Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mts. Lincoln and Lafayette (Little Haystack too!) June 1, 2014

Mts. Lincoln (5,089') and Lafayette (5,260') and Little Haystack (4,760') via Falling Waters, Franconia Ridge and Old Bridal Path trails, 6/1/14.

Distance:  9.1 miles - loop (includes a visit to Shining Rock)


Elevation gain:  3,950'


Trailhead:  Lafayette Place off I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. Parking areas on either side with a foot travel tunnel running underneath.  Restrooms too!

Hiked with Rich today.  We wrangled for days about which peak to do.  I needed a ten miler with 4,000 gain to truly feel in shape for summer hiking.  Lincoln and Lafayette via Franconia Ridge fit the bill.
Mts. Lincoln and Lafayette are four thousand footers and Little Haystack is a peak on the Trailwrights list (a list I am currently not working on but you may be). 
I'm glad Little Haystack is on a peak bagging list.  People labor up that last push to the ridge and feel victorious on a peak that gets little respect next to her big brothers - she should have some claim to fame.
This is my third time summiting Mt. Lafayette.  In fact the peak was my first NH 4k, done in 1992, and again in 2009 (see previous reports).  In 1992, I remember struggling up it with my children in tow, hating most of the climb, relieved to be heading back to the car.  I'm certain I was in jeans and sneakers - probably carried a small bottle or two of water. 
In 2009, we hiked up the Old Bridal Path and down Falling Waters (this time in hiking shorts carrying backpacks and plenty of water) and decided to reverse direction the next time we did the loop.
And so we did.
The weather couldn't have been better - so much so that we expected crowds. Reports from last weekend described the stream of visitors as a "congo line" (no thank you).  I worried about water crossings (recent rains) and read trail reports carefully.
We got to the parking area at around 9:00, relieved that it wasn't full. 
Falling Waters trail's first water crossing is bridged and all others are easily negotiated (lots of rocks and logs).

Here is where Falling Waters and Old Bridal Path splits. We'll go down OBP.

Trail is mellow in the beginning but with lots of erosion.
About a dozen hikers leapfrogged with us to the summit of Little Haystack.  The slippery wet slabs of the trail have good foot and hand holds. Iffy areas have roots and trees to hang onto. 
Trail runs along and above the rushing water..
No shortage of beautiful falls to look at!
I understand why it's best to go up this trail rather than down.  Slippery in many spots and precariously angled, it can get a little hairy especially if you have tired legs.
But hiking up it is a great workout and soon the slab work was over and we were busy ascending in the woods.  Not a lot of views, though I did stop at Shining Rock (a .1 mile descent. Warning! you will have to go back up to get back on the trail).
Shining Rock is a large vertical slab that glistens when wet.

Things get brighter and the woods take on the look of a peak, with shorter trees and rough and rocky terrain.
Getting close.....

A few slab hops over to the trail junction and we arrived at Little Haystack, just in time for lunch. No bugs to speak of and very little breeze. We chatted with others while we ate and admired the views.

Right here's the summit of Little Haystack.
For the most part the bulk of the climbing is behind us.  

For the most part.

Falling Waters trail intercepts Franconia Ridge trail on the lower end and we'd have to hike up to get to Mt. Liberty - and trek even higher to get to Mt. Lafayette.  
But the day is clear and bright and we are having a wonderful time.  This ridge can be your worst enemy or your biggest love, depending on the weather.  Today we were in love.
Hiking on the ridge

It was a chug to get up Lincoln. There are a few nameless humps to negotiate and tired legs whined at the steepness of the trail.

On top of Lincoln.

The climb mellows just a bit going from Lincoln to Lafayette (maybe it just seems that way).

Sometimes the ridge was sweet and sandy; sometimes a boulder climb. 

A dangerous place to be in a thunderstorm, though a few sections have trees.

A slide on the Pemi side.

We were happy to find the summit of Mt. Lafayette not as crowded as we'd expected.

On top of Lafayette.

A view of where we'd been.

We sat around enjoying the view in the sunshine and calm winds. 

On our way down OBP, we stopped at Greenleaf Hut to talk with the caretaker and use the bathroom.

I'd always thought of the Old Bridal Path as mellow and for the most part it is. There are a few rocky areas that collectively are known as Agony Ridge.  This area is no more tricky to descend or ascend than many of the rocky, slabby areas in the Whites but have earned a reputation from the AMC hut staff.  They have to haul huge boxes of supplies up the trail up and over this rugged, rocky area on their way to Greenleaf Hut.

Actually, what was tricky is an area on the path known as "red rocks."  It's steep but at first glance it looks quite doable.  Until you are on it. The rocks are cracked, edgy - vertically, so there are few places to get a toe or heel hold.  And they are dusty and slippery, like covered with fine sand.  We tried crabwalking down it (one slip and you are on a painful buttslide!). Fortunately this area doesn't last long.

We met two fellow hikers, Bev and Bob. Hiked most of the way with them.

Old Bridal Path has many viewpoints.

When we got to our car we knew we'd had a workout.  Luckily, the Woodstock Inn's draft selection eased any achy muscles (as only a draft beer can).