Friday, February 13, 2015

Franconia Ridge Loop

Franconia Ridge Loop/Traverse, New Hampshire

Hiker: Jonathan Waterman, author, photographer, adventurer, and activist

Executive summary by darmansjah

In His Words 

The Franconia Ridge knife edge in New Hampshire is not technical—and I can think of many steeper knife-edge trails where a slip equals a quick ride to eternity. But once on top, if you catch the trail in isolation early or late in the year, its miniaturized flowers and intricately placed stone steps (to keep you from trampling the fragile flowers) offer a glimpse of alpine worlds otherwise found far away from the well-trammeled White Mountains. As a boy, I knew of no headier experience than this trail. —Jonathan Waterman

Length: About 9 miles

The Details: Yes, the trail is popular but, as Waterman points out, it also offers a chance to hike high in alpine tundra just a few hours from Fenway Park. Don’t be fooled by its close proximity to civilization, though—this walk in the sky gains elevation fast, climbing 3,480 feet in four miles.

Once on the famed knife ridge between 5,260-foot Mount Lafayette, 5,089-foot Mount Lincoln, and 4,760-foot Little Haystack, it serves up 1.7 miles of exposed hiking, which can be a radiant stroll in sunshine among alpine wildflowers or a harrowing retreat from lightning and whipping winds—all depending on the quickly shifting mood of the White Mountain weather.

There is some civilization on the route in the form of the Greenleaf Hut, which was built in 1930 by the still quite active Appalachian Mountain Club. All in all, the trail is a rite of passage for adventurers as well as one of the most iconic hikes in the Eastern U.S.

When to Go: Midweek in the fall, when the crowds have abated and the autumn foliage is peaking

About Waterman: Jonathan Waterman launched his adventure career as a ranger in Alaska's Denali National Park, writing about a climb of the peak in the dead of winter and a circumnavigation hike around the park. From there, he embarked on even larger adventures, such as paddling the Northwest Passage, which was recorded in the book Arctic Crossing (Lyons Press, 2002), and following the Colorado River from source to sea to document the sad state of the waterway along with photographer Pete McBride. That trip became two books (Running Dry and The Colorado River), a film, and a National Geographic wall map. Waterman's latest book is Northern Exposures: An Adventuring Career in Stories and Images (University of Alaska Press, 2013).

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