October 7, 2009

Lafayette Lincoln Loop

Owen and Katy on top of Mt. Lafayette This past weekend, Katy and I went on the first of hopefully many adventures hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It's been quite some time since I've done a lot of real, solid hiking. When I was much younger, my dad, brother, uncle, and I used to make semi-frequent camping/hiking trips up north. Those slowly died out, though, as college, track, ultimate, and just life in general began filling up my time. Aside from a couple backpacking trips with Brian, and a few other tiny day hikes here and there, I'm realizing that I haven't really done much hiking at all in most of this decade. So with that said, I've decided to get back into hiking with a goal. How about hiking all 48 of the 4000+ foot peaks in the White Mountains?

I mentioned this idea to Katy, and not ever being one to back down from a challenge, she was in. Now, technically I've already done probably about 10 or so peaks on this list (in fact, if I remember correctly, I've already hiked 6 of the top 7 peaks, Adams being the lone 5000+ footer that I've never scaled). However, I figured we can do it as a team, and restart the list from scratch. So we planned a trip for this past weekend, and stayed at the Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch where several of the 4000 footers flank on both sides...

Owen and Katy on top of Mount LincolnWe arrived Saturday afternoon under gray skies with showers spitting at us the whole drive up. At first it seemed like we would luck out and have just spotty showers in the evening. Not so. As soon as we pulled into our campsite and began setting up, the skies opened up. It poured as we setup our tent. It poured as we scrambled to provide some makeshift shelter from the rain with a tarp tied to some trees. It poured as we raced to get our sleeping bags and pads into the tent. By the time we finished setting up camp, we were both cold, soaked, shivering, and standing under a small patch of tarp that was keeping us out of the rain. With no hope of building a fire in the constant rain, we eventually retired to the tent early with some dry clothes and board games. Not a good start to our mission!

Fortunately, Sunday was a completely different story. We woke up to clearing skies and quickly grabbed some breakfast and began getting organized for our hike. Our plan was to attack the classic day hike in the Franconia Range, the Franconia Ridge Loop. This loop actually combines three trails into a 9 mile trek that brings you over the top of Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln from the 4000 footers list (technically it also brings you over Little Haystack Mountain but that peak does not satisfy the criteria to be on the 4000 footers list). After collecting some warmer gear, food, water, and gatorade in our packs, we were on the trail at about 8:40AM.

We started towards the summit of Mount Lafayette via the Old Bridle Path. This trail is fairly steep pretty much the whole way, but is very well maintained and easy to navigate. There were a few other groups on the trail, but it was fairly quiet for a near peak foliage weekend. Saturday's weather likely had something to do with that. By 11:00AM we had made it to the Greenleaf Hut, which sits right at the treeline about 3 miles from the trailhead and 1 mile from the summit. After a quick snack break and topping off our water bottles, we continued on to the summit and were there at about noon. Wahoo! One peak down! We had lunch at the top and about 3 or 4 other groups were up there doing the same.

Traveling across the ridge along the Franconia Ridge Trail was pretty awesome. Weather above the tree line was cool, but mostly clear and calm, a generally rare event. We had nice views of the Pemigewasset Wilderness to our east, and Cannon and the Kinsman Mountains to our west. Foliage was getting close to peak, and the trail was busy but did not have a train of people like I've seen in the past. By about 12:30PM we had bagged the Mount Lincoln summit, and by 1:00ish we had reached the trail junction for Falling Waters Trail at Little Haystack Mountain to head back down.

Katy gladly obeying the sign after the hikeI had expected our trip down to be fairly quick, but there was quite a bit of running water on and near the trail making it slippery and tougher to navigate. We passed by several fantastic waterfalls on the way down, but also had to deal with several tricky river crossings as a result. In the end we hit the bottom at about 3:40PM, almost exactly 7 hours which is the estimated book time.

When we got back to the campground, we had just one passing shower disturb our dinner but otherwise a dry night under an almost full moon in front of the fire. It being a Sunday night, almost the entire campground was empty so we had the place almost completely to ourselves. On Monday, we originally contemplated zipping up and tagging the summit of Cannon Mountain but decided not to overreach on our first trip and get back early enough to unpack and get organized. Overall, it was a fun trip. So 2 summits down, and it may take us a few years, but 46 to go!

P.S. Additional select photos of the trip are available on facebook.

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