Given our day of strenuous hiking on Day 1, Dan and I slept like rocks and woke up a little stuff but generally no worse for wear. There wasn’t any running water around so we got by with melted snow to cook our breakfast. My JetBoil performed like a champ and I had brought a little extra fuel so it wasn’t a big deal. Our oatmeal and coffee went down quickly and we headed out toward some of the most beautiful ridge line trail in the Whites. This day would take us over Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln, Mount Lafayette and Mount Garfield. The alpine zone that stretches over the first three is nearly devoid of trees and presents you with amazing views in all directions. We were blessed with clear weather – possibly the best hiking I’ve done in New Hampshire.
As we left our campsite, we had about a mile to go to reach the summit of Little Haystack. The climb wasn’t too bad and we made it to the top rather quickly. As you come up to to top of Little Haystack, you break the trees briefly and get some great views. I took a bunch of shots back toward Mount Liberty and Mount Flume just so we could remember where we had come from. The views were unreal with an amazing, clear sky. Proceeding over Little Haystack and toward Lincoln, you break the tree line and have nothing but ridge trail in front of you. It is really phenomenal hiking in such gorgeous country. The pictures really speak for themselves.
The top of Lincoln was great and we made it up in no time. There were a bunch of folks on the trail and while I prefer solitude, it was nice to sit and chat with folks. The trail through this section is well maintained but, as you’d imagine, rather rocky. It would be pretty easy to turn an ankle if you’re not paying attention. I hit some loose stone a couple of times but nothing catastrophic. The effort of the climb was once again rewarded with some great landscape. The hike over to Lafayette was similar – all open, sunny, and windy. You can see the summit of Lafayette from Lincoln and you don’t drop down too far between the two. All in all, a great section of trail.
The hike down from Lafayette over toward Garfield was a bear. It was a steep decline that was complicated by a lot of melting snow. It was rather treacherous in places and we took our time. It also dropped very far down so the climb up to Garfield was lengthy. I always hate losing altitude! We stopped for lunch at the first running water – you hit some small streams once you get below the tree line on the north side of Lafayette on the Garfield Ridge Trail. This section is on the Appalachian Trail so you’ll see both the trail name and the AT symbol on maps. The forest on this section is wild, almost primordial. There is a lot of moisture and moss covers everything. It lays like a think carpet on the ground and grows up the trees, cover the first couple feet of the trunks. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before. We also so a lot of snow here, more than anywhere else on the hike. It made for some interesting sliding in places!
The hike up to Garfield was tough but came with a nice surprise. You break the tree line right at the summit so it sort of sneaks up on you. You can’t tell how far you have left until you’re right on top. It was nice to pop out of the trees and be greeted once again with great views. The is the foundation of an old fire tower (I think) on the top of Garfield with great 360 views.
At the top of Garfield, we had a decision to make. There was weather rolling in and while we would’ve been fine for the night, the hike out in the morning would have been a wet one. Our intent was to hike to 13 Falls Tentsite and camp there for the night. As luck would have it, there was a couple on the top of Garfield that had a car parked at Lincoln Woods but also at the parking area at the end of the Garfield Trail. This little bit of Trail Magic gave us the option to hike out that evening instead of staying an extra day in the rain. We were both tired, so Dan and I decided to hike the 4.8 miles out. It was a long walk downhill to end the day but we were looking forward to nachos and beer! A big thanks to that couple – we would’ve been drowned rats without you!
The Whites were challenging as they always are – the trip wore me out! That said, it was a fantastic hike and I would strongly recommend a long weekend on this section of trail. Dan and I had a great time and will definitely be up there again.