Thursday, August 11, 2016

Franconia Ridge Trail July 30 2016

My first quiet worry which I pushed way back in my head was being scared, waking up in the middle of the night with nothing to relieve the terror. I took the site deep in the campground and diagonal from the Park manager's site. Not trying to focus on my fear but taking steps that seemed smart.
So when I woke at 7:20 I was both surprised and annoyed. I guess I wasn't that afraid but sleeping pretty well. I sort of wanted to be there or at least driving to the trail at this time.
I made quick work of cooking breakfast, downing some coffee and repacking my pack for a long day. The pack was heavy and I knew it but I was a little water paranoid. Sure ,the first trail was pretty wet but I wasn't sure what the rest would be like. I have experienced a pretty long and dry trail before and it wasn't good. In any case I had 2 liter bottles and a 50 ounce bladder. I also had a pack with food, layers and some first aid stuff.
I arrived just about 9am and the lot was filling up fast. One of the most popular trails on a beautiful Saturday in the middle of Summer....I expected nothing less.
The National Forest had a tent set up with guides answering questions and dolling out advice. The temp at the top was reported at about 57 with 30mph winds. Good info to have.
After a quick bathroom break it was up and away.
3 miles of up for that matter.

See the Blue Blaze on the tree? Yes this is the trail. Occasionally when I stopped to get out of the way of the runners and catch my breath I would take a picture. I loved that we crossed the water so many times. If you follow the link there are many more pictures but here are a few.

The trail was packed. The first mile I tried to hold my patience for the large group that stopped to take selfies and group photos with no regard for the many other hikers. I knew it was going to happen and I had no real time in mind besides maybe dark and I even had a headlamp and flashlight just in case.
Soon like in running we spaced out a bit. I leapfrogged past people and they to me as we rested for food, water and oxygen. People for the most part are friendly and kind. Like we are all on a solo trip but doing something great together. It felt good to be helped and help people on this journey. I donated my medical tape to a couple nursing their dogs feet on the trip down and had a woman ask me if I was doing this trip alone. When I replied yes, she came along side me and quietly said-You are brave. Little did she know how important these words are to me.
Physically I could have quit. I was starting to think about the ways I could have been better prepared but I didn't let myself go too far down that road because I just decided I would stop yet again and rest if needed. I did it many times on the ridge. I laid on the rocks and watched those magnificent clouds move slowly across the sky just above me.

The ridge ended up being harder than I expected. I wasn't prepared for the climbing it involved. In none of the pictures I looked at did I catch that. At the top of the Falling Waters trail I was at the summit of Little Haystack at 4765 feet and then to Mt Lincoln at 5089. That involved some climbing over rock which I will say is pretty scary when you think about sliding off and down the mountain. After a dip it was back to up and up to Mt Lafayette at 5260 ft. I didn't spend as much time here. I had eaten at Haystack and looky-looed a good deal there and over, besides the summit was a freaking hiker-fest and I still had miles to go down. I did find the geological marker and located my descent route. For a while it felt like no matter how far I walked the Greenleaf hut just never seemed to be getting any closer but really this below is the trail and there really wasn't anyway to pay attention to anything besides your footing.
Not soon enough I was back in the scrubby low trees and just moving through the rocky terrain as best as I could. Moving to the side when the clacking of trekking poles came up fast behind me.
Out of no where this popped up and I am not going to lie. I said Sweet Baby Jesus! right out loud and a couple guys in front of me laughed.
Note I feel like I have descended quite a bit but I am still at 4200 feet. 
The hut was packed but thankfully I could use a bathroom! I filled my water and got a hot homemade bowl of split pea soup for $2. And a seat, I sat on a long bench with all the other hikers and I just listened. The old timers at the next table and their memories of "back in the day" at the huts and young people looking at maps. There were kids, I mean little kids who were carried there on their parents backs and the family from Boston who I didn't hike directly with but I feel like we made this hike together. 
I first noted this woman with greying hair and her 3 children as we started out. I would guess they were 10, 13 and maybe 17 as she kept making references to when she was grown up and away from home. 2 of the girls wore skirts and all had new sneakers on-Crunchy for sure which I loved. We traveled back and forth all the way to the ridge before we exchanged any words. She explained they were from Boston and didn't own a car but traveled everywhere by bike. She says with a laugh, I thought we were strong but this is really tough. I had to agree.

