Water World

Date of Hike: 9/2/11 & 9/3/11

Lincoln Woods Trail: 5.8 miles

Falling Waters Trail: 3.2 miles
Franconia Ridge: 1.7 miles
Greenleaf Trail / Old Bridle Path: 4.0 miles

Great Gulf / Sphinx Trail: 11.7 miles

Trip Report:
- After two weeks off to heal it was time to head back up north to go hiking.  Originally I was going to head up to the Adirondacks to finish off the Forty-Six High Peaks but Hurricane Irene came through and all trails to six of the eight remaining peaks I have left are closed so I headed up to the White Mountains instead.
- I got up to New Hampshire early in the morning on Friday to beat the holiday weekend traffic and I spent the morning working.  On my lunch break I headed over to Lincoln Woods to check out some of the damage along everyone's favorite trail, the Lincoln Woods Trail!
- There were some washouts along the trails, some major erosion creating steep cliffs dropping off into the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, but overall the section up until the wilderness boundary is still the same as it ever was....kind of boring!
- After my lunch break it was back to work until 5pm where I headed to Franconia Notch to catch sunset on the Franconia Ridge.

 Erosion from high water flow during the storm
Trail washout
Washout near a foot bridge on the Lincoln Woods Trail

- The start of the trail up until the Old Bridle Path / Falling Waters Trail split is heavily eroded (couple of feet deep trench), the footing is awful with loose rocks and tree roots exposed from the Walker Brook jumping its banks during the storm.
- The weather was perfect while hiking up the Falling Waters Trail, and the mist drifting from Stairs Falls, Swiftwater Falls, and Cloudland Falls felt very refreshing while working up a sweat ascending.
- Along the way I came across about a dozen hikers all descending back to Lafayette Place.  A few were concerned that I was hiking to late but I assured them I had meant to get a late start.
- I was thrilled about catching a great sunset on the Franconia Ridge and I could not wait to get above treeline on Little Haystack to look out at the big views with Franconia Notch on one side and the Pemigewasset Wilderness on the other.
- Unfortunately as soon as I reached Little Haystack clouds came out of nowhere and would ruin the sunset.  The weather forecast called for clear skies through the early evening, well not on the ridge, I was socked in!  I waited for a few minutes hoping for a quick clearing of the skies but started to get chilled so I booked it over to Lafayette in thirty minutes.
- There wasn't anyone on the ridge, but there were a group of three guys huddled up out of the wind where the old foundation ison Mount Lafayette.  I chatted it up with them for a few minutes, they where doing Semi-Pemi-Loop over three days and taking a break to warm up and refuel before heading along the ridge to spend the night at Liberty Spring Campsite.
- I quickly hiked down the Greenleaf Trail towards the hut hoping to descend below the clouds to catch some sunset but I was in the clouds the whole way.  It was a bummer but the good news is my ACL/MCL and ankle issues from the past two hikes were holding up great!
- At the hut I went inside to refill my water before stepping back outside where I had my dinner while sitting on the steps before heading back to the car.  One guy thought I was Coo-Coo Bananas for hiking at night, I thought he was going to call me an idiot!
- The rest of the way back to the car went fast, I wanted to test out my knee and ankle so I jogged down most of the way, everything felt fine.

Waterfall along the Falling Waters Trail
Clouds coming up from Franconia Notch on Little Haystack
Hiking along the Franconia Ridge

- On Saturday I woke up to thunderstorms and heavy rain, I had wanted to hike up the Jewell Trail and over the the Sphinx Trail to do trail work but I ended up heading over to the Great Gulf Trailhead and waiting for the rain to pass and then I started the long 5.6 mile hike into the Great Gulf Wilderness to the Sphinx Trail.
- The Great Gulf Trail is boring until one reaches the "Bluff" 2.5 miles in.  Over the next three miles the trail becomes more and more secluded as it travels closely by the West Branch, passes by the site where the Great Gulf Shelters used to be, and then past beautiful cascades as the trail become rougher.  the trails was pretty water-logged in spots but the brook crossings where still pretty easy.
- I finally reached the Sphinx trail and immediately rain into small blowdowns which where easy to clear.  I also trimmed back branches that where hanging in the trail.  The trail had seen lots of water from the Hurricane Irene but the going was fine, nothing major as I crossed the brook once, and then twice.  I kept clearing the minor blowdowns and trimming back branches as I approached the third crossing of the brook where the cascades would start to begin. 
- At this point I looked up and saw ahead of me there was a wall of downed trees blocking access to the crossing, it looked bad, then as i got closer it got really bad.  When I was finally able to look over the wall of downed trees I could see the brook was now clogged with uprooted trees, rock, and gravel.  The steep bank above the brook a few hundred feet up had given out causing a small landslide and whiping out the trail. 
- I bushwhacked into the destruction, took a couple of pictures and got the hell out of there because I didn't feel safe.  I couldn't find where the trail went, but it's definitely destroyed for at least a few hundred feet and maybe more.  If it hadn't rained in the morning I would have taken more of a risk to see more of the damage but I played it safe and turned around and started to hike out.
- I ran into a bunch of people backpacking and hiking on the way out, I let them know what I ran into, however no one was heading to the Sphinx...it's such a lightly traveled trail, which under normal circumstance is to bad because it's a spectacular trail.

View up to The Presidential Range from the West Branch
Hiking along The Great Gulf Trail
Cascade along the Great Gulf Trail


  1. You had a very eventful couple of days of hiking! The photos you've posted thus far from this trip are awesome! And last but certainly not least, let's keep fingers crossed that the damage to the Sphinx Trail is not overly extensive and is something that is capable of being repaired. Is it practical to consider doing some sort of a short re-route?


  2. I'm with John. Hopeful that FS will be smart and opt for re-routes and not close trails. So much history! Warren Hart (original trail blazer in the Great Gulf) would reopen these trails. Let me know if you need help in clearing or maybe you are leaving it to AMC. Might be a job for the pro crew. Thanks for your work!

  3. Um, wow. I just saw the photos on VFTT, that's something else. It seems like some places were barely touched and then other places have seen quite a bit of destruction. I agree with the others, let us hope that your trail can be cleared and reopened.

  4. I was in that exact same spot on the Lincoln Woods trail the very next day