Franconia Notch/I-93(1812)-Garfield Ridge Campsite(1822.5) New Hampshire
Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook’s AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.
Since we are going through the Whites this leg, things are going to be different. Mileages are going to be much lower for multiple reasons. Camping is limited to designated sites, the terrain and elevation changes will slow us down, and the scenery will be worth slowing down to really enjoy it and take it in. Unlike the other legs, there is a lot less flexibility through the Whites and it is helpful to plan out the days ahead of time. We had two plans mapped out in case we didn’t make the mileage we hoped today. Ideally, the plan was to do 17mi today, which seems very low, but we heard that even doing a 20mi day in the Whites is not advised if we really want to enjoy it. The goal was to get to the trail by 7am so we could get a good start and Ninja was going to hike in to spend the first night with us. If we found the higher mileage to be too much, we had a Plan B with a shorter first day in and a longer final day out.
I woke up at 5:15am well before my alarm and did a couple things before quietly going into the kitchen so I wouldn’t wake anyone. Who was sitting there at 5:30am eating breakfast and full of kinetic energy? Jett Cat of course! Yep, I think this partnership will work out just fine. We noticed it was raining a lot and the forecast had it clearing after 1pm. Ninja came down and after much consideration, we decided to go with Plan B. The scenery today was supposed to be some of the best of the whole trail, so we agreed that waiting until after lunch would be our best chance to dodge the rain and see Franconia Ridge. We hung out for the morning as it poured outside and we watched the PCT documentary, As It Happens, which was filmed in 2011. That was when Ninja and I hiked it on a record high snow year. It was fun to watch it together and it made all of us yearn for the PCT.
At 11am, we headed out as the rain was slowing. Ninja, Jett Cat, and I ate Subway and Sweetfish’s dad Bob drove us to the trail. We took a starting photo and had to laugh at how big Jett Cat’s pack looks with the rain cover over it. Her trail name was originally Jett Pack given how it looks with the rain cover, but it evolved to Jett Cat when people were repeatedly mishearing it. She said it weighs about 39lbs coming out of town which is over 10lbs more than my pack weight and we plan to weigh it next leg. Either way, it’s really impressive that she pulls out the miles with a decent pack size. Her body just adjusted to it and doesn’t know any different.
As we climbed up, there was a couple hours of forested hiking as the fog and clouds actually lifted and we timed it perfectly! The first view we got was looking south where we had come from. A view!
Then the big moment came when we got to see Franconia Ridge! We got to walk on the spine of this ridge for hours as we went over Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette. Ninja was pumped and did her ninjups at the first viewpoint.
We took our time taking pictures and really taking it in and we were glad to have waited out the rain and clouds. I’m also really glad that I waited for Jett Cat. We both agreed that sharing this together made it infinitely more fun and I don’t think I’ve smiled or laughed this much in a long time. It’s all been well worth the wait!
The lower mileage day was perfect as it was still strenuous hiking and made the day more enjoyable for all of us. This more leisurely hiking made us feel like it was a short backpacking trip rather than a thru hike. Jett Cat and I have been doing pretty big days leading up to this and we both felt very relaxed to not have to push and just enjoy the day. It’s in both of our nature to hammer out miles, but having this predetermined lower mileage schedule is going to be a nice change of pace for both of us now that there are things worth slowing down for. It was just a great day.
As we walked along the ridge, it was like we couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. Clouds would roll in and out and clear as we walked through. We’d look back on where we came and it would be cloud covered and then clearing as we walked forward.
Our final mountain of the day was Garfield as evening was coming and it was just perfect! Jett cat carries a GoPro with a wide angle lens that has a remote to her phone and we were able to get this great shot.
We camped at Garfield campsite which is $8/person since it is a high use area. There are tent platforms and the caretaker asked that the three of us try to fit on one platform. I brought screw in hooks just in case, but I was able to stake out my tent with a combination of the eyelets on the sides of the tent pad and wedging my stakes between the boards. Ninja ended up using the screw in hooks and they worked great!
It was a late night by the time we got all situated and the temps dropped into the 40s so we got to use our winter gear for the first time in forever. It’s going to be a wet night of condensation as all our tents are already covered in moisture. It’s perfect for snuggling into my sleeping bag. Just a great day!