The Franconia Notch classic!
Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette, Franconia, NH. 2018-04-02. (Monday)
Via Falling Waters trail, Franconia Ridge trail, Greenleaf trail, and Old Bridle Path trail. Approx 9 miles.
30 dF +/- at the trailhead, 45 at the summits, with 4-6 MPH winds gusting to 10. Unbridled sunshine.
Trailhead: 0900; Little Haystack summit: 1130; Mt Lincoln summit: 1210; Mt Lafayette summit: 1245; Greenleaf hut: 1335; back at car: 1500.
I’ve actually been on this mountain twice more than I’ve summited, owing to silliness like failing to get out of bed in enough time to hike the thing. Mea culpa. This would be my first time on the mountain in winter conditions (such that they were) that I was able to actually stand on the summits. 10/10, will do again.
I met some friendly folk from Sherbrooke in the parking lot. For two of the young men, this was yet another winter hike. For the third, this was his first on this mountain, though he’d been here over the past summer. We shared some thoughts, and they got going while I finished my preparations.
Once underway, I was a mile or so in when I discovered a knit hat on the trail. Grabbed it and kept going. I had no real hopes I’d catch them, especially as the waterfalls were doing a stellar job of distracting me. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
I told myself to quit slowing myself down after Cloudland Falls, and sure enough, I did indeed come across one of those hikers; and wouldn’t you know, he was happy to be reunited with his hat. So yeah, saying “bon chance” seems to bring about good luck after all. Sample of one, but hey…
I’d been worried about the weather, but a colleague had told me not to — in his estimation, the weather would be fine. And true to his word, it was. Morning haze burned off before long, and I was enjoying unbridled sun for the rest of the day. Monorail trail conditions offered good footing throughout. There was a section near Cloudland Falls where thick ice coated the steep bits, but my MicroSpikes held up. A bit scary, but things turned out fine.
I passed one after another of lyrically beautiful waterfalls, gradually increasing in volume, until the din bordered on long, rolling thunder. Occasional songbirds flew through the trees, filling the air with their songs as the day grew warmer.
Before long, I was at the switchbacks, and then at the junction with the Shining Rock spur. I briefly debated going down, but after seeing how far the trail lost elevation, decided to come back another day. The mountains have been there for thousands of years, and they’ll be there for a little while more, I’m sure.
After that, a bit more exertion and I was on the summit of Little Haystack mountain, with its wonderful views in all directions. Bare rock and dirt everywhere, with snow in the distinct minority, I’d not walk across snow in any significant sense from then on until the Greenleaf hut. I took some pictures, pondered the stratified rock formations, and then turned toward Lincoln, pausing only to put on a windbreaker. The air was warm, but the wind bit a little. Better to keep the warmth in than to try to regain it — and the windbreaker did a perfect job in keeping my body in the “goldilocks zone.”
Along the way, a young lass nicknamed Goddess caught up with me. For the remainder of the trip, we shared delightful conversation on all manner of topics. She’d hiked the AT fairly recently, and it was interesting hearing her talk about that. We arrived at Lincoln, had a brief pause to take in the views yet again, and then off to Lafayette.
On the tall summit, we took a short lunch break. Our friends from Sherbrooke ended up arriving shortly after (minus one, who was stuck dealing with a bum knee, and had to go back earlier) and there was much enjoyment of the scenery before the Canadian contingent departed. Goddess and I finished our lunch, took some more pictures, and pressed on to the Greenleaf hut.
One often hears about this, but rarely stumbles upon it: a couple there had just finished proposing shortly before our arrival. What better day, what better location? A short bit sitting on the hut’s back porch in the warm sun as we shed our outer layers. We continued on the Old Bridle Path, and then… calamity.
I was bringing up the rear on a steep bit where the springtime snow was very slippery and unconsolidated — one of the few areas where MicroSpikes felt thoroughly inadequate. I blame the warming day. The newly engaged were glissading in front of us, but that was just a detail. Swearing I’d stay upright, gravity, combined with a lack of friction happened, and sure enough, to much laughter, all of us ended up making drastically quicker headway downhill than we anticipated. As if in a snowy recreation of a scene from The Goonies, down we went for a short spell.
The remains of the trail were uneventful. The last miles spent sharing more conversation until finally, the talus field of Cannon loomed large, and the parking lot came into view. This was peaks 16 and 17 on my 4,000 footer list, and like most of the ones previous, it was another amazing day out on the trail.
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