Finally hiking day in this hiking Mecca...
The intended hike is a loop that takes in numerous waterfalls including 5 water crossings, 3 mountains, 1 mountain hut, parts of the Appalachian Trail and lots of great views. Oh, and lots of rock hopping. We haven't found a name for this particular loop hike, but in addition to the Appalachian Trail, it consists of Falling Waters Trail, Greenleaf Trail and Old Bridle Path. Let's call it the Franconia Ridge Loop. It is a tough one. Some stats:
- Falling Waters Trail climbs 2840 feet in 2 miles, I.e. almost 1 km climb over 3.2 km from the trailhead to Little Haystack Mountain.
- Little Haystack Mountain to Mount Lincoln is another 240 feet up, 80 meters.
- Mount Lincoln to Mount Lafayette is yet another 200 feet up, 65 meters. However, between the mountains, it is down before it is up as they cross on ridges.
- Greenleaf Hut sits at 4,200 feet (2,200 feet still above the car park)
- The total loop is about 9 miles.
Here a what it looked like on Runkeeper after the hike.
The Forest Rangers advised doing this hike anti clockwise as coming down the rockiest part, which is the Falling Waters Trail, is not advised when you are tired and anyway, you want the steepest part over and done with when you are still fresh in the morning.
We were at the trailhead at 7.40am and there were already a dozen or so cars already there. We start with hiking the Falling Waters Trail.
Oh oh - 1/2 a mile into the trail and we hit our first water crossing. Hans made it across OK but Di was nervous about this, and expected others (she was right, there were 4 others). We went our separate ways agreeing to meet back at the car at 2pm.
Hans is having a break next to another waterfall (self portrait).
The final fifth water crossing.
A lot of the path of the Falling Waters Trail looked like this. Rock, rock, rock everybody.
This scenery was rare. A sort of more traditional forest hike.
Finally, Hans crosses the tree line, close to the top of Mount Little Haystack. Looking back from where we came from. Yep, you could tell from the views that you had climbed nearly 1,000 meters.
This picture is taken from the same spot as the previous pic. You can see the ridge line and the next mountain you will be hiking to, which is Mount Lincoln.
Top of the world. Mount Little Haystack, first of three mountains to be "conquered".
Moving right along. Next step...
Down there from Mount Little Haystack, Hans could see the trailhead where we parked our car. It was a long way to the top...
The "narrow" ridge line which you walk along (looking back).
Mount Lincoln is getting closer...
Then suddenly from Mount Lincoln, the Greenleaf Hut is visible down there.
Nearly there is today's tallest peak, Mount Lafayette. All that is needed now is just to need to hike to the top.
Top of the world at Mount Lafeyette. To put this in perspective we were 1,000 feet higher again yesterday at Mount Washington.
Then suddenly a glider approached the top of Mount Lafayette. It did fly a lot closer than on the picture, but Hans didn't get a chance to take a picture on its first lap. Here it is coming back...
Starting the path down to Greenleaf Hut - still very steep and rocky.
He arrived. Lunchtime!
Greenleaf Hut had a really nice setup. Coffee in a mug could be purchased for $1, which is such an indulgence when hiking so Hans got himself one to go with his sandwiches (it is now lunchtime at 12 noon).
This is a view from Greenleaf Hut. You can sit at the other end of the building as per above and look out over this lake with Mount Lafayette in the background. Very pleasant.
After lunch, Hans headed down the Old Bridle Path from Greenleaf Hut to the trailhead and car park. Home stretch. Just under 3 miles to go.
A few trail notes...
- Quite a few French speaking people on the trail. Rough guess would be that they are from Quebec, not France or anywhere else
- Also quite a few kids on the trail including several very young looking hiking with their parents or dad at the very top on the Appalachian Trail between the mountain tops
- Dogs were everywhere. As Hans was having his lunch at Greenleaf Hut, a fight broke out between 2 dogs a bit up the mountain. Sound transfers long distances in this environment
In the meantime in a galaxy far far away...
When we last left Di she was walking away from the creek crossing obstacle with an agreement to meet Hans back at the car around 2pm.
Di returned the 1/2 mile to the junction of the Falling Waters and Old Bridle Path trail and started to climb towards Greenleaf Hut. The Old Bridle Path is a little "easier" ascent than Falling Waters but that's not a fair way to describe it. It's still tough and certainly you can't envisage anyone getting a horse to go up it. Steep and rocky in many places and in 3 miles you still climb 2,200 feet (or 700 meters in 5kms).
But at least no creek crossings.
Yet, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) volunteers who staff the Greenleaf Hut still cart their supplies this way. They must be fit. Hans and Di saw a few of them on the path.
After about 1.5 miles (2.5km) of climbing you start to get glimpses of views between trees, generally as the forest is thinning out and also there is more very large rock slabs are along the trail.
Below is the road that we arrived on, I93 aka Styles Bridges Highway (zoomed in).
At the 2 mile mark Di came to a large rock ledge with great views of the whole range. Lovely, and the weather is perfect. A popular break spot for hikers because we are now about 450 meters high.
Di decides to take a longer break here and enjoy the views. After some thought she ruled out going all the way to the Greenleaf Hut, and heads back down towards the car park.
The Greenleaf Hut is still nearly a mile further of climbing and with new hiking boots Di knew the steep, rocky descent would be slow (which it was).
A nice hike for Di - 5 miles of tough hiking (8kms) and lots of nice chats along the way with fellow hikers (Hans got to meet a few of them along his loop!) Di got back to the car at noon and walked across the way to Lafeyette Campground Store for a nice orange ice block (35 cents) and a rest on the grass.
Verdict on the new boots - great but will need a bit more wearing in time (for the feet!)
Hans turned up at 1.55pm just as Di expected. She is good at this, better than Hans to estimate Hans hike ETA (that is Estimated Time of Arrival for the uninitiated).
Hans voted this one of the top 10 hikes of all time - a huge compliment considering the long list of hikes he has completed (final assessment by Di)
Back to the ranch for R&R. Di opted to have a swim in the pool of Profile Motel (26 degrees in the water - nice!).
The house keeping was very late today due to the good old staff shortages and we only received fresh towels as Di was in the shower when they finally arrived. Later, we took today's used wet towels back to the reception and at the same time we booked ourselves here for one more night, Sunday. After lots of jokes about us paying extra as we had disturbed Jim, the owner (he was having a beer with one of the bikers when we interrupted him) but hold on...we brought the used towels back and that must be worth something. The result was that we got $10 off for Sunday night. Nice bloke, Jim.
We had booked ourselves in for a Moose Tour tonight, so we decided to go for a quick pizza beforehand. However, we were both knackered after today's hike so after getting even more tired, slumping over our pizza, we decided to give the tour a "no show" and instead returned to our motel for the night.
Weak, yes we know but we are happy. Better than falling asleep on a tour bus! Tomorrow though is yet another day. Good night.