In the past year and a half I have been on the Franconia Ridge three times. It is a truly spectacular range and one that I hold close to my heart. It’s the place where I hiked my first 5000-foot peak (in winter nonetheless) and also the final two peaks of my 4000-footer list was Flume and Liberty last August.
This time we took a nontraditional approach to complete this traverse. Our plan was to start at the Skoocumchuck Trail and hike up to Lafayette and then make our way over to Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty and Flume. Our exit plan was to backtrack to Liberty and take the Liberty Springs Trail down to our cars. We changed our minds while we were on the ridge.
*This post is very photo heavy- enjoy!
We began our hike on the less traveled Skookumchuck Trail. Bill needed it for redlining and it had a funny name so we were all for it. The trail starts off very moderate, crosses a snowmobile trail, and a small brook. There are a couple steeper sections and (if I remember correctly) about three stream crossings. As it approaches the Garfield ridge trail it climbs steeply and then descends back into the trees. Right before reaching its junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail, it heads back up just above treeline.
We passed this pile of feathers on Skookumchuck. We think they may have once belonged to an owl. We also saw many moose tracks and a lot of scat. Some of it looked very fresh. No moose sighting, though!
The trail really is beautiful and a nice change from the traditional Franconia loop options.
Once we reached the ridge it was snow free. It was really wonderful to see rocks after this winter hiking season. I’m sure by August I’ll be dreaming of snow.
Once on the Garfield Ridge Trail you will begin to climb steeply, and then follow the ridge to the north peak of Mt. Lafayette. We had views for miles. It was the absolute perfect day for this hike.
The hump way in the distance (pictured below) was where we were heading!
|The classic Franconia Ridge shot|
|Flying on Lincoln|
We stopped for lunch near Little Haystack. Brenda is enjoying a “fruit punch” and some chocolate covered strawberries that she brought for the gang!
After lunch we headed over to Liberty. We encountered the worst section of a trail I think I have ever been on. Snowshoes would be overkill for most of this traverse, but would be really useful here, especially if the weather stays this warm. Let’s just say that I will not be revisiting this section for a very long time.
The trail emerges back from the woods and traverses over a rugged and ledgy section up to Liberty. It was quite fun and once again, full of beautiful views!
|Mike ascending Liberty|
|Rocking our Northeast Peak Bagger shirts!|
We met some fellow hikers atop Liberty: Allison Conboy as well as Becky and Mark Metea. It was nice meeting you all!
From Liberty we only had one peak left: Mount Flume. From my last trip up here this winter, I knew the uphill slog back to Liberty is not fun, especially with all this mushy Spring snow. We toyed with the idea of descending down Flume Slide. I had taken this route up to Flume when I finished my 4k list, but that was on a dry August day. We talked to two hikers that had hiked up that route and said it was very icy. They didn’t have any traction on so we figured we’d check it out as we were sporting microspikes.
On the way to Flume I had a little practice for Katahdin’s Knife edge. It was quite the monorail!
After a summit photo atop Flume, we made the decision of our route down. We didn’t want to backtrack through the mush to Liberty and down the Liberty Spring Trail. We also knew that if the Flume Slide Trail was wet and icy (as we heard it was) we’d be in the woods a lot. As we looked around we saw a route to take down: the Flume Slide.
The top section of the descent was on loose rocks so we made sure to warn everyone when we sent some rocks rolling down.
Above is the loose rock section. Below is some rocks slabs we enjoyed before the bushwhacking began.
I wasn’t the only one postholing. Bill showed us how to do it in style. Waist deep during a bushwhack. Needless to say, we all had squishy shoes when we arrived at our cars.
We successfully met up with the Liberty Springs Trail. The six or so stream crossings and the road walk made this a very long exit. It was a fantastic day, but I was done with the mush! We concluded that Spring bushwhacking is hard!
A couple miles from the trailhead, we ran into Dan McGinness of DMOutdoors who was begining a full moon traverse of the ridge!
The Franconia Ridge is one of my favorite places in the Whites. It has a special place in my heart as I’ve hit many milestones on that ridge. While I’m not looking forward to ever hiking the section between Little Haystack and Liberty again, I am looking forward to discovering new trails up that ridge as well as to many of the other 4ks.
Last modified: November 28, 2014