January 27, 2013.
Parking at The Basin parking lot on the south side of I-93 and arriving at 7:50 this Sunday morning. It is cold at -4°F and the wind is whipping right down the highway through the parking lot. The best thing about the day is the skies are a wonderful clear blue, makes for great pictures. The plan is to head up Basin-Cascades Trail to Cascade Brook Trail then Kinsman Pond trail up to North Kinsman then back down via Fishin' Jimmy Trail and Cascade Brook Trail returning using the Pemi Trail. Shoot that whole plan out the window. The day was super nice out and I was feeling exceptionally good so my itinerary grew on the fly. Originally the hike was supposed to be 10.7 miles but by the time I was done it became 13.8 miles.
Layering up with my fleece coat, hat and today a scarf I get on the trail just before 8 with the snow shoes attached to my backpack and the microspikes on my boots. Down the path to the Basin and it is quite different from Thanksgiving when there was no snow on the ground and the Basin was flowing freely.
Over to the beginning of Basin-Cascade Trail and time to start the trek up towards North Kinsman. The trail is fairly well packed out so no need for the snowshoes. Climbing gradually and passing the Kinsman Falls all frozen in the crisp cold air. The wind is not an issue in the protection of the trees but it is constantly blowing above me.
A quick thirty minutes from starting and I reach the junction with Cascade Brook Trail and somehow miss the second set of falls, Rocky Glen Falls, before crossing the brook. One of the great things about winter hiking is the ability to cross brooks with ease as they freeze up and become snow bridged. A short walk down along the brook to the spot where the bridge used to be before Hurricane Irene came through and wiped it out.
A little over ten minutes and I reach the next junction with Kinsman Pond Trail. This hike is going pretty well in the cold weather and I feel pretty strong so far. Maybe it's the crisp clear air as I cross the brook one more time and head up the trail stopping for my now obligatory shot at the sky.
Up the trail and even in this section I am feeling real good but the wind is still blowing and I start contemplating heading up North Kinsman. I've been there twice already and other than getting some good views I have no reason to summit it today other than adding it to my winter peak list. The main goal is to red line some trails so we'll see once we get to the next junction. A little over an hour and I reach Kinsman Pond and the wind is cold as it blows across it into my face. I walk along it's edge and keep an eye out for the shelter that is up here. Not certain I am on the trail and checking my GPS I think I have missed it and have no intention of turning around to see where I missed it. I just want to get back in the cover of the trees and out of this biting wind. Continuing across the pond and near the end the trail goes back into the woods and lo and behold there is the shelter.
Leaving the shelter and heading up the trail to the junction and as I round a corner something to my left catches my eye. One of the most unusual things I have seen to date. Turns out it is a snow shelter made out of tree boughs and covered in snow that was built on top of a tent platform.
Just after passing the snow shelter and before the junction I run into the first hikers of the day, a bunch of younger people heading in the opposite direction. At the junction it is time to make a decision, head up North Kinsman or down Fishin' Jimmy Trail. I do need North Kinsman for my unofficial/official winter 4K list but the wind is still blowing pretty good above the trees. The trail can be nasty in some spots with ice but with all this snow it should be passable without any issues. I am feeling pretty good strength-wise and it is only 6/10 of a mile to the peak. With the skies so deeply blue I say the heck with it and stick to the original plan and make a left turn. Coming out of the woods and there is a nice view of the deep blue sky and North Kinsman.
Surprisingly it only takes twenty minutes to reach the top from the previous junction and the quick trip down to the view ledge and the views are outstanding across the valley to Franconia Ridge. Another thing that I love about winter hiking, the clean blue sky contrasted with the white peaks.
Time for another decision and this one was not planned due to the mileage and time it would take me to do the planned hike. Yet everything is going well today so another what the heck and off I go over to South Kinsman. About a two mile round trip and if I recall correctly not too bad of a trip over and back. No one has been up this way yet today and only one group of hikers so far, turning into a pretty great day with the clear skies and all. A stop on the way as Moosilauke comes into view and I can see all the way to Killington in Vermont.
Twenty-five minutes from leaving North Kinsman and I am at South Kinsman and since there is the great discrepancy/debate about which knob is the actual summit I head over to the south knob as well. Not hanging out long on the exposed peak and a few pictures later time to head back. A peak at North Kinsman from the trail and a shot of my next destination, Lonesome Lake with Franconia Ridge in the background.
Back at Kinsman Junction and time to head down the dreaded Fishin' Jimmy Trail to Lonesome Lake. Never cared for this 2 mile trail the first time and not sure how I am going to like it this time. It is steep in spots and icy where people have sledded down instead of hiking. Carefully I make my way down and at one point run into a family of Canadians, people not the hockey team, standing on the trail in a steep portion. Making my way down towards them and I keep watching them to see if they are going to start up or move over to let me pass. Not making any movement I keep coming down and as I get right on top of them they just stand right in the trail not making any effort to move. I just slide right through them keeping a few choice words to myself and now looking back I should have given them a "moudi tabarnac". They might not have understood it but then again... It only takes an hour to get to the lake and hut but those two miles seem like an eternity, don't know why but seems to be the general consensus among hikers. A walk out onto the lake for the Franconia Ridge shot and another diversion from my original hike.
I'm here and I need Around Lonesome Lake Trail for my red-lining so off I go figuring I'll just do an out and back once I get to the next junction because I have already done all of Lonesome Lake Trail when I did Cannon in November of 2011. Ten minutes later and I am at the junction and decide to keep going around instead of heading back the same way. A stop onto the other side of the lake and walking out onto it to get some more pictures. This time South and North Kinsman.
Heading back towards the trail and I head out on the trail and about two or three tenths of a mile later I am heading downhill and the lake is no longer on my right! One "Shit!" later and I realized I am heading down Lonesome Lake Trail to Lafayette Campground. Why I have no idea other than the fact it is a five-way junction (six if you count the trail onto the lake) point as I come off the lake and should have beared hard right. Back up the trail and now on track heading over on Cascade Brook Trail and making the left hand turn at the end of the lake I spy an interesting tidbit on a tree just after making the turn.
It is a wooden diamond AT marker, not sure what vintage this would be but thought it pretty cool instead of the traditional white blaze. Heading down the trail back to the Kinsman Pond Trail junction and then Basin-Cascade Trail junction making my way to the Pemi Trail.
Now I am starting to run out of gas as I hit the Pemi Trail and make my way back up to the Basin and the parking lot. A comparison shot of the mini-flume from a few months ago when I was here last.
Finally back at the car and an epic hike today adding a few more miles than I had planned on but so glad I did. Tough to refuse views when the skies are so blue and the weather is almost perfect.
Final numbers: 13.8 miles, 7 hours and 5 minutes.
Redline Miles: 6.9, Total to Date: 303.8