Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fire Warden's Trail to Mount Hale Revisited

Today's forecast called for spectacular Spring conditions with warm temps and sunshine. After the rain and warm temps of last week as well as few trail reports the trail conditions were uncertain. I would be joining Jill and Larry today for a hike to Mount Hale (4,054') via the Fire Warden's Trail. Larry and I did this same hike back in January under very cold temperatures, -9°F to start. It was about 40°F warmer at the start of our hike today.

It was a beautiful start with blue sky and sunshine on the drive to the hike. Then BANG!! It happened in the blink of an eye, a partridge flew up from beside the road and struck the front of my car. I didn't see it in my rear view mirror so I stopped the first chance I got. This large bird was stuck in the broken grill of my car, kind of  like a large grill ornament. I tried to dig it out with my trekking pole but only managed to push it in next to the radiator. I kept on driving to the trailhead with feathers trailing behind me as I drove down the road. Earlier I had managed to avoid to deer that crossed in front of me.

We were all meeting at the end of Little River Road. I was the first to arrive. I saw fellow hiker Jason at the parking area cooking his breakfast. He let me borrow a screwdriver to try and remove part of my grill to get the bird out but that didn't work. I was finally able to use my trekking pole again to push the bird to an opening below the radiator and squeeze it through a small opening. It was a mess!

Larry arrived next and Jill soon afterward. There was no snow anywhere to be seen at the parking area. We were deciding whether or not to take our snowshoes because we were expecting snow at higher elevations. We made the decision not to take them but did bring our microspikes. The hike started on the other side of a bridge over the Little River. There was some good water flow but nothing too drastic. We would not need to rock hop across the Little River today.

It was a quick hike to Haystack Road, crossing another bridge to the North Twin Trailhead. We encountered our first snow on this trail, it was a monorail and the only snow to be found. It was short-lived and we were back to bare trail with occasional mud and water. We reached the tree that marks the beginning of the Fire Warden's Trail. Unfortunately someone has cut a notch in each side of the tree, quite unnecessary as this tree stands right in the middle of the trail and the Fire Warden's Trail can be easily seen to the right.

The lower part of the Fire Warden's Trail was bare, further up we ran into snow. There was soft snow to start. When the monorail became somewhat firm and solid we put on our microspikes. The snow got deeper as we got closer to the summit and there was the occasional posthole. Snow and ice was melting off the trees and raining down on us. I put on a waterproof layer. Just before reaching the summit there is a spectacular view of Mount Washington. There's a slight dip in the trail and then we emerged from a tunnel-like opening through the trees onto a cleared summit.

The viewless summit was bare with snow around the edges. We ate lunch while basking in the warm sunshine. Steam was rising off the summit cairn. We had the summit to ourselves. I checked out the Hale Brook Trail and Lend-A-Hand Trail, there were no fresh tracks coming up to the summit. A few viewless photos and it was time to begin our descent. It was the same hike in reverse starting with the microspikes and waterproof layer. As we got past the dripping trees the waterproof layer came off, past the snow the microspikes were removed. It was a pleasant hike back to the parking area.

April can be a difficult time of year to hike with varying trail conditions throughout the mountains. It's probably the reason we saw no other hikers all day which surprised me given the beautiful springtime weather. I expect there will be some challenging trails before the snow is all gone which will make for some continued interesting Spring hiking.

Enjoy the photos!

Madison and Adams under blue sky on the drive to the hike

Trail to Haystack Road starts on the other side of the bridge

Little River

The hike starts here

Little River just before the North Twin Trail

North Twin Trail starts here

Ice has fallen off the ledges

The only remaining snow is on the trail

Vernal pool

Will not be crossing the Little River on the rocks today

Small water crossing

Mushroom tree

The tree that marks the turn onto the Fire Warden's Trail

Bare ground on the Fire Warden's Trail but not for long

Snow on the trail

Birch glade

Sun shining down through a dripping wet forest

Muddy crossing

Easy under blowdown

Old Man's Beard

View of Mount Washington from the Fire Warden's Trail

Bent tree just before the summit

Larry is on the summit

Jill emerges from the Fire Warden's Trail onto the summit

Standing on the summit cairn

Hale Brook Trail

Lend-A-Hand Trail

Hikers can be seen making their way to the summit of Mount Washington

The top of the chairlift on West Mountain at Bretton Woods

Microspikes are about to come off

Bare boots the rest of the way

Crossing the bridge over the Little River back to the parking area

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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