Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Up Old Bridle Path and Down Hard on Falling Waters Trail

There was beautiful weather in the forecast so it seemed like a perfect day for a Franconia Ridge loop hike. I would be joining fellow hikers Jill, Brian, Larry, Eric and Mark for a clockwise hike of this loop. I've always done it counter-clockwise. Our route would take us up the Old Bridle Path to Greenleaf Hut then up the Greenleaf Trail to the summit of Mount Lafayette (5,260'). We would then hike across the Franconia Ridge Trail, one of the most beautiful trails in the White Mountains, crossing over Mount Lincoln (5,089') and on to Mount Haystack before turning onto the Falling Waters Trail descending back to the parking lot to complete the loop.

We all met in the parking lot at 7:30 and there was still plenty of space available. There was a cool breeze blowing as we started our hike. We got to the fork in the trail where the Falling Waters Trail turns to the right and we continued on the Old Bridle Path. There were wildflowers starting to bloom along this section of trail. As we climbed higher there was a few pockets of ice but they were well hidden away and presented no problem. The open ledges offered great views and we were out of the wind with a warm sun shining on us.

The Greenleaf Hut was open with a caretaker but not full service. We sat there and had a snack enjoying the views and sunshine. On the Greenleaf Trail we coninued our climb to the summit of Mount Lafayette. There was a deteriorating monorail but no traction was needed. Up above treeline the wind was blowing and it was getting colder. There were a few patches of ice on the rocks that required attention but easy to walk around. We were starting to see many hikers.

Up at the summit I put on a windproof layer. We were able to get down among the rocks to avoid the wind and it was quite warm and comfortable. Had a quick snack and some photos then we started our hike across Franconia Ridge. The weather was spectacular and the views were amazing along this trail. The hikers just kept coming as we made our way over to Mount Lincoln. I took many photos along the way and a few videos. There were gliders flying overhead.

We stopped just short of the Mount Lincoln summit as it was getting crowded. After some more photos we continued over the summit without stopping, just too many people. The next stop was Mount Haystack and there was even more people on this summit. We found our on spot among the rocks and the crowd to eat some lunch. After a nice break we started our descent on the Falling Waters Trail.

There were many hikers coming up this trail. It was not long before we were confronted with a rotting monorail. We put on our micropsikes and continued on past the continuous line of hikers. I'd have to say that this was the most hikers that I have ever seen on a trail. The monorail started to become intermittent and so ther was a lot of walking on bare rocks and mud with the microspikes. When I thought we were past the last of the monorails I took off my micropsikes.

Then it happened.
In a blink of an eye and a fraction of a second I instantaneously slipped on a small, smooth ledge in the trail and fell down as my head was violently thrust against a boulder beside the trail. I did not lose consciousness but I was stunned to the point where I could not get up. I released my pack and laid back on it. Brian was behind me and saw the whole thing and I knew the fall had to look as bad as I felt. Larry and Mark were in front of me and they all helped gather up my gear that went flying in the fall. My head took the biggest hit and that is what concerned me the most. There was a little blood coming from my left temporal area but nothing like I would have expected from a head wound. My left elbow also took a big hit as well as my left hip. I sat there for a couple of minutes while I assessed my injuries and tried to gather my wits. It did not appear that I had broken any bones so I slowly got up. There was no injuries that prevented me from moving so I wanted to continue the descent thinking that if I sat there much longer shock might set in. While putting on my pack I found that I had also wrenched my back in the fall and it was quite painful. We went around a bend in the trail where Jill and Eric were waiting. I felt like I might do better if I was able to lighten my load so the others split up some of the contents of my pack and it was a big help.

We all continued down with approximately two miles to go before reaching the parking lot. The Falling Waters Trail is not the easiest trail to descend with steep sections and water crossings. It took concentration and focus for me to make my way down but there was always somebody in front of me and behind me to help if I needed it as well as to point out potential hazards such as roots, rocks and logs across the trail at head level. I never let on how bad I was feeling to the others thinking that it would make me feel even worse. The trail got tricky down around the waterfalls where there was some ledge scrambling and wet areas. I carefully maneuvered over these obstacles and continued on.

