Mt. Lincoln - 5089 feet - 7th highest mountain in NH
Mt. Lafeyette - 2560 feet - 6th highest mountain in NH
Mt. Lafeyette - 2560 feet - 6th highest mountain in NH
Met Gwen around 8:30. I had trouble finding the trailhead and ended up on the opposite side of the highway from her. I parked at Lafeyette campground and went through a tunnel that goes under Route 93. I thought about how this little bit of extra walk will probably kill me at the end of a long hike. Gwen was waiting for me on the other side of the highway and all ready to go, except for a quick bathroom break. She said she had heard from a Canadian woman that the bathroom smelled like 'sheeeet'. There were a lot of people starting out at the same time as us. It was July 4th weekend so I shouldn't be surprised but I never would have guessed it would be as busy as it was. This turned out to be one of the reasons this hike took us as long as it did. Kind of like how Mt Everest gets crowded at the summit, except about 25,000 feet closer to sea level.
We took the 'Falling Waters Trail'. It was so beautiful, we both agreed that we didn't care how many people passed us because we were having so much fun hiking along these hidden waterfalls and checking them out. It was good we felt this way because we got passed, a lot. About 90% of the people passing us were speaking French. Gwen told one guy she liked his boots and he said "you're welcome very much" and he seemed pretty happy with himself. The trail crossed a river about 3 times. Close to the summit of Little Haystack, there's a short path that goes out to 'Shining Rock', a big flat wet rock. We decided against the detour and to stick to the task at hand. We summited Little Haystack around 2:00 (4760 feet). There was a ranger up there trying his best to keep people off of the alpine plants. Because of the harsh conditions up there (it's above treeline) the trees and plants can be really tiny but hundreds of years old. Even though there's signs and a ranger, there was still some idiots walking wherever they pleased.
There was a boatload of people just laying around on the summit and I thought this might thin out the crowd but there was still a steady stream of people coming from and going to the summit of Mt. Lincoln. The trail from Haystack to Lincoln to Lafeyette is all above treeline and follows a ridge so there's views all around you. We had perfect weather for doing this hike.
It is suggested that if there's any clouds around at all, don't attempt this hike. People have been struck and killed by lightening here. The ranger pointed out a glider to us that had been buzzing the summits all day. It was really kind of like a party atmosphere, at 4000 feet. Weird.
It took us about an hour to get to the summit of Lincoln. We summited around 3:00. This kid offered to take our picture and he said he was going to "take a few". So he was hopping all over the place. I took some shots of him and his friend. I took pictures for 5 or 6 groups of people, I think the most I've done. I could tell I was getting burned from the clear cloudless weather. I made so many stupid moves on this hike and not wearing sunscreen was the least of my mistakes. I was also getting bit behind my ears and kept scratching dried blood off...fun. There are little rock walls along the trail to keep people on the trail, which is a good thing, except, with the amount of people that were up there, we had to keep stopping to let people by. I don't mind a lot of people when I hike, in fact, I usually prefer it, but this was really obnoxious. We stopped and ate a little bit before we summited Lafeyette.
We summited Lafeyette around 4:30. You can see Greenleaf Hut from the summit of Lafeyette and it looks so close but it's really a mile away. I could tell that it was under the trees though and I was looking forward to the protection from the sun. I was getting so tired and burned out from being out in the sun so long. I stopped to use the bathroom at the hut. I walked in to the dining room and it was packed with guests waiting to eat (we got there at about 5:30). I just guessed at which direction the bathroom was and saw that they had several small bunk rooms instead of the one big one they have at the Zealand Hut. They had compost toilets, made in Lawrence MA! For some reason it made me feel better to see a Lawrence address on the bathroom door. A little piece of home!? (I think I was really starting to lose it by this point!)
I felt a lot better after stopping at the hut though and cooling my face and bug bites down with some water. We were heading down now, piece of cake! Just when I started to feel better, Gwen started having problems with her boots. Her toes were hitting the tops of her boots while walking down hill and causing her a lot of pain. I looked back at her at one point and said "are you smiling or grimacing". She was grimacing from the pain. So it was a long hike down and out. There are some signs on this trail which I've never seen before on any of our hikes that show where on the trail you are and how close you are to the end. For some reason they made the trail look like a drawing of a large intestine. After the second of these signs, I let out a "you've got to be f'n kidding me". We still had 2 thirds of the way to go. At some point this guy passed us who said something about this being a harder hike that he thought it would be. Meanwhile, I was thinking about never hiking again and questioning why I do this at all. "Why can't I just collect stamps or something? Lot's of people do" We ended up seeing him later walking with a couple, the woman was limping and the guy she was with was supporting her. I asked her if she was injured and she said no, but that she had muscle fatigue. They were barely moving. I asked them if they needed anything because we had everything but she said no and that she thought they were almost to the trailhead (they were not). Gwen offered the woman her headlamp but she didn't think she would need it. It was so nice of the guy that passed us to hang with that couple and make sure they were OK. I hope they made it back safely. When we passed them it was starting to get dark. While we still had a little bit of light left, I fished my headlamp out of my pack and Gwen did the same. I thought for a second my headlamp wasn't working because it didn't come on right away and I was using rechargeable batteries that I did NOT charge up the night before (another stupid move!) but it did come on and all was well. I could eventually hear the river which was a welcome sound but I was also hoping that we didn't have to cross the river in the dark, that would suck. We didn't and we finally got back to Gwen's car at 9:14! Yikes. She gave me a lift to my car :) I would guess it took that group behind us at least another 2 hours before they made it out of the woods. I pulled into my driveway at 12:00 midnight. The next couple of days I had like zero energy and I didn't even want to think about this hike! Now that I'm all healed up, I'm ready for my next adventure so stayed tuned! Hopefully, the next one will be an easy one!