For quite some time, Jes and I had been trying to get a hike together. She and her son (who is a year older than Cameron) are working on the NH48 list, and has her own blog, Jeshikes2. We finally just put it on the calendar and figured out how to make it work with my family’s schedule. Saturday we were up early and heading to Franconia Notch to hike up Flume Slide and down Liberty Spring Trail to make a loop over the summits of Flume and Liberty. By early, I mean really early, like winter hiking early. She wanted to start at 6:00a, and that was fine with me, getting out early means having more time during the day to enjoy the hike, and being able to enjoy the solitude of the morning woods.
Everyone arrived at the trailhead for the Whitehouse Trail and the four of us took off around 6:15a. The Whitehouse Trail is easy and a nice warm up for the day, and from there we connected with the bike path for a little bit and then got on Liberty Spring Trail to the junction with Flume Slide Trail. Liberty Spring was nice and easy to the junction, too. There was no one else on the trail and in fact, we’d see only one other person (who had camped near the base of the slide) until we were between Flume and Liberty. We took the Flume Slide Trail and continued to enjoy the quiet morning in the woods and a trail that was relatively gentle in grade. Of course, if you’ve hiked in the Whites, you know what that means. That means there is a steep section coming up in which you’ll gain most of your elevation for the day in a short distance. We crossed several streams, and soon enough the trail began to change character, it started to be come rocky and the grade increased.
The grade quickly became steep and the rocks became boulders and we were on the slide. Not having been on this slide, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but soon found out that it wasn’t much harder than some other steep stuff I’d been on in the Whites. The slide was relatively dry and most of the slabs that were wet, had dry sections or had sections off to the side near the trees that could be ascended. There were only a few really tricky slabs that were slippery, either due to the type of rock or being wet or both. Other than that, the trail is just rocky and steep, and pretty relentless. Everyone did really well on the steepest parts, figuring what worked best to get to the top of the next slabs. Some times each of us picked our own way, other times, we’d all take the same line up the slab. In the end, we all made it off the slide and back into the woods. The trail doesn’t get easier because it is in the woods. It is still steep and rocky, but by that point it is almost over. We did finally reach the Osseo and Franconia Ridge Trail junctions and from there it was a quick hike to views and the summit. It was so fun to watch Jes and her son seeing the views we had all worked so hard to get to! That first view right at the edge of the trees is really amazing. The weather was just perfect for enjoying the views, with lots of clear sky and sunshine. I was glad for that, because now Cameron could see what he didn’t get to see when he first visited these peaks earlier this month.
We lounged on the summit for quite a while, eating an early lunch and then decided to move over to Liberty. The hike in between didn’t take long, although we certainly knew when we were going uphill again! The climb was short, and we were soon at the few boulders before the summit and then on the summit, enjoying yet another set of fantastic views. Now that Cameron could see the summit area, he understood why I told him last time not to venture very far. The drop off the one side is pretty steep, and with very limited visibility due to the fog, he had no idea of the danger of the previous visit.
After chatting with other hikers on the summit, soaking up the sun and taking more pictures, we decided it was time to descend and head back down Liberty Springs Trail. We passed the Liberty Springs Tentsite, where we met more hikers, got some nice spring water and had a chat with the caretaker before moving down the trail. I had never been on the portion of the trail between the tentsite and the Flume Slide junction without snow, so this was new to me, too. The snow does hide a lot of rocks! Eventually, the trail started to level out and the footing improved until some parts looked like a path through a city park. A few stream crossings later and we were right back at the Flume Slide junction. After one more break, we headed back down trail we had hiked earlier in the day, knowing it would be fairly quick and easy to get to the car.
We had a great day! The weather was perfect and everyone did such a great job with the Flume Slide Trail. The boys did just as well as any adult, taking everything in stride and not complaining. It was fun for Cameron to hike with someone his age and to have a companion to talk to. Hopefully, Jes and her son will continue their quest for the NH48 and we’ll get to see them successfully finish in the future!