Photos from my post-Thanksgiving solo hike up to North and South Kinsmans in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Starting from Lafayette Place Campground, I hiked up the Lonesome Lake, a fairly easy jaunt. A thin layer of snow covered the ground, well-packed by hikers in the days before my trip. I knew, however, that at some point, trail conditions would change. With early winter comes lots of ice, especially on the steeper sections of trail, where rain and snow-melt freeze and re-freeze as temperatures hover around freezing point. It had rained mid-week and then a cold front entered the region, sending temperatures plummeting into the single digits. It was only 3˚ or so when I started my hike, with highs forecasted in the teens. Sure enough, as I began my climb up to the Kinsman Ridge from the Lake, I found the ice.
Travel slowed down a bit as I navigated these sections, and at times, I ducked into the woods, opting to weave in between trees rather than try to hike up the middle of the trail. I ran into several other hikers who made the same decision, and together, we marveled at the rivers of ice that covered the trail. With microspikes on my feet, I felt pretty stable for most of the hike, but there were times when I wondered whether full crampons would have offered better traction and peace of mind. I didn’t dwell on this for too long, though, as I had left the crampons behind in the car.
Above tree line, I found clear, blue skies and views all the way to Mount Washington and beyond. I parked myself at the summit ledge of North Kinsman, and immediately put on the elephant hat I recently bought at T.J. Maxx. The Franconia Ridge, with Mts Flume, Liberty, (Little Haystack), Lincoln, and Lafayette rose majestically across the notch. While eating my lunch of leftover Thanksgiving dinner and marveling at the blessing of this beautiful day, another hiker came out to the ledge and we chatted for a bit. I didn’t remember my elephant hat until after he left; I wonder if I thought I was a complete weirdo.
After finishing my turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, I packed up and made a quick trip to South Kinsman, before turning around and making the trip back down to the parking lot. Making my way back down was even trickier than going up, with every step on the ice rivers potentially leading to a long, sliding fall. I ran into a pair of hikers that I had passed very early in the day; they had turned around after tagging North Kinsman, and given that they hadn’t seen me since 9:30 am or so, they were relieved that I was okay. I had been wondering about them all day, too, and again, i made note of the small blessing of this moment, the blessing of strangers taking care of one another as they pursue a shared love of the outdoors.
I made it back to the car around 3:00 pm, six hours after I left the campground lot. The sun had begun its dip behind the mountains, casting a faint light in the notch and leaving a chill in the air as night began moving in. I climbed into the car, ready for the journey home, excited by my first winter hike of the season and two new 4000-footers bagged, already looking ahead to the next outing.