North and South Kinsman Mountain (4,293 and 4,358 feet, respectively). Lincoln and Easton, NH. 2022-03-25 (Friday.)
Via Mt Kinsman and Kinsman Ridge Trails. 10 miles round-trip, approx 3,900 feet elevation gain.
44 dF at the trailhead, 35 dF at the summits/ridge. RH was around 85% in the col. Winds were nonexistent. Mainly cloudy, some light fog (especially at higher elevations) due to massive amounts of snow melting. Clouds lifted somewhat toward the end of the day, yielding slightly better views.
Snow was present about halfway up, mainly “mashed potatoes” although there was some kind of a monorail a bit lower down. From the trailhead through the first mile and a half (or so), the ground was bare.
Trailhead: 1300. North Kinsman summit: 1530. South Kinsman summit: 1600. Car: 1830. Approx 5 1/2 hours.
First hike of spring on the Kinsmans!
It’s more than likely my penultimate hike of March, given work constraints. But hey, even if I were to wrap up the month today, I’m past halfway on my grid for the month of March, which is nice. Two more peaks would put me at 30. I’m not complaining! Once I close out a month, plan is to either concentrate on redlining, or (in the warmer months) nail down other lists, like the hundred highest, or 52 WAV. I’ve been neglecting the other lists, which has been tugging at me.
Anyhoo… today was the Kinsmans, and I came in from Easton, which is quite a nice way to do it. I probably should do it again from the east, but there’s such a nice quiet vibe coming in from the west. I’m all about the quietude. Today, I got just that. Pulling into the parking lot at the trailhead, there was one other vehicle. I met that hiker on his way down, near the halfway mark. After that, the mountains were all mine. It was nice. I’m pretty sure he had it to himself, too, because I didn’t see much in the way of fresh tracks in the snow, except for the two of ours.
Funny thing that I’ve observed: the trails are very quiet just after winter, and before springtime warms up enough for the fair weather hikers. People seem to do the 48 and the winter 48, but there’s not a lot of love for the grid. On days like today, I shed no tears for that.
Late? Yep… so what of it?
I felt a little bad for leaving the house so late today, especially as my more recent hikes have had me out the door a fair bit earlier. But given that we’re now in daylight saving time, I could enjoy more time on the trail before it got dark out. Happily, I was back at my car more than half an hour before sunset. Everything worked out.
Initially, things were great. The trail was muddy, but that meant bare ground and bare boots for almost the entire first half. Sometime after a mile and a half had gone by, the snow started appearing; a little at the sides at first, but then more earnestly. I persisted until the two mile mark, and then donned micro-spikes. That hiker on his way down had mentioned snowshoes were something he’d thought about on the col, but never unfastened them from his pack. It was reassuring.
There was snow… of a sort.
Nearer the top, things majorly turned into mashed potatoes underfoot. Micro-spikes are great for balling, but although this was a thing, and I did slip backward a tiny amount with every step, it wasn’t bad. At the trail junction on the ridge, I still hadn’t put on a hat, mittens, or a jacket. I was burning enough calories that shirtsleeves were enough. I thought about the hiker and his snowshoes while on the col, but never even considered wanting them myself. I’m glad I left their weight back in the car. They were totally unnecessary.
Views were attenuated to say the least, but between the two summits, and with a little patience, I was able to see some peaks, which was nice. I had my last foggy trip in my head all day, hoping I wouldn’t be shut out of a view. I didn’t get to see Franconia Ridge, but I got views of nearly a dozen other (lower) peaks, which really made the day. The sun made brief, random appearances, so all in all, while it wasn’t even remotely a bluebird day, it was a fair bit more than just booking mileage.
As always, stay safe out there.
Nuts and Bolts: Take exit 32 off I-93 (the Kancamagus Highway, in Lincoln) and head west. Stay on 112 until it intersects with 116, and then head north toward Easton/ Franconia. As you pass from Easton into Franconia, be on the lookout for the trailhead sign. If you see a tennis summer camp, you’ve gone about 100 yards too far. As of this writing, the snow is melting at a rapid pace: alongside the roadways on the drive to the trailhead, if there was any snow, it was much less than one would expect at this time of year. At the trailhead itself, the parking area is completely melted out. There might be a few flakes in a day or three, which could change things, so be careful. As always, YMMV.
Trailhead will be right in front of you. There’s no kiosk. On-trail, blazes are blue until Kinsman Ridge, where they become AT-white, and generally plentiful. Be aware that down low, there are a few side trails (mountain bike, etc) that branch off here and there. And there’s the truck road that splits off to the right (near the sugar shack) on your way down. The blazes will keep you on the correct path, but be mindful of them. Overall, though, it’s not hard to stay on track. Just keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine.
Note: The map linked below includes the Reel Brook Trail, from my trip in the summer of 2019. It’s point-to-point, and there are no guarantees the trail will be passable in snow/ice conditions. I recommend taking that option in the warmer weather; climbing up South Kinsman from that direction is quite treacherous to put it mildly. I really can’t imagine trying it in the colder months. Do yourself a favor and stick to the northern trailhead, out-and-back. Reel Brook will wait for you.
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