The trip from the Hut back to the lot was a little under 3 miles and happily mostly back in the trees. The rock never really ended but soon the sound of water returned as we came back around towards the Falling Waters trail. At one point I got a little nervous as I looked around and found myself all alone. This hadn't happened out of now where and I immediately looked down at the time.

Almost 6 o'clock. I must be the last frigging person to get back to my car.
Again I remind myself I am here to hike my own hike.
The Old Bridal path ends right at the first water crossing for the Falling Waters trail and I did what I have heard is the best remedy for sore and achy feet. I took off my boots and soaked them in the ice cold water. The dirt that I hadn't noticed before washed away.
I looked over my shoulder and who do I see. My Boston friends.
I am sure to cheer them on-You made it! The kids sit and soak as well.
I got to chat with Mom again and she shared that they were happy to have made it and starving as well. She even told me about a goat farm to visit near Mt Watchusett with my kids.
I made my way down past the bath room towards the lot and was again greeted by another woman who cheered - You did it!
Hot Damn, We all did it!!
This magical day would not be complete without some tears. This is the view of the roadway when I pulled out of the Lafayette parking lot. When I arrived I was surprised to see an almost full lot but I wasn't prepared for the cars up and down the side of the highway when I left. Last Winter I drove thru this area and said to my kids, I'm going to hike these mountains some day and Ava said No Mom, this is too dangerous. I won't let you. 
To myself, out loud, I got to say-Hey, you just hiked that mountain today. 
I felt and still feels awesome. 
Sadly I am reminded that this adventure is over but only for today as I dream and plan and plan. 
I feel like I need to start a collection of adventure index cards that I can just pull one and set off when my wallet and calender allows.

fooseberry's Franconia Ridge Trail July 30 2016 album on Photobucket

1 comment:

Barry said...

I can't express how awesome this post is.
That is all.


Race Results

09/07/07 Main Street Mile 11:44
05/18/08 YPD 5k 52:57 17:05
06/14/08 Walpole Village 5K 35:27 11:26
06/21/08 Mashpee Fun Run 34:21 11:05
07/19/08 Mashpee Woodlands 36.49 11:52
08/10/08 Falmouth Road Race 1:29:31
08/25/08 Women Running Wild 35:40 11:30
10/25/08 Mashpee Firefighters 37:47 12:10
05/02/09 Cape Abilities 5K 34:59 11:17
05/17/09 YPD 5K 36:41 11:50
08/09/09 Falmouth Road Race 7mi 1:37
10/31/09 Mashpee Firefighters 5K 37:15 12:00
09/11/11 Main Street Mile 12:31
10/29/11 Screech to the Beach 5K 39.13 12:20
08/12/12 Falmouth Road Race 1:34:24 13:29
05/18/14 YPD 5k 44.25 14:17
06/1/14 June Jog 4mi 1:04 16:00
08/17/14 Falmouth Road Race 1:42:04 14:35
09/27/14 Girly Girl 5K 37:24 12:02
10/26/14 Pell Bridge Run 4mi 48:41 12:10
11/27/14 Turkey Trot in VA 5K 35:22 11:23
12/06/14 Jingle Jog 5K 34:42 11:11
03/29/15 Thomas Guinta Memorial 5K 34:14 11:03
04/19/15 St. Margaret's 5K 31:11 10:21
05/17/15 YPD Blues 5K 34:58 11:17
06/07/15 Newport 10 Miler 1:56:09 11:36
06/20/15 Mackenzie's 5K 33:55 10:54
08/17/14 Falmouth Road Race 1:33:51 13:24
10/31/15 Screech at the Beach 36:19 11:40
5/20/18 YPD Run to Remember 37.37 12:08