I have read from many sources that when hiking the Appalachian Trail northbound, 80% of the total energy used is expended during the last 20% of the trail. I have always greeted that statement with a great deal of skepticism. Way back when I was hiking in Shenandoah National Park, Batman brought this subject up and I offered my theory that after walking for weeks through the easy Mid-Atlantic states, your climbing muscles get out of shape and it just seems harder when you finally return to real mountains. But now that I’ve experienced some of the White Mountains, I’m beginning to become a believer.
Starting this morning with my first step from the Eliza Brook Shelter, I began a 2,000-foot climb over 2.5 miles to the peaks of Kinsman Mountain. I have no doubt that you, my readers, are going to become weary of seeing picture after picture of steep climbs and descents on trails covered with rocks and roots, but I feel compelled to present the reality of the trail as it is presented to me.
About an hour into my morning climb, the trail entered a level clearing containing Harrington Pond. The beauty of this pond, surrounded with colorful alpine plants set against the background of rocky cliffs, took my breath away. Soon, however, the climbing resumed for another hour and a half until I got above the treeline at the 4,325-foot summit of South Kinsman Mountain. From this vantage point, the seemingly unlimited visibility provided magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, including an excellent view back towards Mt Moosilauke and the Kinsman Notch.
Continuing northbound, the trail descends slightly before starting a short climb to the summit of North Kinsman Mountain. At the summit is an amazing view of Lonesome Lake and the Franconia Ridge.
From the summit of North Kinsman Mountain, I began descending towards the Kinsman Pond Shelter where the A.T. leaves the Kinsman Ridge Trail and continues down on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. At times, the descent was very steep which necessitated some assistance from steps that had been strategically located by the trail crews.
Throughout the White Mountains, The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) operates eight mountain huts strategically located along the A.T. During the summer, these huts are staffed by caretakers, called “Croos” (predominately college students), who work to provide full-service accommodations for the guests who stay there. The huts can hold between 36 and 96 people who pay well over $100 per night (discounts are available for AMC members) for dinner, a bunk to sleep on, and breakfast. There is no heat, showers, or outlets to charge a cell phone and, during the peak season, reservations for the huts are often filled months in advance.
The Lonesome Lake Hut is located about halfway down the trail from the Kinsman Mountain summit and I was excitedly looking forward to seeing my first hut. This hut is one of the most popular because it is located only 1.5-miles from a trailhead and, because of that proximity, there were day hikers everywhere. You do not have to be an overnight guest to utilize the hut facilities so they are a great place to get water, use the restroom, or just relax while eating the brownies, muffins, and soup that they often have available to purchase. The view of Franconia Ridge from Lonesome Lake is stunning.
After exploring the hut and obtaining water, I continued down the Cascade Brook Trail to Franconia Notch. At the notch, the trail passes under I-93 and intersects a paved bike trail which leads a mile to the Liberty Springs trailhead parking lot where Scar was dropped off yesterday morning. Along that trail is a picnic table with a usable cell phone signal, so I took a break there to start dialing for a motel room in North Woodstock, NH. The first couple of motels I called were booked but I managed to locate a room at the recently renamed Inn 32 (previously the Carriage Inn), and John, who took my reservation, told me to call him again when I reached the parking lot, and he would come to give me a ride.
Before I knew it, John arrived and I was headed down the road for the five-mile trip to North Woodstock. John, who retired from the Navy, and his wife Christina, with a background in hospitality management, recently purchased the motel and moved from Jacksonville, FL. I asked Christine how she survived her first winter, and she told me that the motel across the street belongs to a lady from the Tampa, FL, area and the one just down the street is owned by folks from Panama City, FL and that they all survived just fine. Christina proudly pointed out the Florida State flag they have flying on the property. This super nice couple is very hiker-friendly and they are working hard to renovate the property which John described as being stuck in the 60’s. The room they assigned to me was small but very clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced.
North Woodstock is a small town, located along US 3, that is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, especially during the fall foliage and snow skiing seasons. There are several boutique shops and nice restaurants from which to choose, but directly across the street from Inn 32 is Wayne’s Market which features a deli and a huge selection of craft beer. I ordered a large Philly cheesesteak sandwich and a salad from the deli and returned to my room to discover that it was so much food that I couldn’t eat it all (I know that is hard to believe). While I was at the market, a storm came through creating a downpour of rain, but it soon subsided. Tomorrow, I will finally get to hike on the Franconia Ridge, so I’m praying for a sunny day.
Date: July 31, 2017
Starting Location: Eliza Brook Shelter
Ending Location: Franconia Notch
AT Miles Today: 8.8
AT Miles To Date: 1,816.7