Academics go to The White Mountains

Last weekend, P and I took a trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. We left on Friday at about noon and began our hike around 4:00pm. What followed was sheer insanity! On Friday we hiked from the Flume Visitor’s center (about 1400 ft.) to the Liberty Spring Campsite (about 3200 ft.) which was not too bad.

We woke up at about 4:30 am (first up, first out!) and filled our water bladders before setting out for Mt.Liberty (4400 ft.). After taking some photos atop Liberty, we set out along the ridge line on the Franconia Ridge Trail, crossing Little Haystack and Mt. Lincoln (5089) before arriving at the peak of Mt. Lafayette (5260 ft.) with sweeping views North-East to Mt. Washington and the presidential chain. From there we descended into a deep saddle (1600 ft.) before ascending to Mt. Garfield (a name which my mom finds funny at a height which neither P nor I found funny – 4400 ft.). At this point we had run out of water and were wicked tired. A couple took pity on us about 3/4 of the way up and spared a 1/4 L of water which we seriously appreciated. We took a break at the Mt. Garfield Campsite and enjoyed a fairly heavy lunch before deciding what to do with the rest of our day. Originally the plan was to hike out-and-back but we changed our plans after arriving at the Mt. Garfield Campsite at 1:00pm. Instead we decided to descend the remainder of the mountain and take the Franconia Brook Trail to the Franconia Brook Campsite which was about 8 miles away and then complete the loop by going over Mt. Flume the next day.

The first part of the Franconia Brook trail was poorly blazed and rough-hiking along a small stream before it widened out after the 13 Falls Campsite to a broad and easy-going trail. That being said… it was long. By the time we arrived at the trail-head, we had hiked about 20 miles that day and were beyond exhausted. We were looking forward to collapsing on a tent platform but were foiled by wicked cartographers who had drawn a line on a map indicating a bridge where none was to be found. The campsite was “trapped” on the other side of a river and all of our oxen died when we tried to ford it! After roaming around in the wilderness for a bit trying to find our way over (my fault!), we gave up and decided to find a spot off the trail quickly before the light ran out. Some more hiking, water gathering, and campsite hunting later, we found a spot .25 miles away from a trail-head and 200 ft. off the trail (White Mountain Rules!) that was sufficiently flat for us to throw up our tent and pass out. At this point we had hiked well over 20 miles that day and close to 25 miles since 4:00 pm the previous day. We were exhausted and our feet were well beyond sore.

The next day started out okay – with both of us relatively sore but ready for what we thought would be a decently easy hike back to the car. That’s about when we realized that we had to climb more than 3000 ft. in less than 2.5 miles to get to the top of Mt. Flume. While exhausting, this was hardly the most challenging part of our morning venture. We opted to descend via the shortest route – along the Flume side path. Note to other campers: NEVER DESCEND ALONG THE FLUME SIDE TRAIL! Seriously though, it is a 1500 ft. drop down sheer rock faces, stone-slides, and brooks. Needless to say, the descent was worse than the ascent (and when we finally got back to the car we discouvered the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC’s) note that no one should descend by that trail under any conditions!).

At the end of the day we had hiked more than 35 miles between 4:00pm on Friday and 2:00pm on Sunday and were well-and-truly exhausted. The ride back to CT from New Hampshire was a whirlwind of candy bars (whatever… camping burns crazy calories!), Taco Bell (i.e. the first fast food we could find), and diet coke (to keep me awake while I drove). Below you will find pictures from the first half of the hike. They stop at Franconia Brook Trail where things go both literally and figuratively downhill. Well… at least it was an adventure!

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