Franconia Ridge Traverse, 8.23.14

Among Ethan’s bucket list hikes was a Franconia Ridge Traverse and the time had come for him to actually hike it.   My involvement was simple, I wanted to hike and enjoy the company of my husband while supporting him and of course, there was the issue of the car spot.  Since the hike was over 15 miles, and the two trail heads not even close to one another, we’d need to spot a car.  The plan was to hike up Skookumchuck Trail to Garfield Ridge Trail, then up to Lafayette to pick up the Franconia Ridge Trail all the way to Flume, where once past the summit area, we’d pick up the Osseo Trail for the descent down to the Lincoln Woods Trail back to the Lincoln Woods parking area.

With one car dropped off at Lincoln Woods, we arrived early at the Skookumchuck Trail head, and were on our way well before 7:00a.  While longer, the Skook does provide a measure of solitude as it is much less used than the Falling Waters or Old Bridle Path/Greenleaf Trails to Franconia Ridge.  In fact, we didn’t see anyone until we got to the ridge.  The morning was cool, and we didn’t hurry too much up to the ridge – with a lot of miles for the day, there was no reason to expend all our energy in the first four miles.  The trail itself, while long (4.2 miles) is pleasant, starting with a walk near the brook, then a section through a nice birch forest which transitions to a spruce forest before the trees disappear right near the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail.  Here we took a longer break, admiring the beautiful undercast around us, knowing the views would get better as we ascended higher.

On the Skookumchuck Trail, looking back to Cannon from just before the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail.

On the Skookumchuck Trail, looking back to Cannon from just before the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail.

The next bit of trail can be not so much fun if you’re not mentally prepared for it or haven’t read the trail description.  There are about four false summits before getting to the actual summit of Lafayette.  This isn’t so bad if you realize this, most people don’t and I’ve been asked more than once in this section where the summit actually is.  The first time I hiked it, I had to wonder, too.  Up we went, and before long, we were at the summit of Lafayette, enjoying the clouds along with other small groups – not too many people, but certainly the most we’d seen all day.  We headed south along the ridge and from there until Haystack, we’d see a lot of people, most of them doing the loop up Falling Waters and down Greenleaf/OBP.  Meanwhile, we enjoyed the day, taking time to take in the views, as the clouds rolled by and eventually lifted, giving us fantastic views of the terrain all around.

Ethan on Lafayette with Lincoln behind him.  The clouds seemed to stop right at the ridge line and didn't spill over into the Pemi Wilderness.

Ethan on Lafayette with Lincoln behind him. The clouds seemed to stop right at the ridge line and didn’t spill over into the Pemi Wilderness.

Once past Haystack, this was new trail for Ethan.  Of course there was the matter of the short, but steep descent before the nice ridge walk, but once past that, we cruised along meeting far fewer hikers than in the previous few miles.  The ridge walk in the trees is always a nice one, and soon we were are the Liberty Spring junction, and heading up to Liberty where we kept going over to Flume.  Ethan had never been on this section before, either, but it really is just a straightforward down into the col and up to the next peak.  Once on Flume, all the elevation was over, and all we had to do was descend and walk back to the car, about 5.7 miles away.  We still had roughly one third of the hike to go, but we were both feeling good, so off we went.  Ethan had forgot about the flat spot after the initial descent off of Flume, and he was able to pick up the pace and get a good rhythm going.  We then went down the ladders, through the switchbacks and onto the old railroad grade, which was very easy hiking out to Lincoln Woods.

By the time we got to the Lincoln Woods junction, although tired, Ethan was really excited by the pace we were setting and knowing that there was just a little over a mile left, he kept on going, hiking strong right through the end over the suspension bridge and to the car.  It was an great finish to a great day!

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