Tue, May 26, 2020
Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette
by Bill Newman
Hike Length: dayhike
Trails: Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette - Falling Waters to Franconia Ridge for ascent and Old Bridal Path for descent
This was simply one of the finest days of hiking I’ve ever enjoyed. Hiking for the solitude and appreciation is one thing, but hiking for a cause is a totally different and really great way to go. I would like to thank both Chris and Rob (Hike-nh.com) for not only endorsing the Flags on the 48, but also for promoting it. If it wasn’t for this web site, I might have missed participating in one of the most incredible events to remember the tragedies of 9/11.
I had been following the web sites in hopes of joining a group to see how the Flags on the 48 worked. Several notes were posted when peaks came available in order to get hikers to sign up, but when the Wednesday before the event came and 2 peaks were open, I felt a need to participate and take one of the summits. My 13-year-old son, Nick, was instrumental in making the final decision, and as soon as he said we HAD to do this, I signed us up for Mt. Lincoln. I also got in touch with my hiking partner, Jeff, to see if he’d be interested in joining us. I didn’t even have to ask; I only had to tell him where and when we’d meet. The really good thing about Jeff is that he is one of the most resourceful people I know and his knowledge would be as valuable as always in coming up with a method of doing this.
I had a shopping list in a matter of minutes. I’d also like to thank John Rainone for providing a flag for us. We work together and have several coworkers in Iraq right now, so this was done with some special thoughts for “The Boys in the Litter Box”.
We hit the Lafayette parking area of Rt. 93 just before 9 AM. There is plenty of free parking in this lot, but it fills very quickly and eventually over flows to the medians. Based on recent hikes, I had estimated our hiking time to be 1 mile per hour. This would be perfect for a 3-mile hike. Unfortunately I had based my estimates on total trip time, and had included my decent time too. More on this later.
We started up the Falling Waters Trail. This is a fairly steep hike from the start to the summit of Little Haystack. Our goal was to summit Mt. Lincoln, but we had to summit Little Haystack first in order to meet the Franconia Ridge Trail to get to Lincoln. The trail does have some rocky areas and quite a few tree roots, but it was the brook crossings that were the biggest challenge. I hate having to play leapfrog over slippery rocks, so I would recommend some nice waterproof boots for this trail! There is water for about the first mile to mile and a half, and you hit a couple of great waterfalls too, but after you leave the falls, there’s nothing else until you come back down.
Jeff had done this trail a while ago, and said that at one time it went below Shining Rock (a huge outcrop near timberline), but now it passes to the left, so to get to the only views along the way, you must go the .10 of a mile to Shining Rock. Other than that, it isn’t until you almost reach timberline that you can look back over to Cannon and The Kinsman’s.
It’s quite a haul to get there, but well worth the views on such a clear day. You summit Little Haystack fairly quickly once you can poke your head above timberline, and you get some incredible views of the entire ridge. The Falling Waters trail comes up in the middle of the Franconia Ridge, so Lincoln and Lafayette are visible to your left and Liberty and Flume to your right.
We hit the ridge just after 12 but still had a half-mile or so to go to get to the summit of Lincoln. We were supposed to raise our flag at Noon, but were at least 20 minutes from hitting the peak. This is when I realized I had included decent time in my estimate, and we had only done a little better than ¾ of a mile per hour for the ascent.
It’s a great ridge to hike along because you get complete 360-degree view. The full Presidential Range is off to your right and Cannon/Kinsman to your left, and a very ominous Lafayette in front of you!
There are very few trees along this ridge so expect full exposure fo r the entire length (5 miles). We had carried 4 lengths of 1” PVC tubing, each one about 5’ long. Plus we had brought a 5’ flag pole, 2 rolls of duct tape, 200 feet of rope, a box of eye screws, 1” PVC adapters, and a number of tools. It took us a little time to assemble, especially since we had one HUGE flag to raise and needed to make sure it was well supported. Raising the flag on the summit of a mountain was a very moving experience and several other hikers passing along the ridge stopped to take pictures, talk about the event, and to thank us for taking the time and effort to do this. We had done this in order to participate in a memorial, but it was still an extremely proud moment to have people all along the ridge, across from other peaks, and throughout the White Mountains see and comment on what we had done, but there were 47 other peaks with the same type of people on them doing the same thing, and we made sure to look for as many as we could.
The Presidentials were obscured and the Carter/Wildcat Ridge wasn’t visible, but we were easily able to see at least 15 other peaks. I also heard that people on other summits had telephoto camera equipment and took pictures of our flag and others and are posted on Flagsonthe48.org. Please check it out.
We left our flag up a little longer than the 2 PM ending time and took it down around 3:30 partly because we were late in raising it, but also because it was just a fantastic clear day and we wanted as many people as possible to see it. Several gliders had buzzed the summit, so we were seen from all possible angles!
We were still on such a high note, that we decided to descend via the Old Bridal Path. This meant that we had to summit Lafayette in order to meet the Bridal Trail…another 1 mile plus across the exposed ridge, but the weather had cooperated with us so far and we couldn’t resist bagging it while we were there. Nick had just done his first 4000 footer the previous week, so he was really excited about grabbing two 5000 footers in one day (ok, Jeff and I were too, but he made the final call).
The hike along the ridge requires a little scrambling in places, but your goal is clear the entire way. No false summits. The top of Lafayette is fairly large and several trails meet here including the Bridal Falls and the Garfield Ridge, so it was busy with hikers on their way off the ridge. We stopped for a few more pictures and to check out what the flag must have looked like from here. We could see the Lafayette flag from Lincoln, so I am sure they could get some spectacular views of ours.
We hiked down the mile plus to the Greenleaf Hut and filled our water bottles. This is an AMC hut recently rebuilt on the side of Lafayette that provides some more fantastic views of the entire ridge. (Check out the link on this web site to find out about the AMC Hut system). From here the Bridal Trail follows along the “knee” across from the Peabody Slopes. It’s not quite a knife-edge but it does provide incredible upward views from some gnarly outcrops. This is also a fairly steep trail and does wind a little bit to throw off your directional sense. You aim for the parking lot to the left, but you have to go to the right to get there and meet the Falling Waters Trail to close the loop. We had spent some time at Greenleaf, so by the time we hit the base and still had a mile left we were hiking in the remnants of daylight and eventually complete darkness by the time we hit the trailhead. We didn’t have to break out the headlamps, but it was getting pretty close.
In the end, we had done the entire 9 mile loop in about 11 hours, but this included several hours on Lincoln and time on Lafayette and at Greenleaf too, and in the end, this wasn’t about the hike time anyway. Thanks to Jeff Brown and Nick Newman for being such great teammates, it couldn’t have been done without the 2 of you!
We already plan on making some “improvements” and the three of us are looking forward to participating in the Flags on the 48 again next year.
Equipment: the usuals, plus an American flag
Special Equipment: American Spirit!
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