The children had Monday off from school, so Cameron and I made plans to hike. Our original plans were to hike Pierce and Jackson, but after checking the weather forecast. it seemed like it might be a good day to go up to Franconia Ridge. Cameron had wanted to return to Lafayette since his last trip because with the clouds rolling over the top, he didn’t quite get the spectacular views he’d hoped for. He had never been fully up the Falling Waters Trail or down Old Bridle Path, either.
As we approached Franconia Notch, we could see that the summits were in the clear, which was perfect. Even with the best weather forecasts there is no guarantee of the summits being in the clear. We pulled into the parking lot and headed up the Falling Waters Trail. Since it was early, the sun wasn’t yet over the ridge and it was still a bit grey and cool in the woods. We hiked up, easily crossing the streams and admiring several waterfalls along the way.
We eventually climbed up past Cloudland Falls, and to the stream crossing beyond. This was as far as Cameron had ever been on this trail. He had hiked this far when he was about four years old with his sister and me. I made the decision at that point not to continue to the ridge, but to hike back down because I knew that hiking up wouldn’t be a problem, but hiking out could be. At the time, Cameron was very upset that we couldn’t continue and stood on a rock in the middle of the stream and cried. As it turns out, mom was right and both children were pretty tired by the time they got back to the car. This time, we continued on after a picture at the rock and headed up the second half of the trail toward the ridge.
It seemed like we moved pretty slowly, but eventually, we made it up to the ridge. Cameron admitted later that he never really felt that he got into a good hiking rhythm on the way up. We ate a snack and prepared to go above the tree line, adding jackets, hats and gloves since it sounded pretty windy. When we stepped out of the trees, we had brilliant sunshine with no clouds, but the wind speed was higher than I expected. I asked Cameron what he thought and whether he was comfortable with the wind. This was the time to head back down the trail if he wasn’t confident! He said he was fine with it, so we started across toward Lincoln. The wind speeds were in the thirties, steady, plus higher gusts. At certain points along the ridge, we found some refuge out of the wind, and I kept checking with Cameron to see how he was doing – I wanted to be able to turn back sooner rather than later if he was really struggling physically or mentally with the wind. He said he was doing fine and seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit, even if he was blown around a few times. We made it to the summit of Lincoln, looking back at how far we had come, and then looked forward to Lafayette.
Cameron was confident and excited to go on to Lafayette, so we set out once again across the ridge. I knew he really wanted to go to Lafayette, but we did have a discussion beforehand that if the weather wasn’t good, that we wouldn’t cross the ridge and come back another day. We made reasonable time going across the ridge and sooner than we thought, we were on the summit of Lafayette. For some reason, Cameron perked up on the trip across the ridge and seemed to be hiking better. After a snack, as break, some pictures and exploring the summit, it was time to head down Greenleaf Trail for the first section of the descent. We had a lot of fun on the way down, as there was more snow, and it was a slippery which made for some fun sliding. I’m glad we wore boots and gaiters because by the time we got to the hut, we had been through quite a bit of snow, ice and freezing water.
After admiring the views, we headed further down the trail. I knew there would be a few tricky sections and then our hike out would be easier. Thankfully, because these areas of trail had some afternoon sun exposure, they weren’t ice covered and we only had to carefully pick our way down the eroding rocks. Soon enough, we passed the last of the viewpoints and marveled for the last time of our trip across the ridge. Back down in the trees, it was back to the business of hiking out. The footing kept getting easier, which meant we were able to pick up the pace and soon enough we were back at the junction of the Old Bridge Path and Falling Waters Trails and the parking lot was just a few minutes away. The sun was sinking over the ridge and it was starting to get dark, so we made it back to the car at a good time.
We had a great hike! I was really surprised and thankful that Cameron was fine with the wind on the ridge and that we were able to hike the whole loop. Hiking in the wind can be unnerving and even scary at times, but Cameron didn’t seem to mind. The weather was really nice and that isn’t always a guarantee, as we head into winter. We’re certainly aware of that and thankful we had a safe and beautiful day.