John in NH and I teamed up for a spring hike to what is known in our house as Fliberty, a hike to Liberty and Flume. We were both free and with a promising weather forecast before another storm, it was a good opportunity to hike.
John in NH brought his camera along hoping to capture some unique images from the south end of Franconia Ridge. To that end, we studied the clouds on the way up to Franconia Notch. There were quite a few cloud layers and some blue sky peeking through, so we were hopeful for some nice photos. An icy parking lot welcomed us to the Basin parking area, our starting point to pick up the Basin Bushwhack and head up to the Liberty Spring Trail. We put on traction pretty quick, as the parking lot would probably be more dangerous than the trail! We also noted the balmy temperature of 41 degrees. Spring hiking, here we come!
The Basin Bushwhack was quick and soon we were on the Liberty Spring Trail. Way sooner than I expected, we came to the junction with the Flume Slide Trail. Happy about that, we started the two mile trek up to the Liberty Spring tent site. the steeper elevation doesn’t start right away, but once over the last stream crossing and into the conifers, the climb begins. Steadily, we made progress. Again, sooner than I thought, we passes the quarter mile sign. We were a quarter mile from the tentsite? Really? That was the quickest that section had ever seemed. Usually that section just drags and seems to be a half mile longer than it really is! I’ve talked to other hikers and they feel the same way. Today was different for some reason!
Next stop, Franconia Ridge Trail, where we would take a right and head up to the summit of Liberty. John went on ahead, and as he was faster, this also gave him a chance to get his camera out and see what sort of shots he could set up. Sure enough, when I came to the short rocky section below the summit, he was already in action. With good reason, too, as the clouds were providing some interesting views of their own. There were undercasts in some places, and clouds draped over and around peaks in others. We enjoyed the summit, and then started the trek over to Flume.
It was between the two peaks that we saw our first person of the day, a guy who hiked up via Flume Slide but unfortunately had two broken snowshoes. He was working hard, as the snow was softening, which meant he was sinking in with every step. Thankfully, he was close to the summit of Liberty and had a better packed trail ahead of him. We continued on our way, with John again summiting first. We sat on our packs and had a well-deserved lunch break, enjoying the solitude and views from our lofty perch above Franconia Notch. It was actually kind of nice to sit and eat without having to worry about getting cold too quickly or fighting the wind or at the worst, tapping the summit and sprinting back to the safety of the trees. After a picture taking session, we headed back over Liberty and then down.
We started to see more people at this point, but we kept up a nice exit pace, helped tremendously by some excellent butt sliding runs. We moved along, our speed slowed down a bit only by the conditions of the trail. Over the course of the day, the trail had become post holed along the edges and churned up in the center by other hikers. Staying in snowshoes helped, but we did have to be careful not to catch an edge on a hole and twist an ankle. Once back to the Basin Bushwhack, things improved, as it looked like only one person had come through after us. A quick hike up the bike path and we were done.
On our drive out, we noticed that clouds had already obscured the summits, dropping below the ridge line. We knew the next day’s forecast was not good, and it seemed like we hit the weather window perfectly!
It was a great hike! We had interesting views, safety, and some great fun all while enjoying the spring weather.
Special thanks to JohninNH for a great day out and for the use of his photographs, which are way better than my iPhone photos! Check out his collection at John Welch Photography.