July 28th 2016: Lincoln & Lafayette with Caitlin (Dad)

July 28th, 2016: Lincoln & Lafayette

 

Catie and I had been looking forward to this hike since planning it earlier in the week. Geoffrey was at rock climbing camp all day which meant Catie and I could shoot for a more challenging hike. By all means, from everything I had researched, this was going to be one of the more aggressive hikes of our early White Mountain hiking adventures. To complicate things, there was more than a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon which meant an earlier than usual departure to Franconia Notch. Looking back, every minute early was well worth it.

 

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Traffic South of Boston
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Trailhead

We were off and into south of Boston traffic at 6:00 AM just as the HOV lane opened. We were over the border into New Hampshire just after 7 and then a quick stop in the Campton White Mountain National Forest Headquarters for a rest stop by just a bit after 8! Parked into the trailhead at 8:30 and ran into a family who we traded pictures with.

 

The plan today was the Falling Waters trail (detour to the shinning rock spur) to Little Haystack then the Franconia Ridge trail over Lincoln, Truman and Lafayette. The descent would be the Greenleaf trail to the Greenleaf Hut then the Old Bridal Path back to the parking lot. That’s 9.2 miles and XXX of AMV WMG book time, which is similar to our first hike of Liberty and Flume.

 

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Second Trailhead pic
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Falling waters on the Falling Waters Trail?

We started off the Old Bridal Path for the short .2 miles to the Falling Waters trail. This section was notable for a large birch that must have just blown over the trail and was still about 4 feet off of the ground. In no time we were at the Falling Waters trail and off.  Almost immediately, there was falling water!  This is a nicely maintained trail with even with stairs chiseled into some of the large boulders.

 

This trail was absolutely spectacular. There were waterfalls and stream crossings around every corner. I’ll let the pics do the talking here.

 

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Cloudland Falls (I think)
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Wade perspective of the same falls
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Just above one of the falls, C just hanging out
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This trail is gorgeous as it follows Dry Brook (spoiler- not dry). the sun was low in the sky as we started up making for a very nice pic!
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Anyone for a blurry falls selfie?
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Swiftwater Falls (I think)
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Early in the trail C looking upstream

At one of these crossings, I slipped on a rock and my hiking boot went under. While the boot was water resistant, having water go over the top of the boot negated this. I was resigned to a wet right foot the rest of the day. Speaking of boots, Catie and I had gotten to REI earlier in the week and both picked up pairs of very comfortable Merrill hiking boots. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to break them in before this so this was a bit of a gamble!

 

It was a perfect morning with few clouds, low humidity and temps in the 70’s. We forded the stream one last time and then it was onto the switchbacks and up. Up to this point, the grade had been fairly mild, but after the first switchback or two the grade picks up quickly. This part of the trail reminds me of the last mile of Tecumseth or the last half of the Liberty Springs trail with stair steps that go straight up!

 

We passed a family of 3 generations hiking up this portion of the trail who were all very nice and greatly encouraged Catie! This has been one of the most pleasant aspects to hiking in the Whites thus far. Everyone we have met on the trails have been super nice and it sets an excellent example for the kids!

 

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Natural springs flow over the rock seen here
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Nice pic facing south out of the notch

Before long we were at the junction of the Shinning Rock Spur trail. This is a .1 mile spur that takes you to a large section of granite ledge that is wet from springs running down the faces of the rocks. This is well worth the .2 mile side trip in my opinion. It does give you a respite from the climbing as the spur is straight down to Shinning Rock. The drawback is that you have to climb back up. We encountered a couple of teenagers and a friendly dog at this intersection. They stopped to talk to us and told us that they had started at 7 AM and went up the Old Bridal Trail and were now heading down. Way to get after it early and quickly! Catie and I made it quickly down the rock scramble to Shinning Rock fairly quickly. When we arrived, we found we had the place to ourselves.

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Geocache found!

Catie then commenced the search for a geocache in the area. For those of you unfamiliar to it here’s a link, but basically it’s using GPS coordinates to find hidden caches that have a log book and some small trinkets. Catie had went to a summer camp that she had been introduced to this and now asks wherever we go to search the app for caches. This one was relatively easy to find.  It’s in a metal ammo box just of the trail at the base of the rock. We couldn’t log into the logbook since the pen didn’t work and Catie didn’t take a trinket, so we hid it back. If you are hiking with kids, I’d certainly recommend this as this kept Catie’s focus off the endless rocky steps.

