October 12, 2015.
Following up last weeks hike with another long hike to close out a section of trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail. A bit less miles but some tougher terrain from what I understand. The plan is to head up Reel Brook Trail to Kinsman Ridge Trail which coincides with the AT. First a trip up to Mt Wolf and then back down to the junction with Reel Brook Trail. Continue on Kinsman Ridge Trail all the way to South Kinsman then return back down Reel Brook Trail.
I have been putting off this hike for just the right moment due to its mileage. While just under 17 miles I know this is a tough section of trail and I would need all day to get this one done. If I don't do it now it will have to wait until next year as the days are getting shorter and just a matter of time for the temps to take a tumble and the ice flows become an issue. Getting to the trailhead just after seven and a few minutes later I'm heading up Reel Brook Trail. The fall colors are slow to peak this year so there is still a lot of green out there as I head up the mild beginning of the trail.
The trail is quite easy as I cross numerous brooks along the way before reaching the powerline crossing. Out in the open and looking to the west Cooley Hill is lit up in color.
Re-entering the woods and the trail's namesake is just up the way, Reel Brook. The first good look at it is quite impressive. Slabs of exposed granite carved by the water over generations emptying into a granite lined pool about six feet deep. During the warmer months it is probably an excellent spot to cool off.
Reel Brook Trail is an easy climb up to the ridge where the trail intersects with the AT, Kinsman Ridge Trail. It is a short thirty minutes since the last brook crossing where I meet the morning sun and the junction.
A right turn onto Kinsman Ridge Trail as I make my way up towards Mt Wolf. The trail becomes much more rugged as I make my way through the quiet forest. I reach level area and the quietness is interrupted as off to my left there is some crashing about 75 feet away. A moose is running away and then another gets up and bolts away also. Everything happened so quick there was no time to get the camera out. Passing through a couple of blowdown patches and I make the short detour to the very boggy looking Failing Water Pond where South Kinsman is just visible over the trees..
A couple of very wet and muddy sections before I surprisingly run into another hiker coming at me. I think we kind of spooked each other as I definitely didn't expect to see anyone out here. Not sure where she spent the night but she told me of a bear she had just seen and I tell her about the two moose further down.
Reaching the outlook spur and I make the short trip up to where I was eleven months ago. Quite a difference from that cold snow covered day as I enjoy the view over to Franconia Ridge.
I take a break on the small open ledge to refuel and there will no heading over to the real summit of Mt Wolf today. I went there last year and there is no reason today as I have a long way to go. Packing up I head back down the trail I came returning to the junction with Reel Brook Trail. It takes a little over an hour to get back and then the continuation north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the south knob of South Kinsman. The trail recrosses the powerlines up in the notch. There are some cliffs on the other side that I spied from Reel Brook Trail on the way up through the trees. Looking east along the powerlines and Mud Pond is down below where Eliza Brook drains into and Harvard Brook (which feeds Georgiana Falls) is the outlet at the other end.
About fifteen minutes up the trail is the spur trail on the left for Eliza Brook Shelter. Recently rebuilt it is still in great shape and looks like a great spot to spend a night sometime. Down below is Eliza Brook and I head down to refill my water as I take a break a the shelter.
Time to get a move on as I make my way back down to the brook and the only other people, a couple an their dog, I would see for the day as they are heading in the opposite direction. Heading up the trail as it parallels Eliza Brook. This is one of those times I am glad I did not read the trail description as the brook offers an abundance of waterfalls along the way. They are a great unexpected sight as I make my way up the sometimes steep trail.
Making it to the crossing where the trail pulls away from Eliza Brook for good and a steep climb awaits through a section of new growth amongst the giants. Up through some slabby areas as this trail offers varying terrain.
Breaking out onto a wet plateau and the cliffs on South Kinsman can be seen. I never knew this side of the mountain was so rough but I have heard the climb up is quite bouldery.
Making my way across the boggy section that is the edge of Harrington Pond and I can now see the final destination, South Kinsman, looming ahead. I try to make out where the trail leads up but can not get any hints from the rugged terrain. The final destination is the back bump on the right.
Back into the woods after passing the pond and it doesn't take long before the trail reveals what it has in store for me the rest of the way.
Thirty minutes into the climb and a peek at how far I still have to go. Ahead just more boulders and scrambling await.
Another ten minutes and it still looks a ways away. And the rock climbing/scrambling is relentless. What a slap in the faces to all those AT thru hikers as they have to pass through this section.
Further up and I can look back to Mt Wolf looming to the right of Bog Pond and how far I have hiked today. Ahead and I think I am almost there as the sky and trees have that familiar look that I am close to the top.
Finally I reach the ridge crest and make my way over to the south knob of South Kinsman and my mission is complete. Another piece of trail redlined and another portion of NH's AT is done. The real South Kinsman is just ahead with Franconia Ridge perched behind it. Just like Wolf there is no reason to head over there as it is all about the trails and not peak bagging today.
A much deserved and needed break as I sit next to the large rock cairn facing one of my favorite ridgewalks, Franconia Ridge. I take twenty minutes and finally get up the gumption to head back down the dreaded rock strewn trail. Up above me is a plane towing a glider and I can't resist taking a few pictures as he tows the engineless plane around in circles looking for that release point.
The trip down is nothing but tedious as I take my time ensuring I don't slip, trip or fall. I make it safely back down to Harrington Pond in pretty decent time. Usually I am quicker heading up sections like this but today I actually made it down quicker by about fifteen minutes. Maybe it was the time frame of getting out of the woods before dark kept me motivated.
I push along past the shelter site and then make the turn onto Reel Brook Trail just before six for the final push. Making the last crossing of Reel Brook and it is time to give in and put the headlamp on as I have lost all light from the sunken sun. The last mile is thankfully pretty smooth walking as I need to replace the batteries for the next time. They have been sitting in my pack for I don't know how long and provide just enough light in front of me to make my way out. Looking up to see what lays ahead is useless as the beam doesn't penetrate the dark forest at all. Almost twelve hours from starting and I am back safely but tired from this very memorable trail.
Final numbers: 16.6 miles, 11 hours and 50 minutes.
Redline Miles: 8.3, Total to Date: 935.4