Monday, June 25, 2007


From the summit of Little Haystack Mountain, Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Last week Steve and I hiked a beautiful 9-mile loop here in the White Mountains. The Falling Waters Trail leads upward to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain (4,760 feet), picks up the Appalachian Trail to take you along the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mt. Lincoln (5,089 feet) and finally Mt. Lafayette (5,250 feet.) There are 48 mountains in NH over 4,000 feet. This loop was suggested at Hike the Whites as one of the finest day hikes to be had in the area.

It was.

It was also my first New Hampshire glimpse of the Appalachian Trail (I've walked short segments of it in Virginia), and I took a picture of my first "white blaze" -- the 2-inch by 6-inch white paint marks on the trees or rocks which mark the 2000+ miles of trail so you don't lose your way.

Don't be deceived, though.... this looks like a pretty little dirt path edged with rocks. The AT is not like that. From Little Haystack to Mt. Lafayette, there were ups and downs that can only be called bouldering. On the few flat ridges, the path is laid out to keep hikers in line to protect a fragile ecosystem, in this case Alpine. They don't want you walking all over tundra flora like these:

We had encountered this sign while still below the treeline:

Here is another section of our trip up the mountain on the Falling Waters Trail, more representative of what a lot of the hike was like:
Yes, that is the trail.
At one point I reached for a handhold, missed, and flopped back on my ass, or would have had there been anything behind me to land on. With my ass hitting nothing but air, the momentum carried me on backwards, over my backpack (which kept me from getting hurt), onto my shoulders with my feet behind me in a Yoga Plough position. I struggled like a turtle and finally completed the rest of a back somersault and righted myself. Thank goodness Steve was ahead of me and didn't see it, although he heard my yelp of alarm and yelled back, "Are you all right?" Thank goodness I was, although when I first started falling I thought, crap, at the very least this is going to hurt, and at worst I might actually get injured here.

We hiked down the Old Bridle Trail to complete our loop, and it was much the same. Rockslides you had to inch down.

I crunched each ankle once, but each one recovered in a couple minutes. My quads hurt for 3 days afterwards, though. And I had enough abrasions that hikers we met up with kept saying, "Looks like you took a spill." The funny thing was, none of the bloody or dirt-smudged spots were in places that could have been hurt when I fell. I didn't know where they had come from. Just trail souvenirs.

Here's Steve picking his way among the roots:

He emerged from the hike without a scratch or bruise, and claimed that his quads were not sore, either. I feel outclassed.
Nine miles. A drop in the AT bucket.
More pictures from along the Falling Waters Trail:

I loved this hike. We're going out again tomorrow, but haven't mapped our trail yet. It's going to be hot, 90*F, so we probably won't go as far. If Steve backs out and says he'd rather not go (this sounded possible...) I'll take Journey and hike by myself. I've been reborn to hike.

Update already: Steve says it's going to be too hot to hike tomorrow. He wants to wait till Thursday. However, I may still go do an easy trail tomorrow by myself. I want to hike.


Miss Rachel said...

What a beautiful place to hike (though, yikes, it looks treacherous!). Enjoy yourself, Nature Girl. :-)

Holly said...

Looks beautiful Ellie! My boyfriend's brother spent 3 months on the AT and made it into PA before he ran into a patch of bad luck and had to stop. His stories are amazing. Good Luck with your goal!