 

By this time another couple of hikers had made it down the spur. We exchanged picture-taking opportunities. This place has great views over to Lonesome Lake and the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut as well as a good chunk of the southern portion of Franconia Notch. We took our pics and were on our way. I continued to worry about late day thunderstorms, but as you can see by the pics, it was before 11 and still just fine.

 

Climbing back up the spur and back onto the Falling Waters trail we passed the multigenerational group again. We caught a peek at the Greenleaf AMC hut from this section of the trail. {distant Greenleaf pic} The distance left here is deceptively long. I kept thinking that we should be at the top around every turn, it was not. We eventually saw the sign for the Alpine Zone. The trees shortened considerably and we were soon on the rocky scramble to the top.

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The Greenleaf Hut is behind us in the distance (trust me)

Finally at the top of the trail at the intersection of the Franconia Ridge trail (also the AT).  2:45 minutes from starting we were on the ridge well under book time and that was with the spur trail included! Catie was rocking it today with the promise of the ridge trail, geocache and snacks at the hut, she was considerably more motivated that the last hike! Helping this was her mom fashioning these socks into padding for her backpack. She was smiling from ear to ear all the way up and now on top of Little Haystack. She did take the opportunity to rest.

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Not Little Haystack, but you can see the purple socks Mom had fashioned into pads for her.
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Little Haystack summit and the sign noting the intersection of the Franconia Ridge Trail and Falling Waters Trail

We took 15 minutes for lunch and during that time only saw a couple other folks hike right by us without stopping. The views here are quite good with nice views of the Pemi Wilderness to the east, Flume & Liberty to the south, Lincoln to the north and the Kinsmans and Cannon to the west!  No one really talks about Little Haystack in any of the hiking blogs or AMC guides, other than it’s at the end of the Falling Waters trail and doesn’t count in the AMC’s 4000 footers. I feel like that is selling this spot short. You have a 360 degree view and can see hikers going up and down the Franconia Ridge trail to Lincoln (Lafayette is obscured by Lincoln from this spot). On this Thursday, no one stopped to even give the little mound a look! Maybe your experience may vary, but I’d rather stop here for lunch than a mobbed Lincoln or Lafayette.

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Just chillin with Libery (center) and Flume (left) behind her
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Haystack summit cairn with the ridge trail and Mt Lincoln behind
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Summit selfie with cannon directly over my head (clouds building in the distance)
A butterfly 4000+ feet up
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Taking a break on a subpeak below Lincoln

We were off to Lincoln. This part of the trail lives up to it’s billing with spectacular views on top of the ridge. Time and distance seemed to fly up here as you start with a short descent off of Haystack then get quickly into the climb of Lincoln. In all honesty, there is a mini peak in between with an extremely short decent but a quick return to climbing. In between we saw some alpine flowers and ran into a butterfly on the ridge.  35 minutes from Haystack and Catie had her first 5000’ footer!

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Summit of Mt. Lincoln (clouds really starting to darken)
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Summit cairn pic with Lafayette in the background

We stopped at Lincoln for snacks. I think we were quite lucky with only one other couple on the summit with us. They were doing the Pemi loop and were very nice to take our pictures at the top. Weather was holding nicely with a cooling breeze and a mix of sun and clouds. As you can see the clouds were building in the distance. We headed out towards Lafayette in the distance with hikers clearly visible at the peak.

 

Again, the trip between peaks was just as spectacular as the trip from Haystack. The decent was quick down Lincoln into a small col with some dwarf spruce trees in a sheltered area. The variety of the ridgeline trail was fantastic between the trees, rock scrambles and open ridge. Catie was stopping throughout this trek to take in the view.  In no time we were climbing up Mt. Truman (unofficial) and were quickly to the top. We stopped briefly here to snap a couple of pics but were off as the clouds continued to build. I was worried about getting stuck on the ridge in bad weather. At worst I wanted to be at the Greenleaf Hut if the skies threatened.

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Franconia Ridge Trail marked with the white blaze denoting the Appalachian Trail

We came down quickly off of Truman to a small col and started climbing towards Lafayette. The climb was more gradual than that of the climb to Lincoln. Nice climb here with more spectacular views. Another 45 minutes from Lincoln we were on the top of Lafayette and Catie had her second 5000’ footer! We quickly found the summit button and took a bunch of pics. The family from the parking lot was on the summit and the mom was the photographer of all of these pics with both Catie and I in them. I was glad that we had come up the Falling Waters trail as we were more than ½ way there and had no climbing left to do. The clouds were getting darker as you can see with most of these summit pics. I checked the radar on the phone and thunderstorms were building at the NH/VT line to the west. We paused for a quick snack, which was a ½ of sandwich for both of us.

