Saturday, August 05, 2017

Hiking the Whites Day 1 - Up to Franconia Ridge

After enjoying breakfast, our AMC shuttle picked us up promptly at 9 AM. The drive to our trailhead at Lafayette Campground took us back several Forest Service roads to other trailheads, where we dropped off other hikers. Carmel saw a bear crossing a river, and Traci a moose grazing by the side of the road. Nothing for me...

Back on the main roads, we retraced our steps from yesterday through Franconia Notch. It was Saturday during the peak summer season, and it looked like a large chunk of the northeast had decided to go for a hike. Parking lots were full, and cars clogged the sides of the roads. A steady stream of day hikers accompanied us as we began our way up the long climb of the Falling Waters Trail to our destination - the bare heights of Franconia Ridge.
We begin the journey!
Falling Waters Trail didn't disappoint. For most of the way it paralleled a watercourse that descended off the ridge in a series of cataracts, several quite impressive. The trail is well-maintained, but also quite rocky and rough - a preview of coming attractions, it turned out.
One of the falls - see the hikers at the top for scale. 
After a long climb, and lots of foot traffic, we came out of the woods to the open spaces of Franconia Ridge. Stretching away to the north were the peaks of Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette, both topping out at over 5000 feet. We broke for lunch with the crowds (note - don't expect a solitary experience on Franconia Ridge on a Saturday), chatted with a Ridge Runner, and started north along the ridge.

Ravens are in abundance on the ridge. They've learned to pick up food scraps from hikers. 
David and I check in with a Ridge Runner. 
The trail along Franconia Ridge is relatively short, but extremely memorable. Looking to the northeast you can pick out the major peaks of the Presidential Range, while looking west and down you can pick out highway cutting through Franconia Notch, and reflect on what a climb you've made to arrive at the top. Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette ranged ahead of us, before the descent of 1000 feet to our destination for the night, Greenleaf Hut.
Carmel and Traci step out towards Mount Lincoln.
Much care has been taken to channel the trail into a narrow path along the top of the ridge, to avoid damage to the fragile plants in this alpine zone. Fortunately for us, the weather was beautiful. We'd yet to experience the variety of weather the Whites can throw at you.
Carmel ascends Mount Lincoln
The iconic view, looking north towards Mount Lafayette
Carmel and I bag a peak!
After a few tough miles we'd reached the summit of Mount Lafayette and took some time to take in the view, including Greenleaf Hut, 1000 feet below us on the shoulder of the mountain. It was time to head down for dinner and to grab some shut eye. Our mileage was only around six miles, but we'd put in some work to get there!
Carmel and Traci (foreground) descend towards Greenlear Hut (upper left).

Next Time - Greenleaf Hut to Galehead Hut

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