Sun, Nov 17, 2019
by Bill Newman
Hike Length: dayhike (10 miles)
Trails: North Kinsman Trail to the Kinsman Ridge Trail
Date: March 26, 2005
Most people start from the east off Rt 93 coming in from the Lafayette Campground and hike via the Fishin Jimmy Trail to the Kinsman Ridge. We opted to approach the Kinsmans from the west and the less traveled route. There are 2 approaches we considered, the Reel Trail and the North Kinsman Trail. In the end, we went with the Kinsman Trail based soley on a coin flip. There were 5 of us that chose this unbelievable day to go hiking as the sun was out in full force and not a cloud could be seen.
The trailhead is not marked as far as I can tell, and if someone else wasn't waiting for us there, we would easily have missed it. The trail is off Rt 116 (off 112) heading north and just past the Easton Townhall on the right. There are a couple of stone pillars chained off that marked our entrance. This has to be some type of logging road but it may be privately owned. The enitre ground was snow covered in at least a foot of well packed snow and a smooth trail had been grooved into it by skiers and hikers.
We started in just boots with the snowshoes tied to our packs thinking we'd need them for the higher elevations. The first 3/4 of a mile are a road because we could see tire tracks and recent activity of wood cutting and maple syruping along the way. Once we hit a small a-frame house, the trail takes a right into the woods but still follows a wide path. The climb is slow and steady the entire way and eventually we hit our first sign. To the left was the trail, to the right was an outcrop called Bald Face (we stopped here on our way back). We took the left and really started the true backcountry trail.
Up to this point skiers and dogwalkers could easily make it, from here on, there would be too many downed trees and obstacles to X-country ski and the snow too deep for any recreational walker.
We made occaisional rest stops as we could when we hit level areas along the way but the problem was that we were hiking on 2-3 feet of packed snow and any time we'd step off the trail, we'd posthole up to our calves. We didn't need any foot gear like crampons or snowshoes, we just had to be careful.
The trail was very easy to follow but only because it was broken already so I wasn't looking for trail markers. I'm not sure how well it's marked but we did see a blaze every so often even though we weren't looking for them. There isn't too much too see along the way up just an occiasional glimpse of Cannon or North Kinsman, but the trees were still snow covered so we had plenty of picturesque scenes along the way as we made our way through these snow covered tunnels.
We finally hit the intersection of the Kinsman Ridge Trail that would take us to both peaks. The trail signs are usually eye level or about 3-4 feet off the ground. Due to the snow depth, the trail sign was at our feet !!!! (I've included a picture and I hope it shows [next page])!
We hiked from here to the summit almost totally about timberline and exposed, but it was nothing to worry about during a nice day. The views to the east and the Franconia Ridge were spectacular and we stopped for lunch at a small outcrop just down from the North summit after the ceremonial picture taking at the top. Figuring that the trek over to South Kinsman might be snowy and figuring that this would be my last chance to put them on, I wore my crampons for the balance of the trip. We did see others wearing snowshoes or crampons, but we had made it this far with boots and no problems, that the choice was entirely up to the hikers descretion.
After a quick stop, we continued down the south side of the ridge trail to the south summit. It was mostly troublefree to the next summit but there were a lot of branch attacks along the way and still some deep snow. We made the 1.1 mile hike in about 40 minutes and were rewarded with some more great views including shots of Moosilauke and back to North Kinsman (really nice shot looking north to this peak!). There is some controversy about the summit because there are 2 level areas that appear to be the same height, 1 is the real summit, and 1 is a false summit. We hit both just to make sure. There is a large cairn, but we think that it's more of a trail marker than a summit sign. Keep in mind, the summit was all snow and ice covered, so we had no chance of finding a survey marker.
We stayed here for 1/2 hour just soaking in the day and enjoying it with several other groups. Our trek back to the car was pretty uneventful, except that we did stop at Bald Face on the way down. Along a lot of trails in the Whites are little diversions and sometimes they are very worthwhile areas to check out. Bald Face is a large open area to the west of North Kinsman that provides some fantastic views looking up to the ridge and I would consider it a very worthy stop. We made it back to the car around 5, so the entire trip took about 9 hours with some very generous rest stops.
Equipment: The usual
Special Equipment: Camera and sunscreen!
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