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Top of Lafayette with Lincoln in the background
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Lafayette USGS summit button
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Greenleaf Trail and Franconia Ridge Trail intersection at the top of Layfayette
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Summit pic with Cannon behind us. Lonesome lake is just left of C and above that is the two Kinsman peaks

 

The top of Lafayette was busy. There were at least 25 or more hikers up there at various points on the summit. You could also see a line of folks still coming up the Greenleaf trail while we were eating, but not many from Lincoln on the Franconia Ridge trail. This was a significant difference from the rest of the day when there was little traffic or other people at the summits or on the trails.

 

We took a last stretch on our rock and headed down the Greenleaf trail. The top of this trail is very exposed with views of the west side of the notch. We stopped several times for traffic headed up the trail. The Greenleaf Hut continued to get closer and closer. We disappeared into the stunted trees again with some respite views on rocky outcrops. At one point a little less than 5 hours into our hike, we started back up a mild climb and saw the sign for the restricted camping area meaning the hut was close by. The trees opened up and we were at the Greenleaf Hut.

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Best restroom view I’ve ever had (just sayin)
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Greenleaf Hut. Notice the wooden, leather and cloth backpacks the croo uses to pack up and down supplies! I can’t imagine that’s comfortable!
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Lafayette left, above the hut Truman center and Lincoln right

I was impressed with the AMC here. I’d never been inside one of these. The croo was great and we were the only hikers that were inside. I chatted with one of the croo about the weather, who shared that he thought we’d get down before the storms got in. Catie bought a Greenleaf Hut & AMC patch for her backpack. The young man from the croo talked us into an AMC family membership. Well worth it in my opinion. We utilized the facilities & peaked in the bunk bed rooms. {bathroom window pic} Catie started asking when we were going to plan a trip with a hut overnight stay. What have we done here? I created a hiking monster?

 

We had some lemonade and split some type of coconut coffee bread that was fantastic. We did not refill the waters here as neither Catie or I had touched our water bottles and the camelbacks still had plenty of water. I figured there was no reason to add extra weight.

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Trail intersection sign pic at the Greenleaf Hut

We reached the trail intersection with the Old Bridal Path and headed down towards the Agonies and eventually the parking lot. We were not on the trails for 15 minutes when we first heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. I looked at Catie and we picked up the pace. There were great views along the ridge of the Agonies, but we really did not stop more than a minute to look as the thunder continued to get more frequent from the distance.

 

The trails started to switchback and descend steeply into the valley. There is one section of very well worn red rock that was a little dicey but otherwise the trail is in great shape and is well maintained. We passed many hikers still on their way up and we passed hikers slowly making their way down. Especially troubling was a younger couple who was stopped on a rock as both were attending to the gentleman’s knee. We stopped to offer assistance, but they reassured us that they were just taking frequent breaks as the guy’s knee started to act up on the way down. He could still walk and they were taking it slow. They also assured us they had raingear, so we continued down.

 

We got to a point on the trail where you can hear rushing water and we thought we were at the end, but there was another 20 minutes to go on the trail. The garmin had died at this point, note to self fully charge it next time, so I had no idea how close we were to the terminus.

 

The wind started to pick up and the thunder was not closer. Our pace got more urgent as we headed down the trail.   Caite caught her foot on a rock and tumbled gashing open her elbow and knee. This was the first time we’d be using the first aid kit I had pieced together. She was tired and a bit weepy, but sucked it up tremendously as I cleaned and bandaged the wounds. I tried to get as much of the dirt out as possible before putting on the band aids. I didn’t stop to take pics as I could sense we were rapidly running out of time with the weather. About 100 years down the trail from the fall, we began to hear the sounds of water again and boom we were at the intersection of the Falling Waters and Old Bridal trail. Caite and I stopped to refresh in the cool mountain stream. Another time and I might have doffed the boots and waded in a bit, but we headed to the car.

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Yeah, that’s rain looking southwest over the Agony ridge
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Snapped a quick pic of C resting looking at Lincoln from the ridge.  Weather looks great eastward?
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Caitlin washing off in the Dry Brook after tumbling towards the end of the trail
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Trail intersection again a few hours later

We were sorting our gear out and changing in the car for less than a minute when the skies opened up. We had just made it in time!  Totally worth getting an early jump on the day.

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The skies opened up minutes after getting to the car!

