Having a free Saturday to hike, I chose to hike the Kinsmans. The weather was trending towards clearing and the views of the snow-covered Franconia ridge promised to be good. The Kinsmans were also the only two peaks I needed to finish all the peaks on either side of Franconia Notch and I could bag both peaks in one trip. I chose to hike via the Lonesome Lake, Fishin Jimmy and Kinsman Ridge Trails, a 10 mile round trip.
I arrived at Lafayette Place Campground around 7:30a, enjoying the full moon in the west and the sunrise in the east on the trip up the I-93 to the trailhead. Along the way I also saw some wildlife which at first I thought it was a rather large black dog, but somehow the body was too bulky. As I got nearer and slowed to a stop, I realized it was a black bear and watched it cross the freeway right in front of my car and head up the hill on the other side.
The scenery at Lafayette Place Campground was definitely late fall. The deciduous trees had already dropped their leaves, but there wasn’t any snow on the ground. The trip up to Lonesome Lake was pretty uneventful, with just a little snow clinging to the ground and some thin ice in spots around the log bridges near the lake. In less than an hour I was at Lonesome Lake Hut and after a quick chat with the caretaker, I was on my way up the Fishin Jimmy trail. As I progressed up the trail, the snow and ice started to increase and there were definitely some slippery parts. There were no other prints on the trail, so it looked like I was the first person up the trail that day.
Part way up, another solo hiker caught up with me. It turned out that we ended up hiking together the rest of the way, and it was a good thing. As the ice and steepness increased, there were some slippery challenges that were nice to have another person to watch out for you and help make decisions on the safest way to get over the ledges. We arrived at the summit of North Kinsman in good time, around 11:00a or so, and didn’t see another person until on the way to South Kinsman; he had already been over there and we’re guessing he came up a different trail than we did. The hiker we saw was wearing microspikes and at that point it was a really smart idea to put on and use the microspikes I had brought along. There was a nice covering of snow, and quite a bit of ice, which made the microspikes a good traction choice. On the way down, we when saw quite a few other hikers, many of them were wearing the microspikes, too.
After taking some pictures we headed over to both knobs of South Kinsman and were treated to 360 degree views. The wind and temperatures were not nearly as bad as we were expecting after reviewing the weather reports and hearing the wind in the trees. In fact, many clouds were clearing out while we were on the summits. The clouds had lifted off of Moosilauke, allowing fine views of the broad snow covered summit.
The clouds were just starting to lift off of the Franconia Ridge, opposite from the Kinsmans, leaving just Lincoln and Lafayette shrouded. It was certainly a good taste of the beauty winter, and I was a little bit sorry to leave it behind and hike back down into late fall. My hiking partner reminded me that winter would come to our own homes soon enough, and isn’t that true!
We quickly moved down the trail, meeting and greeting many small groups of hikers on their way up to the summits. It is always nice to hike early, enjoy the summits before they get too busy and be on your way home when everyone else is coming up. We arrived back at the Lonesome Lake Hut in one piece, with only a few slips here and there on ice and probably a few new bruises. Meanwhile, the clouds had completely lifted off of the Franconia Ridge and we were treated to some amazing views across Lonesome Lake.
After a quick snack and picture session, it was quick trip down to the cars, arriving a little after 3:00p! What a great day! I did not start the hike with a partner, but it was nice to meet someone, share the journey, views, and experiences in hiking and life. I am always amazed at the friendliness of the hiking community, when just passing each other on the trail or unexpectedly sharing a trip together. If you’re reading this, thank you Alan for a memorable trip!