September 12, 2015.
Hiking Cannon Mt today as Andy and the kids wanted to hike this one. I warned him that it is Flags on the 48 today so might be a bit crowded. I always avoid the 48 4000' on this weekend due to the Flags event where they pay their respects to the September 11th victims. It's a personal thing for me to stay away from these peaks but we decided on a 6:00 AM start to avoid any issues. Wanting to get some redlining in as I have hiked all the trails to Cannon I parked at the Skookumchuck Trail head and had Andy pick me up. This way I could finish the rest of the Franconia Notch Recreation Path between Lafayette Campground and Skookumchuck.
With this new plan Andy was supposed to pick me up at 5:45 so we could still start at 6. Unfortunately someone was running late and he didn't get there until 6:15. No issues as I poked around getting this early morning shot of Cannon across the way.
We still started on the trail by 6:30 passing the Lonesome Lake Trail sign. We had a full crew with Phil, Jen, Deanna, Kevin, Andy and myself. We passed through the campsites as the rest of the world is asleep in their tents. Up a bit and a Yellow Birch has made a boulder its home base. Across the unnamed brook and soon we at the trailhead for the Hi-Cannon Trail.
I did this trail back in March of 2013 when there was plenty of snow on the ground so this will be nice to see how it looks during the summer. The beginning of the trail between here and the ladder is unrelenting steep with a few respites and then mellows out from the ladder to the summit.
Man after seeing the above picture again I realize how much I miss winter hiking with the openness of the leafless trees. The erosion is due to the steepness of the trail and it is quite evident along the way. Just past the Dodge Cut-off there is a birch tree that is surprisingly hanging on by its roots.
I actually start to look forward to the events of the day with the Flags on the 48. I really wasn't too enthused about this hike but now that I am out here I want to see how many flags we can see on the other four thousand footers. The climb continues as the trail passes by some large boulders along the way.
We reach the Cliff House which is a large outcropping with a slab hanging over the rock feature like a roof. Just around the corner is the infamous ladder and everyone scoots up with no issues.
There are views from here looking across the street to Lafayette, Lincoln and Haystack. To the south is ground fog settled in where I-93 passes through.
Reaching the first ledge, where on that winter hike I wouldn't go near, Andy and I head out to get the unobscured views down to Lonesome Lake and the Hut. Jennifer voices her disapproval of us being out there, she suffers from us getting close to edges, which just eggs us on to get closer!
Continuing on with the hike and we push on through passing a large rock wall which I do not remember. Up where the trail reaches a plateau there is lots of standing water from the recent rains.
We reach the junction with Kinsman Ridge Trail and the sign that I thought was so buried in the snow. Unless someone has shortened its height it appears there was not as much snow here as I had thought.
Up to the next junction with the Rim Trail and around we go for the open views across to Franconia Ridge. The views are no different than ones you would see up at the viewing tower but it is a nice trail that skirts below the summit. Looking south along I-93 and Liberty is on the left.
We take a break at the tramway house before heading up to the summit. Down below I can see where I am parked and how far it is going to be to get back there.
Above us a jet flies high over as it takes a bit to find it as the sound is way behind the actual jet. I get excited as hopefully they will do some flyovers in honor of today. We move up to the summit and it is way too early for the Flags as it doesn't start until noon time. There is only one other hiker on the viewing tower and we have a short conversation with him and he obliges to take the group summit photo.
Sitting on the bench looking out across the notch enjoying the views while having a snack. Deanna and Kevin have to leave us as they need to be back home early. After they leave Andy asks how far is it to the knob (East Cannon) in front of us where there is a huge ledge. I think it is only a mile or less. Seeing how we have plenty of time to kill he wants to go over and so we head off and Phil and Jen reluctantly follow.
We make our way over to Kinsman Ridge Trail off of the Rim Trail and start down. I am in back and they make the same mistake I did this winter at the hairpin turn, heading straight instead of turning right. The rest of the way is easy to follow as I take the lead.
The complaining (in fun) behind us does not stop as they don't understand why we are hiking down off Cannon only to go back up afterwards. Ahh...life is wasted on the youth! We make it to the ledge and it is one of my favorite spots after being here two years ago. Taking a break here we look for the flags across the way and no one has any up yet.
