Click on pictures to enlarge.
The Franconia Ridge loop by the Old Bridle Path and the Falling Waters Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes in the East. It's the first big-mountain hike in the Whites that I did with the kids, on a cold and windy day back in October 2000. It is not exactly a well-kept secret, and the trailhead is less than 2 hours from Boston, which means big crowds on nice week-ends. The last time I had done it five years ago it was such a procession that I lost interest. But on this beautiful Friday Peter Wyatt and I figured that the crowds would be moderate. They were, and I was reminded of how wonderful this hike is. We went up the old Bridle Path and at 3,000' got our first views of Franconia Ridge and its valleys (left). The shiny rocks are slides, not snow (all the snow was gone by now). At 4,200' we got to Greenleaf Hut, from which we had a gorgeous view towards Mt. Lafayette (right).
From the Hut there is still quite a climb to Lafayette, which peaks at 5,260'. We reached treeline at 4,700'. From the top of Lafayette the knife-edge ridge extends south above treeline to Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack (left), and this is a fantastic segment where you feel on top of the world. Here I am on top of Mt. Lincoln (right)
The trail from Mt. Lincoln to Little Haystack passes by some interesting rock formations (left) and then here we were at Little Haystack (right), which is the end of the ridge. Here we met a young family with Papa carrying two kids, one on his back and one on his front who couldn't have been more than six months old. Papa had already done all the 4,000 footers of New Hampshire and was starting his kids early. I guess the competition is fierce for the record of the youngest having done all the 4,000 footers - my book says that the record-holder is a 4-year old boy. Me I'm shooting for the "oldest" record - right now it's held by a 79-year old, so if God grants me life I can push my walker up Mt. Tecumseh (the easiest of the 4'000 footers, and I'm told very boring so I haven't done it yet).
From Little Haystack the Falling Waters trail descends sharply from the ridge, very rough in places - on that previously mentioned October 2000 hike I slid on ice and fell on my pinky which is now bent for life (the scars of hiking!). But after you get down to 3,000' the trail becomes beautiful, following a river and passing superb waterfalls and ledges (left and right) all the way down to the trailhead at 1,800'. Another day well spent!