite direction are Flume and Liberty. The final destination of my epic Franconia Ridge traverse back in October of 2011.
It is time for the big descent and down Falling Waters Trail we go. The only other time I was on this trail was coming up it when I made my way over to Liberty. It was not so steep coming up as it is going down. Maybe it was the fresher legs because this was the beginning of the hike that day back in November of 2012. We make it to the spur trail that leads over to Shining Rock and we take the diversion. It is an amazing slab of granite on the side of the mountain.
Continuing down the trail and soon we reach one of the branches of Dry Brook and the cascades begin to appear. Further down and the first of many waterfalls along the trail.
And the final falls for the day, Stairs Falls with its pool.
From there it is just twenty minutes til we reach the trailhead and time for the goodbye's as we all head off in our separate directions.
Final numbers: 8.9 miles, 9 hours and 10 minutes.
Redline Miles: 0, Total to Date: 499.9