Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Franconia Ridge Memorial Day '09

On Friday, May 22nd, I headed up to Franconia Notch State Park with my sweetheart, Beth, her sister & her boyfriend. Of course, my buddy Skippy Bones 100_0569 also came along for the hike. Skippy is a lean, mean hikin' machine. Many of the hikers we met over the weekend were impressed with his ability & stamina in hiking. In fact, I think Skip hiked 3x the distance we did. He'd run up the trail ahead of us, wait a few seconds, then turn & run back down to get us. The plan was to hike three days & camp two nights, and Bones was just as excited as we were!

We took one car & drove up I-93 to NH, parked at the Lafayette Campground on the east side of 93. We figured on hiking up the Old Bridle Path towards Greenleaf Hut. It was chilly when we started out, and started later than we'd planned. But we pushed up the trail at a brisk pace. The views were fantastic as we drew closer to the hut. 100_0550

At the top of the climb where the hut rests the wind was really blowing good. On the way up I wore a long sleeve top & shorts. After a couple of minutes, I walked into the hut & talked a bit with one of the young guys working in the kitchen, asked him about a spot for us to camp for the night. He said there was a little clearing down the Greenleaf Trail a bit.

100_0555 The huts up here are pretty basic, small houses with bunk beds, plywood walls, a full kitchen & an indoor bathroom. I wouldn't mind staying here if it wasn't for the price. For non AMC members, I think it's $86 a night. It includes dinner & breakfast. Beth & I are members of the AMC, but the price was still $77 or something like that. I went back outside, pulled out my rain jacket/wind breaker and sat down with Skippy to wait for the others coming up behind.

There's no camping within 1/4 mile of the huts in NH. There are signs marking the radius on the trails surrounding the huts. We hiked west down the Greenleaf Trail as the young guy at the hut had suggested. The trail is lined with rocks, easy to turn an ankle or trip. It wasn't long after we passed the 1/4 mile marker that Beth found a clearing to the left. The area is heavily wooded, but as we headed toward the clearing, we noticed several nice spots to set up a tent. It was getting late, we were all tired. The girls started dinner while Anthony & I set up the tents. Skippy explored the tent site.


It was chilly again on Sat morning, but not too bad. Our agenda, after breakfast of course, was to head back up Greenleaf Trail past the hut & up to Franconia Ridge/AT. It was good hiking, chilly but good. Lots of people were out this weekend for Memorial Day, and I think if the weather was a bit nicer, it would've been much busier.

There were 30-40 people up on Mount Lafayette when we reached the top. Lots of talking, eating, people asking how Skippy was doing on the trail, if100_0561 we needed to carry him up the mountain at all. My reply was, "are you kiddin'? He's the only one NOT panting." 

All the way up Mount Lafayette I was thinking & looking forward to a beautiful 360 degree view of the la100_0565ndscape. It didn't disappoint. It's beautiful up here, and I'm looking forward to coming back in the summer when I return to the AT. My five week stint on the AT last year seems like yesterday, but at  the same time, so long ago. Backpacking is a time to get away from the busyness of everyday life, to think & look at life from a different perspective. Problems back home seem so small out here, like pebbles to mountains.

We headed south on the AT from the top of Lafayette. Over Lincoln & Little Haystack we passed, hiking beyond the junction of Falling Waters Trail. The AMC Liberty Spring Tentsite was less than 2 miles from the top of Little Haystack, but our intention was to set up100_0564 camp somewhere in between the mountaintop & the tentsite. We found a good spot, even better than the night before, about 1/4 mile beyond the junction of Falling Waters Trail. We had a good fire that night, sat & talked, drank some wine. Dinner was chicken, rice & red beans. We climbed into our tents a little after 9 pm.

Late Sat night a storm swept through; wind, rain, thunder & lightning. The tents held up fine, though sleep was off & on because of all the noise. Our thoughts were on the climb back up the mountain to reach the Falling Waters Trail. There were some good size boulders we encountered on the descent. Things always seem a bit worse when you're tired.

100_0571The climb back up over the boulders wasn't too bad. In fact, we reached the junction of Falling Waters Trail 15 mins after leaving camp. It was cold & rainy at the top, but the forecast that day for the park region below called for sun & temps in the mid-70s. We were looking forward to getting down.

Falling Waters Trail was everything I'd heard it was, beautiful waterfalls & gorgeous scenery. At one point we lost the trail, going beyond the trail marker. I think we didn't see it because we were too interested in the sloping rocks before us. After we realized that there was nowhere to go but into a pool of water, we turned back up the rocks & found the marker, then continued back on the trail. The detour took about 10 minutes of our time. The lower we descended, the sunnier & warmer it felt, and the park was crowded with hikers. We reached the parking lot around 2 pm. As Slightly would say, "Good Times."

~The Pilgrim.