How can one little nut change the course of a day? Read on, and you'll find out.
Even though it was smack-dab in the middle of the week, Chris and I were headed down to the White Mountains for a winter hike. Unusual, yes. The reason: Chris had been indicating an interest in an adventurous winter hike for some time now, and we both had an about-to-expire vacation day to use up. So, we waited for a good weather forecast and conditions, and Wednesday, March 9 -- a mid-week day -- ended up being the day. The itinerary? A White Mountain classic: A loop hike of Franconia Ridge, taking in the peaks of Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette.
Despite the raised eyebrows and harumphing comments from the peanut gallery, we decided to do this trip as a long day-outing from Ottawa. That meant a super-early start and a late return, and a lot of driving. However, I don't find this sort of thing all that onerous, especially with a good selection of podcasts to listen to on the drive.
After a very efficient (i.e. no traffic slowdowns or other time-wasters) drive, we arrived at the trailhead at around 9 a.m., and we were on the trail fifteen minutes later. I was hoping for lots of fresh snow, but instead we found only a thin layer of new snow and lots of ice-encrusted trees. Hopefully higher up things would be better!
The almost-spring sun was warm and there was no wind. We were soon quite warm as we trudged on top of a very firm base towards the Falling Waters / Old Bridle Path trail junction. This is where one must decide how to do the loop: left and up first to Lafayette, then along the ridge, or right and up to Little Haystack, then north along the ridge to Lafayette. We chose the steeper, right-hand route -- the Falling Waters Trail.
The Falling Waters Trail first cuts across gentle, lower slopes of open, mixed forest. It then turns upwards and follows the narrow ravine in which Dry Brook runs. The trail follows for a while on one side, then the other, crossing every so often. There was much evidence of a very recent flood event: a large flow of water had carved out an impressive little gorge in the snowpack around the streambed. It made for slightly more interesting crossings of the brook, but only slightly: whatever torrential flow had caused the gorge had long gone, and the placid little stream of water in the brook posed no challenge.
Evidence of Winter Flooding
The section of trail alongside Dry Brook is very pleasant. With a large winter snowpack and a dense top layer, there was an easy and scenic path to follow for much of the way.
The trail became more rugged as it reached the 'waterfall' area along Dry Brook. Here, it was necessary to clamber down and back up out of the water-carved gorge the flooding had caused. And, in general, the trail is steeper and more challenging here. Still, snow conditions were quite good, and the agressive cramponing of our snowshoes made quick work out of these sections. The only thing that slowed us down were picture stops -- there are many nice scenes of cascading waters and sheets of icicles in this area.
Switchbacks Above the Brook