07/15/2017- AT from Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch, NH Backpacking Trip

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I'm not sure about the dates of this trip. I would get occasional invites from the Tom T. Carmel Hikers to hike with them on Facebook. And I usually ignored them or replied no. But when I got an invitation to join them on a backpacking trip along the AT from Franconia Notch to Crawford I was interested. However, I was out of shape and the issues that I had encountered on the AT within the White Mountains in 2010 were still on my mind. But I wanted to complete the section of the AT between Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch, NH. So I signed up for this hike and made reservations.

On 07/15/2017 I made the loooong drive from northern Virginia to the Highland House Lodge within the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This lodge is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club of Boston, MA. It's not cheap but it is a nice facility to stay at. Got there late in the afternoon, had a nice dinner, then retired for the night. I was going to meet Linda Lambert's group at the Greenleaf Hut the next day. I would then hike back to Crawford Notch with this group.

On 07/16/2017 I took an AMC shuttle around to the Bridle Trail trailhead. Rather than hike the 7 mile AT from Franconia Notch to Greenleaf Hut I opted to hike the 4 mile Bridle Trail to the hut instead. I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was so wrong. While the climb was very pretty it was very rocky and steep. The weather, as I remember it, was good. I made it to the hut. But it took me 6 hours to do 4 miles! That wasn't good. So I checked into the hut, chilled and waited for Linda's group to arrive.

One or two hikers from her group arrived by around 5:00 PM. They were ready to serve dinner but Linda and some of her group had not shown up yet. I was a bit concerned. 6, then 7, then 8 o'clock went by and no Linda. Then, around 9:00 PM, Linda and 2 or 3 hikers from her party arrived. It had taken them close to 12 hours to do the 7 miles to the hut.

The Carmel crew was OK. They just had slow going on that difficult stretch of trail. While waiting I was talking to the 'croo' as well as other hikers. They told me that the stretch tomorrow between this hut and the next one, Galehead Hut, was just as bad if not worse. It was only 6.6 miles but it could take someone out of shape like myself 12 hours to hike it. And heavy rains were predicted for tomorrow. I was debating whether to just abort this trip or do something creative to not put myself into a potentially life threatening situation, again.

Some of the Carmel Crew were also concerned. So, after some discussion, myself and 2 of the Carmel hikers decided to wait out the storm at the Highland House Lodge that next night, then join the rest of their group at the Zealand Falls Hut the following night.

On 07/17/2017 myself, Debbie and another lady whose name escapes me, hiked back down the Bridle Trail after a good breakfast at the hut. It was easier going down than it was going up. It started raining as we got to the trailhead at I93. So we donned our raingear, then hiked over to a visitors center near Lafayette Place Campground to get out of the rain. We ate our lunch there, then started hiking eastbound on a bike trail parallel to I93 to where the Carmel hikers had parked their vehicle near the Franconia Notch underpass.

It was raining cats and dogs as we hiked this 3-4 mile stretch back to the van. It was a warm rain so it was enjoyable, though we didn't talk much during this stretch. We got back to the van, then got lost, then used a GPS to get first to a hostel in Gorham, NH. I don't remember why. While turning around at an AT parking lot some guy came running out of the woods saying that a bear was chasing him. We never saw the bear. We then drove around to the Highland Lodge. We saw a moose on the side of US302 just before the lodge. That was exciting. We got my vehicle, then drove the Carmel van down to where the AT crosses US302 and staged it there. We then drove my vehicle back to Highland House. We had a great dinner there and watched the pouring rain outside from the dining hall. We were glad that we were not hiking in this bad weather at that time.

The next morning, 07/18/2018 we drove my vehicle to the Zealand Trail head and hiked in the 2.5 mile Zealand River Trail to the Zealand Falls Hut. The trail was easy and level until we got to Zealand Falls, Then it was a steep up for a short bit. Then we arrived at the hut. We got there in the early afternoon so we had a lot of time to relax, chill and socialize. The bunk area in the Zealand Falls hut was updated within the last few years. They are three rows high and nestled into each side of the building. Very impressive looking. The Carmel hikers arrived between 3 and 4 that afternoon. They made great time. Again we had a great dinner. The 'croo' was great. Then we settled in for the night.

The final morning, 08/19/2018, we all started out at from the hut together on the AT. When we got to the junction with the Zealand River Trail I said goodbye and walked back to my vehicle. Thinking about this now I should have hiked out to Crawford Notch, which was about 7 miles away, had the Carmel Hikers shuttle me back to my vehicle, then stay another night at Highland House as I had a reservation there for another night that I had to forfeit. But I wanted to get home. So I hiked back to my car and made the looong drive home. It again started raining cats & dogs as I got to the NH/VT border on I91. I hope that the group didn't get rained on that day.

I am glad that I hiked to have fun and not to make myself miserable on this trip. Thanks to Linda Lambert and the Tom T. Carmel Hikers for inviting me along. I think that, when and if I do additional hikes on the AT in NH or ME, I will adopt this philosophy. In the end I may not technically hike all of the AT. But, at least I will have fun hiking it my way in the future.

Mike C

This is the last hike triplog that I have recreated for this web site. I said that I would get them all done by the end of 2018 and I did. I really enjoyed re-living these hikes by writing about them. I had old trip logs for most of them but I had to rely on my memory for some of them. Now, all I have to do is get the RV trip logs and pictures on the site and it will be complete.

Me @ Greenleaf Hut, NH
Me @ Greenleaf Hut, NH.
By Mike Calabrese
Me & Carmel Hikers @ Zealand Falls Hut
Me & Carmel Hikers @ Zealand Falls Hut.
By Mike Calabrese




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