Trail Notes – July 30 (Franconia Ridge)

Oh, people.

Curiosity nearly killed the Ziptie.

The day started with pancakes and a shuttle to the Liberty Springs trailhead at Franconia Notch. And it was up, up, up, to the Franconia Ridge. 3 miles of rocky path – boulders and bedrock. Not difficult, just incredibly tedious, picking through the river of rock. 3 miles put me at the Liberty Springs shelter, where I made sure all three water containers were full; there is no water on the 5 or 6 mile ridge.

After the shelter, the trail was level for about a mile, then developed a mild case of Kinsman envy, and decided to throw in some vertical rock scrambles on the way up Little Haystack Mountain. At 4800 feet, I was above tree line and stayed above tree line for 2 miles. I put a rock,on the cairn at the summit of Little Haystack and continued on.

I was walking the ridge. I was walking the ridge above treeline. The weird thing about the path above treeline was that… you could clearly see it, a mile further on, wending it’s way from mountain to mountain. You could see the people hiking, very clearly. I tried to get a good picture, but my screen was washed out, and I must have missed the button. I will try again tomorrow.

Even though the trail was in the middle of the ridge, and avoided sheer dropoffs, I was edgy. From Little Haystack, it was on to Mt. Lincoln, which had three peaks. There was some rock scrambling, but mostly a straightforward dirt/rock path that only briefly dipped into tiny pine trees. I put a rock on the cairn at the summit, and continued on.

Then, Mt. Lafayette. Here I took a real break; stretched out on some comfortable granite, pulled my baseball cap over my head and enjoyed the sun’s warmth and breeze’s coolness. I put a rock on the cairn at the summit, and continued on…

… And here is where curiosity struck. The Appalachian Mountain Club has a series of huts in the White Mountains – essentially huge bunkhouses that also serve dinner and breakfast. They cost an arm and a leg to stay in. Thru-hikers, if they are lucky (usually a max of 2) can do work for stay – dinner and breakfast leftovers, plus space to sleep in the hut, in exchange for two hours worth of chores.

So, like I said, I was curious, and decided to try my luck at Greenleaf Hut, which is actually the furthest from the AT – 1.1 miles down a side trail from the summit of Lafayette. What I knew and just pushed aside was that it was 1.1 miles of steep rocky trail down. Can say that my body is NOT happy with me. Particularly the knees, going downhill kills the knees.

But I made it, and am now sitting on the porch typing while the paid guests have their supper. I get to eat after, and find out what my chore will be. Tomorrow, I climb back up that trail. Up is easier.

I’ve figured out I need a new strategy for the Whites – I will not plan where to stay each night, because I never know how far I can go, depending on terrain. So when I feel like I can’t go anymore, I will find the nearest shelter, or stealth camp, or try work for stay. At least in New Hampshire.

I’m starving. Granola bar time.

I hike on.

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