This morning I jumped out of bed and opened the door of my room to find a perfectly blue and cloudless sky. Since the beginning of my hike, I had been telling people that there were only three places on the trail where I would wait for good weather, and the Franconia Ridge was one of them. I inquired at the motel office about a shuttle to the trailhead, and Christina told me that John was driving some hikers to Kinsman Notch first, and would take me to the Liberty Springs trailhead when he returned. After buying breakfast from Wayne’s Market, I was anxious to get started and tried to hitch a ride but gave up after 20 minutes and sat down to await John’s return.
Christina swapped driving duties with John upon his return at drove me to the trailhead. When we arrived the parking lot, she pointed out the actual Liberty Springs trailhead saving me much of the walk down the asphalt bike path. I thanked her and John for their hospitality and started hiking. By now, it was already 10:00 am and I was a little irritated that it was two hours later than I wanted to start, but I made peace with myself about the delay and accepted the fact that my plan for the day would probably change.
So here we go again. To get to the Franconia Ridge Trail requires a 2,850-foot climb over 2.9-miles on the Liberty Springs Trail. For nearly four hours, I climbed on a trail which felt more like a dry creek bed than a trail. The going was slow, but I had been looking forward to hiking the Francona Ridge long before I even began my hike, so I continued upward with eager anticipation.
I finally reached the sign that marked the beginning of the Franconia Ridge Trail and began walking towards the ridgeline with wide-eyed anticipation. Suddenly, there was an opening in the trees behind me which revealed a breathtaking vista of the twin peaks of Mount Liberty and Mount Flume. That view alone would have been worth the entire climb, but I knew there was much more to come.
A short time later, I climbed above the treeline to the jaw-dropping sight of the trail leading towards Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette, and 360-degree views of the White Mountains. Without a doubt, this long-anticipated 2.5-mile section along the crest of the ridge exceeded my expectations and the experience of hiking here was an awe-inspiring beyond description. I took over 60 photographs over the course of the next couple of hours, and it is a challenge to decide which views to share with you. My thesaurus is inadequate for the task of providing suitable descriptions of the beauty surrounding me, but I hope that the following photos can give you some sense of the grandeur of these mountains.
It was 4:30 pm by the time I reached the summit of Mount Lafayette and, because of the time, I forced myself to begin descending from the ridgeline. The trail remains above the treeline for nearly one more mile, providing additional views of the mountains ahead of me. As the sun was sinking low on the horizon, I took one last picture of the Franconia Ridge before returning once again to the forest.
My original plan was to spend the night near the Galehead Hut but, because of my late departure from Franconia Notch, I selected the Garfield Ridge Shelter/Campsite as my new destination. Garfield Ridge is another one of the AMC pay to stay camping areas where I got 50% off the $10 fee with my Thru-Hiker Pass. By the time I arrived, all the tenting pads were already occupied, so I found a space among the half-dozen hikers staying at the shelter. The shelter is located at an elevation of nearly 4,000-feet, so as the sun went down so did the temperature. In the absence of a hiker in the shelter who suffers from sleep apnea, after this glorious day of hiking, I’m looking forward to a nice night’s sleep in the cool mountain air.
Date: August 1, 2017
Starting Location: Franconia Notch
Ending Location: Garfield Ridge Shelter
AT Miles Today: 10.3
AT Miles To Date: 1,827.0