I was looking to get away from Boston, get away from people, and have a little self time in the woods. There was still snow up north even though we had experienced a regular heat wave down south. People had reported some serious snow up near treeline, so I made sure I was carrying my snowshoes and I headed north early on Saturday morning. The trail I chose was the Kinsman Trail, an infrequently used access to the Kinsman Range that I hoped would give me the solitude I was looking for. The trailhead is a non-descript driveway on the Easton/Franconia line. Look for the heavy machinery and the stone gateposts.
The trail starts out as a woods road. At the various intersections and driveways, there are wooden sign arrows pointing the way. It can be confusing, stay on the most well defined roadway. It winds up through pine forests, past a nice firewood operation before hitting a muddy section where the trailbed goes around. Right after that is a fork, turn right, over a wooden bridge, and continue on the roadbed. You'll pass a sugar shack for a maple syrup operation, and after crossing a second wooden bridge, the trail makes a sharp right, off the roadway and onto a true trail. There's a nondescript arrow and sign board that aren't apparent if you're not looking. Here I met the first other people of the day, two hikers coming down due to the snow and their lack of gear. I congratulated myself on my decision and pressed on.
The trail turns into a trail from here on out, going over a few significant stream crossings and climbing a lot more. The trillium and hornbeam were blooming, cheering up a slightly overcast and gloomy day, and there's lots of moose sign. Just past a nice waterfall and another stream crossing is a sign for the Flume. The guidebook called it a smaller version of the famous one in Franconia Notch and the other time I'd been up here I missed out, so this time I was determined to go. And you should too, because it's a lovely place. The trail down is barely adequate, but the water has cut through an igneous dike and made a wonderful site. The moss on the rocks and sound of fast flowing water and the sense of being alone in the world would have made the trip north worthwhile without taking another step. I tried to capture the scene in video (video 4.1 meg), but I don't think I did it justice (video, 3 meg). Just go. Back on the trail it's just a short jaunt to the next trail junction, this time with the spur trail to Bald Knob. Another 5 minute walk brought me to a beautiful open spot with barely a site of human intrusion. Cannon and the Kinsmans were right above me, but I got a good look at the weather and knew it wouldn't be a spectacular view from up top.
Back on the trail, and soon, I came across the first signs of snow. The trail was a bit of a streambed in places, and now the snow was getting deeper and I began to posthole. At first it wasn't a big deal, occasionally my foot would drop 6 inches or so. But soon I was up to my knee, my thigh, my waist, and I decided to put on the snowshoes. Which worked great, for the next 100 yards, but then I encountered a few bare spots, then a completely bare trail. The snowshoes came off for another tenth of a mile, then snow again. I struggled without snowshoes for a bit, and it was getting exhausting. Being alone, and with no signs of footprints in the snow I knew there was no one above me, I was getting a bit worried about my safety. If you want to read more about those thoughts, read this.
I went for another fairly long section with snowshoes, starting at the small ladder. Gradually, the trees began to thin, and I could see the mountains of Franconia Ridge, so I knew I was near the junction. Once on the Kinsman Ridge trail I knew the trail well enough to know that it was only a short distance to the top, even though the snow was still an issue. There were fresh tracks in the snow, and I expected to find people up top. Sure enough, as I swung around the last bend before the summit I heard voices from the ledges, the first people I'd seen or heard in about 4 hours. It felt pretty good, I must say. They were four Harvard seniors taking a spring hike to get out of Cambridge. They had snowshoes, but one was wearing sneakers, an interesting combination. After a fairly brief summit stay with Franconia Ridge as a backdrop, we all headed down, plunge stepping the steeper snow, which made life much easier for those without boots.
Only 15 minutes after I left the other group at the Kinsman trail junction I saw a bright flash and the thunder boomed right over my head. It was a bit scary, although probably not very dangerous as I was well into the trees by then. The rain held off a bit more, then started in earnest. I didn't put snowshoes back on for the descent, and in fact it went a little easier since I could tell the worst of the postholes before I got to them. I did find new footprints which followed me up but turned around before the ridge. I caught up with a couple of folks resting just before the trail turns back into the logging road who were hoping to avoid the snow but found more than they expected. The rest of the journey was a speedy traverse of the logging road, I was ready to get back to the car and change out of my wet clothes and get out of my boots.
It's a nice dayhike, with far fewer people than the Lonesome Lake/Fishin' Jimmy trip and two nice diversions along the way. The trailhead is less obvious, and it's pretty easy to lose the trail down low, but worth the effort.
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