The trail seemed to go on forever and I was glad to see the bridge over Walker Brook that meant the parking lot was near. When I got to my car I looked in the mirror to check out my head wound. There was dried blood on my face coming down from my left temple. I pulled off my Under Armour layer that was stuck to my elbow with dried blood. I was still not feeling well but thought if I had just hiked two miles down the Falling Waters Trail I could drive myself to the emergency room even though Brian had offered to drive me. I said my goodbyes and headed to the Androscoggin Valley Hospital ER.

I arrived at the emergency room to find that my former primary care physician, now an ER doctor, was on duty. He ordered a CAT scan of my head and neck, x-ray of the pelvis and elbow. To my relief everything came back normal even though I was feeling far from normal. I was given a tetanus shot and a Toradol injection that helps with pain and inflammation. I was released with recommendation to follow-up with my primary care physician.

I consider myself to be very lucky as it would not have taken much more for this to have become a rescue operation requiring many people to safely transport me down off of the Falling Waters Trail. I take all the precautions, have all the essentials, was hiking with others, have a hunting/fishing license and was carrying a SPOT personal tracker. While this did not prevent me from slipping it improved my chances had the situation been worse. Had I literally taken two more steps before removing my microspikes I am confident that I would not have slipped. But it was a dry ledge and I thought nothing of it having stepped on dry and wet ledges all day without traction. It's a stark reminder how fast an accident can happen to even the most prepared hiker. We all except that risk when we venture out into the mountains.

The first steps on our hiking adventure

Walker Brook

Painted trillium

Red trillium

Not sure what happened with this tree 

Hobblebush blooming

Arrow points the way

First view toward Franconia Ridge

Climbing some steep ledges

Mount Liberty in the distance

A brief stop to take in the views

Following that ridgeline up ahead

Looking up at Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln

Eric, Jill, Larry and Mark enjoying the views

Climbing more steep ledges

A view south

Brian enjoying the views

Greenleaf Hut

Eagle Lake from Greenleaf Hut

Eagle Lake and Franconia Ridge

Greenleaf Trail passes through the clearing down below

Passing by Eagle Lake

Looking back at Greenleaf Hut

Greenleaf Hut

A bit of deteriorating monorail

Brian walking on the monorail

Eric, Brian and Jill stopping  for photos

Brian and Jill heading up Mount Lafayette

Cannon Mountain ski trails and Echo Lake far below

On the summit of Mount Lafayette

Zooming in on Mount Garfield

Mountain view through an opening in the rocks

Just chillin'

Franconia Ridge

Larry heads out across Franconia Ridge

Some of the trail skirts the edge of the ridge

The Old Bridle Path follows this ridgeline

Brian enjoying the view from Franconia Ridge

Just me enjoying the day on Franconia Ridge

A look back at Mount Lafayette

Mount Lincoln up ahead

A view into the Pemigewasset Wilderness

Lonesome Lake Hut across Franconia Notch

Bondcliff in the foreground

Mark, Larry, Eric and Jill waiting up ahead

Another look back at Mount Lafayette

Greenleaf Hut

Mount Flume and Mount Liberty

Mark walking beside the monorail on Falling Waters Trail

Eric, Larry and Mark walking beside a diminishing monorail

Lots of water flow created spectacular waterfalls

Walking wounded but safely back at the trailhead

That fall made a massive bruise on my left hip and thigh

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. nice report--glad no major injuries on your fall.

  2. Wow, what a fall! I had mentioned, in an earlier comment, that hiking alone was dangerous, but I'm not rubbing it in. Hiking is a lot better than sitting in a recliner! I am glad to see that you made it down safely and with the help of hiking companions. My days of doing what you do are over, I have to settle with walking on nearly level ground. (nerve damage in my left leg) Thanks for sharing your hikes!

    1. After two weeks of rest and recuperation I was able to get back out this past weekend for a hike. I paid close attention to the trail conditions and carefully watched my footing. I made it up and down the ledges of Mount Moriah without slipping or falling. It was a great hike!