Down below the parkway is beginning to fill up with cars, the overflow from the two hiking lots. Andy asks about the Old Man and if we are close seeing how we are on top of the cliff face where he use to be. I didn't think we were close as I look around for a herd path and after getting home rechecked the map and sure enough we were at least a half mile away.
As it gets closer to noon the flags start to go up and Liberty is visible as well as Lafayette. Lincoln is the last to go up across the way and behind us Cannon's is still not up.
At 11:30 we pack up and head back up to Cannon and in the col the jet flies over again but we are too buried in the scrub to see him. In retrospect I think it was a coincidence that he was flying over as he was quite high up. A consolation prize is a glider that keeps making an appearance out of Franconia. Back at the summit right at noon and kind of a disappointing setup for the flag here. I was expecting it to be on a longer pole but instead it is just a short section tied off to the railing.
I look for the one on North Kinsman and can not see it through the camera but take pictures anyways. Turns out I was looking in the right spot and it is visible in the picture. South Kinsman is set up on the southern bump of that peak and easily seen against the sky.
Not bad as the six surrounding peaks are represented and I am glad I came today and we stuck around. I was also able to make out the flag on Garfield which makes seven sits behind North Lafayette's shoulder.
With everyone satisfied we moved on and as we head down the stairs there is a group of guys who just came up after us the first time we hit Cannon. They tell us they have been in the bar at the lodge since that time drinking. Noticing the sleeping bags and full packs I ask where they are heading and they say Kinsman. This ought to be interesting. I chose to go down Kinsman Ridge Trail to the junction of Lonesome Lake Trail for the return. I did remember it being steep as I did an out and back on that section back in November of 2011. Which I warned everyone one of beforehand. I figured of the three trails this would be the better of them since it is only 0.4 miles between Hi-Cannon and Lonesome Lake Trails. The other end of Kinsman Ridge Trail that leads down to the parking lot for the ski area is steep all the way and really eroded. Going back down Hi-Cannon seemed like it would be worse than the way we were heading. A parting shot at Franconia Ridge as we head down.
Following the group of guys I feel a little concern as I know the trail they are heading down and question their judgment considering where they spent the last couple of hours. The concern grows as they reach the junction with the Rim Trail and then the Hi-Cannon Trail and aren't sure which way to go. I tell them straight both times and not wanting to follow them any further we all pass by them. The steep descent begins and it is what I remember minus the snow and ice when I was here last. Andy is in front and we come up behind a couple who are heading down also. Only thing is they are not hikers and we wonder what they are doing out here.
After following them for a bit, since they wouldn't step aside to let us pass, Andy asks them if they are heading back to the tramway. No they are heading down to Lonesome Lake and then back up to the tramway. Holy Crap! I think to myself as it never amazes me the things people will do. They are in street clothes and shoes heading down this steep and bouldery trail where they have no business being. All I can think is this is going to turn into a rescue as one of them slips and breaks something. We get by them and the trail continues to get worse as I am leading the way. Between the tourists and the drinkers I don't want to be near any of them in case one of them falls. It would be a ways before they stop and I don't want to be the one they roll into. Just before the bottom the guys have caught up to us and we let them pass as the hard part is just about over. No really it is! I took some razzing about this trail. Reaching the junction and straight ahead is the first Cannonball which is a steep climb and everyone freaks as they think the trail continues. I assure them it doesn't as Lonesome Lake Trail is on the left just hidden by the trees.
The unfortunate part is I did not remember one bit about this part of the trail beyond the bog bridges and here. Strange how the mind works as it is a bouldery slow descent and they did not let me forget it. It is not overly steep just some rough terrain.
Finally reaching the bog bridges and we take a peek at the lake as everyone is too tired to head over to the hut. Probably a good thing as it looked like quite the crowd over there.
We make it to the junction and head down the rest of Lonesome Lake Trail. It is also rough and again more than I remembered. As always the last part of the trail seems to drag on and even more so because I have over five miles to go after this to get back to where I parked. We make it down in one piece and part ways as I make my way over to the bike path. In retrospect it might have been better to come down Hi-Cannon but someday they will forgive me.
