I spend a lot of time on the web, especially on a few message boards, such as the AMC site and others. On one one of those boards I met Mike P and he was leading a group of highschool kids on a Greenleaf overnight. He had a few extra spots and invited me along. I was free that weekend, and a night at Greenleaf during caretaker season sounded fun, so it was agreed. Since they were driving up from Connecticutt, they wouldn't get on the trail until early afternoon. I decided to get there earlier, hike up Falling Waters and along the ridge to the hut, then head down the Old Bridle Path in search of the group.
Due to a late start, I didn't hit the trailhead until about 10:00. I thought I might be too late to get to the hut before Mike and his group, but it wasn't really a concern. The weather was great and because I was staying at the hut I could put my sleeping bag and clothes in my day pack, so I was travelling light. When I started out, the parking lot at Lafayette Place was busy, but I really didn't see many people on the trail. I was hiking fast and soon climbed out past the waterfalls that give the trail its name and onto the switchbacks. Then I started running into groups, some quite large groups, and I remembered where I was: Franconia Ridge on a sunny weekend day. Still, who was I to complain, I was hiking on a beautiful day.
When I reached the top of Little Haystack I could see what a delightful day it was going to be. Even with the crowds you could still find a little solitude if you tried. Anyways, it was a fine place for lunch before pushing on along the ridge. From the top of Lincoln, looking south and north, it was easy to see why this hike is so popular. With terrain like this so close to major highway, it's amazing that it's not more crowded. Sigh, it's part of life in some parts of the Whites, but not something that should prevent you from doing this hike. If you go on a weekday, you can still have it all to yourself sometimes.
It wasn't bothering me (much) as I strolled along the ridge, chatting with other hikers and admiring the view. The summit of Lafayette almost tempted me to hang out for a while, then head to North Lafayette to avoid people for a while. But I wanted to get to the hut before the rest of the group arrived. It really felt like a stroll in the park as I descended the Greenleaf trail to the hut. It sits there in front of you the whole way, looking just a few hundred yards away as you rock hop and ramble on down. At the hut I told the caretaker what group I was with, threw my stuff on a bunk, changed into a dry t-shirt and relaxed a bit. The caretaker was a nice guy and we chatted a bit, plus there was a couple training for Rainer this summer so we had a fine conversation. Finally I headed down OBP and found Mike running sweep for his group near the final view on the way up. We had a great evening (except for the caretaker getting locked out of the croo quarters; fortunately the windows don't lock) and stayed outside until after dark.
The next moring I woke up early and wandered around the hut area a bit. There's nothing like a mountain lake at dawn to stir the soul. After a quick breakfast I grabbed a waterbottle and headed up to the summit of Lafayette. Since I was feeling crowded up there the previous day, I being the first one up today would purge that feeling from my system. About half way up I noticed two of the adults from Mike's group headed down, they had gone up for dawn. This really bummed me out, because I had wanted to be up there first. After they passed me, I began to think how artificially being up there first was. I was going to get it all to myself, and that's what I was looking for. Some contemplative time on one of the most magnificent peaks in the Whites, did it matter if someone had been there before me? In short, the answer is no. I found out later that two other guys had camped out in the old foundations on top (don't do it, no water and no place to go to the bathroom, trust me). Then, a quick run back to the hut, and I passed many folks headed up to the summit. I grabbed my stuff from the hut, ran down Old Bridle Path, took some quick photos of the Cannon Cliffs and Profile Lake, and sped off to Boston. By two o'clock I was in the Arboretum, sniffing lilacs and enjoying a picnic lunch. It's amazing what you can do in a day.
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