Franconia Ridge & Crawford Notch
Woke up this morning and combed the site for signs of the problem bear from last night. No scat or tracks, but we did notice two large “deer trails” at the back of our camp where he probably ventured down from the mountain.
We packed up camp and walked under the highway to the trailhead. We were in for a 9 mile day that would be roughly 3 miles up, 3 miles of ridge walking, and 3 miles back down. On the way up I quickly realized that the rough trail we had experienced in the Adirondacks were not unique to New York, rather all of the northeast must be in dire need of a lesson on how to build trails…
About 2.6 vertical miles of rock hopping later we arrived at Greenleaf Hut. The space was warm and welcoming. A gent around my age was making bread and humming to music when we entered. Considering that the hut was off the grid and situated almost 3 miles up from the nearest road I was shocked at the gear, books, and delicious smelling food they had available to hikers such as us. If I had been carrying cash I most definitely would have bought some blueberry bread.
We signed the guest book and looked at the log for 2009. Karrie hadn’t stopped at Greenleaf Hut during her thru-hike (because it was a mile off trail downhill), but we did find the names of a few folks she’d met on the trail that year.
Shortly after leaving the hut we entered the alpine region of the mountain. The trees become more like shrubs and then we began to see more rocky surfaces, lichen, and larger views. The clouds kept us from seeing far to the east, but the west looked clear.
At the summit we enjoyed some excellent views. There were about eight other people there, but everyone was keeping the space peaceful.
Karrie and I quietly discussed the landscape; where the AT went, the order of the notches, and the next two peaks we would be hiking to. We were struggling to determine which peak was Mt. Washington when we realized there was a huge range (The Presidentials) where we could only see the base of the mountains and the peaks were completely covered by clouds. Ah, that must be it.
Hiking down from Mt. Lafayette along the ridge my left knee started popping a bit. It didn’t hurt, but I was a little concerned that I had overdone it with all of these steep rocky hikes. “Oh well,” I figured, “nowhere to go but down at this point anyway.”
The views from Mt. Lincoln were equally as stunning and we could tell some of the cloud cover was starting to burn up. We were also encountering more people who had clearly began the loop from the opposite direction, as well as a number of NoBo thru-hikers.
Karrie was leading the way and generously stopped to let people pass. At one point she tried to stop on a sandy rock and took a small spill banging her hand and knee on a rock. I was a bit annoyed that the passing hiker didn’t bother to stop and ask if she was okay. He was wearing a fleece and carrying one liter of water and nothing else. Clearly an underprepared, lost tourist. We washed up Karrie’s wounds and decided to break for lunch here.
Shortly after lunch we reached Little Haystack and began our descent. The path was steep and rocky again. At this point I was no longer surprised. Halfway down we started to see some awesome waterfalls. I was pleased that there were still rewarding sights this far into the hike.
Upon returning to the trailhead we may or may not have snuck showers at the campground. Feeling refreshed we left to meet up with Michelle in another section of the Whites. We had a great time catching up and hearing stories about her summer as an SCA intern/USFS Ranger. She gave us a tour of he living quarters and then walked to a nearby restaurant for some ice cream.
Sugared up and feeling good we left for a “guided drive” of Crawford Notch. Michelle drove us down rt 302 showing us the places she worked and the great mountain views. Seeing Mt. Washington and the Mt. Washington hotel was my favorite part. On the way back we saw a red fox and a wild turkey.
Back at the bunkhouse we decided to build a bonfire. As we were creating our stick teepee I looked up and saw a huge bull moose trotting out the woods about 40 yards away. This was the first Bull Moose I’d ever seen and I was really excited to be seeing one from this close, yet safe, distance. In the company of rangers who I assumed see this all of the time I calmly pointed and said, “Hey, look a moose…” They responded by jumping to their feet and saying things like “Whoa!!!” “Look at that!” “No way!”
The moose took a straight line or the main road and we could hear a car quickly approaching! I could tell everyone was thinking the same thing, “Oh man! Are we going to witness a crash?” The moose must have heard the car at the last minute because he turned around and headed straight back the way he came. He made it halfway back to the woods, then turned around a second time and crossed the street safely.
Everyone was geeking out. “Oh my gosh! Did you see that?! That was crazy!” Apparently they hadn’t seen a bull moose before either! I explained my thought behind being so casual and everyone had a good laugh.
It was a spectacular night of stories and getting to know people around the fire. I particularly enjoyed talking with Caitlyn, AKA “Killer,” who had thru-hiked the AT last summer. It’s always fun to bond with other thru-hikers. She also offered me some great advice on how to get a position with the USFS. Turns out she went to school with Tourist too! Small world. What an amazing day! If only they could all be like this!