This took longer to post than planned but sorting through 600+ pictures and writing this tome took time. Sorry if it's a bit long - hope you enjoy it. We sure enjoyed the trip! I'm posting it in sections for the days of the hike since it's too big for a single post.
We had been tentatively planning a multi-day hiking trip in the White Mountains for this summer but hadn’t made any decisions when or where. In February things came together. It so happened that the AMC trip that my daughter chose happened to start the day before Seek The Peak and left from Pinkham. She’d be gone 7 days before we picked her back up there. Perfect! We drop her off, do STP and then tack on a few more days while we were there. Since we had such a good time doing the huts across the Presidentials last summer we figured we do a similar hut hike in a different location. We’ve been trying to get to doing Franconia Ridge for several years and this seemed like a perfect way to do it. So the plans were made. STP on Saturday, then Franconia Ridge to Greenleaf Hut on Sunday followed by Greenleaf to Galehead to Zealand and ending at Highland center on Wednesday. Just in time to pick our daughter up on Thursday. Couldn’t ask for better logistics!
As the date of the hike approached we began to wonder if we’d bitten off a bit too much. We’ve done some long days with significant elevation gain but we’d never done Mt Washington before and backing STP up with a couple of long steep days might be a challenge – particularly if the weather didn’t cooperate. Not to mention that we didn’t have our “hiking legs” yet since we hadn’t done anything bigger than Monadnock and Camden Hills so far this summer. If you haven’t figured it out by now I do way too much worrying and overanalyze almost everything I do. Fortunately my wife doesn’t worry about anything so we balance each other out.
Driving up to NH on Thursday in torrential rain didn’t do anything to make me feel better but the longer term forecast (thanks Brian) was pretty good. As it turned out it couldn’t have been better. Our Friday “STP warmup” (add link) and STP itself (add link) were absolutely fantastic. Perfect weather, great hikes, not overly tired (although my knees did take a bit of a beating coming down Tucks). Turned in early Saturday night so that we could get an early start for Franconia Ridge Sunday. Weather forecast was for “scattered or isolated showers and thunderstorms” – the standard daily July forecast.
When we watched the weather on Sunday morning the forecast was for possible thunderstorms by noon. Crap! Right about the time we’d be on the ridge. Oh well, there’s always the Old Bridle Path bailout option if it looks bad.
Left the car at Lafayette Campground and got to the trailhead by 8:00. The ranger talked to us on the way by and when I mentioned the thunderstorm forecast he said “nah, don’t worry about it – we never get anything before later in the afternoon”. OK, let’s give it a go. Enough of the lead in – now to the hikes...
Day 1 - Franconia Ridge to Greenleaf Hut
Headed up the Falling Waters trail and it was simply beautiful. All the recent rain had the falls at max flow. It also had the brooks high and the trails muddy. Stream crossings (five of them) were interesting but we kept our feet dry and the muddy trails and slippery ledges around the falls weren’t a big issue.
Reached Little Haystack by just after 11:00 and the skies were still mostly clear. Maybe I can relax a bit now (but there’s still a couple of hours to go on the ridge). The first view of the ridge from the top of Little Haystack made me realize why I’d wanted to be up there since I’d first seen the pictures from other hikers. The pictures can’t possibly do it justice. There are a bunch of “wow” spots climbing Mt Washington, going across the Presidentials as well as many other places in the Whites, but I don’t think any of them top this.
The next 2 hours walking across the ridge were nothing short of amazing. We had lunch on Lincoln and then traversed the so-called Mt Truman. Pretty cool to be standing on a mountain with your name on it (even if not officially). Lafayette summit was a bit busy so we hung out for only a short time and made friends with a couple of the canine hikers there then headed down to the hut which we reached at about 2:30.
The weather held all day, the hike was beautiful and my knees had held up fine. Dinner was going to taste good tonight. Plenty of time to relax at the hut and worry about the hike to Galehead tomorrow. Did I mention that I worry too much? We had talked to several people in the last couple of days that said that the hike from Greenleaf to Galehead was one of the toughest that they had ever done (a bit stronger than the warning in the AMCWMG). The stay at the hut was excellent (as expected) and the croo was great (one of the best I’ve seen). We haven’t stayed at a hut or AMC lodge yet that we haven’t loved.
Beautiful cascades with the high water on the Falling Waters trail
One of five slightly tricky stream crossings
Little Haystack summit and Mt Lincoln summit in a cloud
Like walking the Great Wall of China
Amazing rock formations on the ridge
So-called Mt Truman in front of Lafayette
Me on Mt Truman
The Pemigewassett Wilderness spread out below Lafayette
Descending Lafayette to the hut (visible on the ridge in front of Cannon Cliffs)
Home for the night – Greenleaf Hut (Lafayette in the background)
Complete photo album is here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman4...ToGreenleafHut