Franconia Ridge Traverse and Bike Spot, 6.23.14

Monday’s weather forecast was good for Franconia Ridge and it was time for a plan I’d had for a while.  The plan was to hike the whole ridge and then bike back down to my car.  Of course with the bike spot, you have to think a bit about which end of the hike would be higher in elevation so that you can cruise back to the car.  For this hike, that meant ending the hike at the northern part of the notch.   The route for this adventure was the Basin Bushwhack, then a little bit of Liberty Springs Trail to connect to the Flume Slide Trail to the Franconia Ridge Trail, then on to the FRT all the way to Lafayette, where I’d take the Greenleaf Trail all the way down to the trailhead at the tramway. I was on the road early and by 7:30a or so, the bike was locked up at the tramway and I was down at the Basin.  The first part was relatively easy, and I enjoyed the cool morning and cruised along quite nicely once up on the Flume Slide Trail.  It takes a while to get to the actual slide part, and by that point, it is less than a mile to the summit of Flume anyway.  I was doing well until I slipped on a rock on one of the stream crossings.  I got more wet than I wanted, but not enough to totally dampen my mood.  Soon I arrived at the gravel outwash of the slide and knew that the fun stuff would begin.  The slide wasn’t much different than when I’d hiked it a few years ago, but this time I was by myself and didn’t have help or companionship from others.  The worst slabs were at the bottom, and eventually, the footing got better in the crumbly, blocky section.  Once up that section, it wasn’t too much longer before the trail went into the woods for the final steep .2 before ending at the Osseo and Franconia Ridge Trail junction.  Happy to be at the junction, I made my way over to the Flume summit for a quick snack and some sunscreen.

Junction of Flume Slide and Liberty Springs Trails.  Still early, and time to enjoy the easy trails.  At least until the slide.

Junction of Flume Slide and Liberty Springs Trails. Still early, and time to enjoy the easy trails. At least until the slide.

Liberty, as seen from the summit of Flume, the next peak to hike to.

Liberty, as seen from the summit of Flume.

Next up:  Liberty.  The rest of the trail across the ridge would be easier than what I just came up, although I would be gaining a little bit more altitude with each ascending section until Lafayette.  This was the price I had to pay for the nice bike cruise down the notch that I’d get later in the day.  Actually, it wasn’t all that bad, because the terrain is rolling, so I’d get either a descent or a flat section before each ascent.  So, I headed down to the col between Flume and Liberty, then up Liberty.  Having been on this trail several times in various seasons, I knew just about where I was and sure enough, around the next left bend, there were the large boulders just below the summit.  A quick tap on the summit marker and I was on my way down to the Liberty Spring Trail junction for another quick break.  From the junction northward, there was a beautiful forest ridge walk that was easy to cruise along.  I’d hiked that section a couple of times before, too, and was looking forward to it.   I was hiking along and all of the sudden, I heard something in the trees, and it certainly sounded larger than a squirrel!  A careful scan of the forest revealed that it wasn’t an animal, it was a person coming back from a bio-break.  In fact, there were four ladies out for a couple days of adventure, heading south.  They seemed to be having a good time and after exchanging trail info, we were all on our way again.  They were the first people I had seen all day, and I was less than a mile from the summit of Haystack!  Now the next climb started, and I remembered that there were a few boulder scrambles before getting breaking out of the trees at Haystack.  Once I made it up those, it was pretty easy walking to the summit.  Of course, after seeing the group of four, I saw a few more people, and knew there would be more on the ridge.  Popping out of the scrub on Haystack, I could see quite a few groups out enjoying the nice day on the ridge.  A quick stop at Haystack, and I was on my across the ridge, heading for Lincoln.  The weather looked pretty good, and I found out from the ladies eariler, that if it were going to rain, it would hold off until later in the day.  I did keep my eye on some dark clouds, and prayed that any rain would hold off, and thankfully had a sunny, nice walk across the ridge and down to Greenleaf Hut.  Lafayette’s summit was busy – there were at least 30 people up there in various groups, so I skipped the summit area and headed further down the Greenleaf Trail before finding a nice rock perch for a break before heading down the rest of the way to the hut.

Looking back to the Franconia Ridge, which I had just hiked.

Looking back to the Franconia Ridge from near Greenleaf Hut.

The hut is the  junction of the Old Bridle Path and Greenleaf Trails.  Today, the plan was to hike down the remainder the Greenleaf Trail.  I had never been on this section and so this was new trail for me.  After descending just a few minutes, I left the noise and bustle of the hut behind and the forest was once again quiet.  In fact, I didn’t see another person until I got to the tramway!  I wasn’t too surprised about that, as it is a less traveled route to Lafayette.  The trail was nice, the descent pretty steady and not too difficult.  Without too much trouble, I made my way down to Eagle Pass, where the trail goes between two of the lower ridges of Lafayette.  It was beautiful, yet wild looking mountain pass.  After the pass, it was more descending.  This part seemed a little long, as I could hear the freeway traffic for a long time.  I knew I was headed toward the freeway eventually, because the trail signs are right by the side of the one of exit 34’s ramps.  Sure enough, there was the sign and I was crossing the freeway ramp, heading underneath toward the tram station.

Greenleaf Trail sign at Greenleaf Hut, the route less traveled.

Greenleaf Trail sign at Greenleaf Hut, the route less traveled.

Nice part of Greenleaf Trail near Eagle Pass.

Nice part of Greenleaf Trail near Eagle Pass.

Looking ahead through Eagle Pass to Franconia Notch.

Looking ahead through Eagle Pass to Franconia Notch.

Looking back through Eagle Pass.

Looking back through Eagle Pass.

Sign for the Greenleaf Trail at exit 34, sometimes hard to see.  If you are entering the freeway from exit 34, headed northbound, it is on the right side of the ramp.

Sign for the Greenleaf Trail at exit 34, sometimes hard to see. If you are entering the freeway from exit 34, headed northbound, it is on the right side of the ramp.

At the end (or beginning, depending on which way you're going) of the Greenleaf Trail at the tramway exit.

At the end (or beginning, depending on which way you’re going) of the Greenleaf Trail at the tramway exit.

The tram station was where the next phase of the journey would begin. That’s where I left my bike earlier in the day, locked up.  It was still there and after some gear changes, I was ready to ride.  This was a fun ending to the day – it was a  nice easy ride, and in most places, I didn’t even have to pedal too much.  The four miles down the notch were over pretty quickly and I was right back at the Basin and the car.

Some assembly required.  Just as  I left it, my bike was waiting for the trip down the notch.

Some assembly required. Just as I left it, my bike was waiting for the trip down the notch.

The day had a been a great mix of solitude and company, old trails and new trails, hiking and biking.  The weather couldn’t have been too much better, with sunshine, light breezes and no rain!  It was another blessed day in the mountains.

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