We changed and headed out. We were not heading home to Massachusetts tonight but heading to Maine where we were staying the weekend and we were going to visit another friend in Fryeburg on our way. I hit the Kangomangous and stopped at Gordi’s Steakhouse for dinner in the pouring rain. We were not impressed. Slow service and below average food for the price was disappointing. I’d pass on this one in the future. We had a nice ride through the Whites on the Kangkomangous and off into the night. A big thanks to our friends in Fryeburg for letting us use the shower! That was a lifesaver.

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Dad’s Trip Tips:

Trails and Planning: What can I say, this is a classic White Mountain hike and it did not disappoint! I think either way you hike this trail it works. I liked saving the hut for 6+ miles into the hike. It served as a much needed rest and refueling spot for us. Just having it 3 miles into the hike might not have had the same effect. Interact with the croo there, they are great and super helpful!  Trails were in excellent shape except for the birch that was recently blown down at .1 miles into the trail from the parking lot. Shinning rock was extremely well worth it. Spend the 15 minutes checking it out. Also Little Haystack is very underrated. Spend some time there with the view, we had it to ourselves today!

Kid Factor: Catie rocked this hike. The hunt for the geocache and the waterfalls kept her going with little to no complaining the entire way up the Falling Waters trail! The weather kept that to a minimum on the way down as well (you can’t really plan that one). I’d recommend the geocaching to anyone with kids. This adds points of interest to the route and serves as a distraction at times.

Plenty of rests are needed for the hike up, but there are natural areas for this at each of the waterfalls and shinning rock. After the last creek crossing there is a nice flat area with little grade until you come upon another creek and switchback up. From that point to the spur trail there are very little points of interest or views. Break this section up for the little ones with rests as it is aggressively pitched for a little less than a mile.

There are plenty to bail points with this hike at the top of the falls, shinning rock or Little Haystack. Once beyond there you are essentially committed and have little in the way of shelter opportunities until below Lafayette, except the wooded cols on the ridge, in case the weather comes down on you.

Overall, this is a tough hike for not only kids but adults. I’d say this hike better than the Liberty/Flume hike and it has better rewards at the top with the ridge trail and 360 views. The climb and aggressiveness of climb is fairly similar as well as length. Catie loved this hike and said it was much better than Liberty/Flume. Your experience may vary, but this isn’t the most kid friendly of a hike until you get to the ridge (but isn’t that the rub with all of these). The AMC hut is fantastic for kids as they are super welcoming and reward all with $1 lemonade and $2 coffee cake & brownies. If the climb is an issue for you or the kids, I’d recommend the Old Bridal trail for the climb to give you a respite after 3.2 miles and before the 1.1 mile climb to the top. Working the other direction worked for us and kept motivation up the whole time. It helps to be able to see the hut most of the hike and have another visible goal for the kids besides the peak. Again your experience may vary.

Equipment: The addition of the fuzzy socks to the Catie’s backpack did wonders. Thanks to the wife for that idea, it worked like a charm and she was not sore afterwards! Hiking boots were fantastic even if we were using this trip to break them in. I did have to stop to tighten them for both Catie and I throughout the hike, but they provided excellent support and my feet were not sore as they had been at the end of the Liberty/Flume hike. Catie raved about her boots all day. In hindsight, we should have done this prior to starting this adventure but it is what it is.

Cary plenty of water if you are going up the Falling Waters trail and traversing over the ridge and down. We ended up with plenty via our 2L camelbacks and supplemental water bottles. I ended up running out of water in the camelback about ½ way down the Old Bridal trail. I had chosen not to refill at the hut and I had extra in the water bottle, so no big deal and there was only a bit more than a mile left anyway. If we were hiking the opposite direction I’d consider taking just the full water bottles and then filling the camelbacks at the AMC hut. That saves you the weight climbing up the Agonies.

Full emergency gear, foul weather gear and layers are needed for the hike. It was a great summer day with 80’s in the valleys but barely 60 at the ridge. We lucked out and didn’t use any of the rain gear or the layers, but best to be prepared. We had to use the first aid kit for the first time today. This is completely worth taking all of the time.

Other Tips: Try geocaching or at least looking for the Shinning Rock cache on this hike. This makes for a great treasure hunt with the kids and serves as a nice break before the last bit of climb. I might have cooled off in the waterfalls at the end of the hike if not for the incoming weather. You might consider this on a hot day. We explored the Loon Mountain area in Lincoln, NH. We didn’t have luck with Gordi’s and will not be returning, but you might fare better?

-Dad

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Just smile quickly before we get struck by lightning!

Up Next: Osceolas or Cannon with both the kids next week depending on the weather.

4000′ Footers Completed: Liberty, Flume, Tecumseh, Lincoln & Lafayette (5)

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