The Recreation Path is a paved path that runs between the Flume parking lot and Skookumchuck Trail head. It winds through the woods with relatively mild grades and not a bad way to wind down a hike. There is enough interesting things along the way to keep me from getting bored. Large boulders, yellow birch and very little bike traffic. One large boulder sits by the trail next to another one and just beyond on the opposite side is an explanation for it.
This is from a June 21, 1997 article in the Union Leader.
FRANCONIA-The Old man of the Mountain Shrugged his mighty shoulder Thursday afternoon sending a massive boulder to floor of Franconia Notch and forever changing several popular rock climbing routes on New Hampshire's most venerable cliff.
There were no injuries when the ledge at the top of Whaleback Crack let go around 4 p.m. In seconds, the boulder, estimated to weigh about 300 tons cut a swath a half-mile long, snapping 60-foot tall maples and oaks in its path like matchsticks. It came to rest inches from the popular notch bike path.
"If anyone had been there, it could have been tragic," said Mike Pelchat, manager if the Mount Washington State Park, who was evaluating the damage yesterday.
Two rock climbers from Bristol, who were just yards away from the slide, told Franconia Notch State Park officials that the sound was indescribable.
"They were 300 feet up when it came down and the thought the world was ending with all the din and noise" Pelchat said.
In the aftermath of the slide, one of the most significant in years in the notch, the path it took could be seen yesterday. About 200 feet south of the Old Man of the Mountain, there is discoloration on the cliff, punctuated by white scuff marks from the path the massive boulder took.
Pelchat said the boulder is twice the size of the counter-weight of the Cannon Mountain tramway.
The bike path, which opened in 1980, was closed for the rest of the day Thursday and for a few hours yesterday morning, while workers removed fallen trees. There was little damage to the bike path, which was saved by an ancient boulder that stopped the falling rock inches short of the bike path.
"It's there to stay," said Richard Andross, who manages the Franconia State Park.
Rock slides are not uncommon in the notch Pelchat said.
"Small ones fall fairly often - it's an active place," he said. "But to have a rock fall of this size, that's unusual."
The slide did not appear to affect the treasured symbol of New Hampshire.
"We're concerned about it," Pelchat said. "Even though this was 100 to 200 yards from the Old Man, when you have a rock fall like this, the cliff shakes and the Old Man Vibrates."
The Great Stone Face is scheduled for its annual inspection and maintenance next month, when measurements will be taken to see if it was moved by the slide.
"He's pretty well secured. I'll be curious to see if anything changed," he said, noting that a series of cables and three turnbuckles are fastened to the Old Man's forehead to prevent it from sliding.
Pelchat assists the Nielsen family in caretaking duties for the Old Man. The cliffs draw hundreds of rock climbers each year and Pelchat said the slide affected six popular routes.
"Climbers are recommended to stay off the climbing routes north of Vertigo and south of Wysseners because rocks are dropping in this area," he said. "The approach to Lakeview climb should be avoided because the rocks have been stirred up."
Lakeview is the main trail to several climbs. Park officials have yet to check out the damage.
"It's too dangerous to check," he said.
Rock climbers needing more information can call Pelchat at Mount Washington State Park.
The path reaches the parking lot for Profile Lake and then ducks under the highway to the other side. At the next parking lot is the old pullout for the Old Man of the Mountain. There is an informative sign explaining what happened that fateful day when it fell.
Passing by the parking lot for Cannon Mt and it now skirts the shore of Echo Lake. At the opposite end I heed the signs and slow down to prepare for a stop.
Passing by Artist Bluff and the path goes away from the highway into the woods. Sweeping around and it passes back under the highway for the last time where Lafayette Brook goes under the road. Climbing up and I reach the Lafayette Brook outlook complete with a viewing bridge. Looking up is North Lafayette and its associated ravine.
Across the bridge and a trail leads right into the woods. Curious I add that to my to do list contemplating where it might lead. Just beyond are a bunch of propane tanks and this must be the staging area for helicoptering them up to the AMC huts.
Surprisingly I make it back in pretty good time as I reach the end of the bike path. Now I wonder what happened to the German couple who were attempting to go down Kinsman Ridge Trail?
Final numbers: 13.4 miles, 10 hours and 20 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.1, Total to Date: 909.1