Mts. Lincoln and Lafayette

Submitted by Pat

Mountains: Mts. Lincoln (5,098) and Lafayette (5,260)
Date: June 6, 2006
Time: 8 hours
Miles: 8.9
Elevation Gain: 3,832
Steps: 29,570
Trails: Falling Waters Trail -- Franconia Ridge Trail -- down Old Bridle Path Trail
Holy Shit Factor: moderate to low

Picture Gallery

Video Clip
Nancy Crossing the River

I wake up at 4 a.m., exhausted and excited about the day ahead. Today we are climbing Little Haystack Mountain, and Mounts Lincoln and Lafayette. At 4:30 a.m. I drag myself out of bed, surprised that it is even light out, and frustrated by the lingering clouds. We haven't had any summer weather since Memorial weekend. Grrr.

I drive to Keene to pick up Nancy, who is also cursing the earliness of the hour, and head to Concord. As we start driving north, the clouds begin to dissipate and the blue sky to show. We are elated. We pull into the Lafayette Place parking lot around 8:30 a.m. and hit the Bridle Path Trail at 8:41 a.m. We take the turn off to head up to Little Haystack Mountain via the Falling Waters Trail, a trail that is true to its name. The trail sides are rich with wild flowers and the trail begins paralleling the water of Dry Brook. Because of the recent rains, the brook is lively with clear cold water. We both stare at each other in awe as we climb - every turn brings a new waterfall into our view. The spray from the falls hanging in the sun beams is especially wondrous.

With temps in the mid-60's, we quickly strip to shorts and short sleeves. I feel great, strong and so happy to be on the trail on this sunny day. The best part is that there are no black flies, which means no bug dope. Whoo hooo! This is to be the third and fourth 4,000 foot peaks we have bagged since deciding to climb the 4,000 footers in New England. The beauty of the trail is a perfect appetizer for the rest of the day. Onward and upward.

When the trail breaks away from Dry Brook the climbing starts for real. Almost immediately I notice a thin film of dust coating everything in sight. I think I am seeing things but finally realize it is pollen coming from the evergreens surrounding us. It fills the air and makes me glad I am not allergic to pollens because there is no way I can breathe through my nose. As we trudge, the tree sizes become more stunted but it seems like a long time before we finally see the sky and pull our way above the tree line toward the summit of Little Haystack at 11:28 a.m.

We pull off just below the summit because we haven't eaten since 5 a.m. and are craving food. We eat an apple and gasp at the beauty of the ridge ahead of us and the mountains surrounding us, reveling in being alive and healthy enough to climb to see this, strong enough to push past our 50-year old aches and pains, and so blessed to have a hiking buddy with whom to share this moment.

There are quite a few hikers on the summit, but we decide to move on. I am so surprised that in the cooler temperatures and breezy conditions of the ridge, the black flies decide that I am something not to be missed and they nail me. We eat lunch atop Mt. Lincoln at 12:07 p.m. Nice to sit on hot rocks and absorb the beauty surrounding us. I love the delicate alpine flowers, the sedge grass, and the hardy, strong-willed lichen that insists on growing at such altitude. Bravo! It feels great to sit down for a while and rest.

I had mistakenly told Nancy that the climbing was basically over and that the rest of the ridge had marginal elevation gain. Wrong. And she lets me know it as we reach the summit of Lafayette by 1:07 p.m. There we meet a couple of folks from Holland who are nice enough to take our picture - and we return the favor. We don't spend much time on the summit - and I'm not sure why - distracted by too many people, knowing we have miles to go before we rest, and miles to drive before we sleep?

I still feel good but know the downward climb is going to be tough. The Greenleaf Hut looks deceivingly close from the top of Lafayette. I whip out my poles and we start the descent. Despite the brief sadness I feel when we enter the tree line again, I am elated because of the bird life - White Throated Sparrows and warblers and a young man with a camera and binoculars on a mission. It is a nice break to hit the Greenleaf Hut, use the facilities and avail ourselves of the front porch while I dress my feet and prepare for the long descent.

As we begin the hike down the Old Bridle Trail, I feel a sense of deja vu - I have been here before. [As it turns out I climbed this trail more than 15 years ago and I don't think I even made it up to the hut that time - I was not in the shape I am in now.] The views are amazing and we have to stop and comment about each one - this one would be good for a lunch break and this one would be good for a theatre presentation and this one would be good for just wanting to be alone. Wild pink azaleas line the path starting at a certain elevation and we are enthralled.

So about 1.5 miles down the 3 mile descent my knees decide that they are old and tired and that they are done for the day. That is hard. I carry a lot of my body weight on the poles resulting in some very tired triceps, abdominals and shoulder muscles. Nancy is concerned but there is nothing to do but keep going. It is frustrating - I know she is tired, but the complete meniscectomy and years of sports have taken a toll on my knees and the descent is really hard on me. I let her lead and amble down the best I can. Seeing the parking lot is a wonderful thing. A hot fudge brownie Sundae in Lincoln is even better. We make it. A couple of newbie 50 year olds just starting out on an incredible adventure. We hit the parking lot at 4:51 p.m. Whoo hooo!

Note: I really suffered from this hike. Two days of very sore muscles. Calves, quads and triceps.

4 of NH 48
4 of 67 in NE
4 of the NE 100 Highest