North and South Kinsman Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 03/23/2013 - 03/23/2013
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
The Lonesome Lake Trail to the Hut is always nice. It is a rewarding workout with great views if the weather is right. The side trail to frozen Kinsman Pond is worth the bother, casually stretched...
Follow Interstate 93 north until it becomes the Fraconia Notch Parkway. Trailhead parking for this hike is available on either side of the parkway. Northbound, pass Parkway exit 1 and the unnumbered exit for The Basin. After the road narrows to one lane in this direction, drive about a quarter of a mile farther and take the next unnumbered exit for trailhead parking. A pedestrian underpass allows you to safely cross the highway to reach Lonesome Lake Trailhead.
Southbound, depart the highway at the well-marked exit for Lafayette Place Campground. As you turn off the parkway, trailhead parking will be immediately on the left. If you wish to park on this side, but you're heading north, you must drive all the way through the notch to the Tramway exit [number two] and return southbound.
We'll be driving a blue Toyota FJ Cruiser and will meet at the Lonesome Lake Trailhead sign.
Kevin said it was his first winter hike of the season. We mentioned it was actually spring. We looked around at the windy, snowy, blizzard-like conditions and laughed. Spring? Yeah...right.
We arrived at Lafayette Place with wind, snow and blizzard-like conditions. Wisps of snow danced across the pavement, like a mixture of feathers and dust. Alex and Kevin were taking care of final hiking preparations when Jon & I arrived at 8:30. We walked to the trailhead. At the trailhead, there was a few inches of fresh snow. We put on our snowshoes and had them on for the full hike; except for Kevin and Alex who took them off on the descent.
The wind took the snow and covered up any tracks ahead of us so it looked like we were the first in. Ten minutes later, we all stopped to strip off a layer. No, this was not some sort of strip show, but instead a very important regulation of body heat. Now, I was down to wearing a shell over my poly-pro top and synthetic shirt, in this 25 degree temperature. The energy I expended was more than sufficient to maintain a warm, comfort level.
The trail slabbed along the side of this incline, gradually adding elevation as we went. We then saw divots in the snow and caught up with the pair ahead of us bare-booting. Overall, we were packing out the trail pretty well. Four sets of snowshoes were leaving a very nice track, evidently the base trail underneath the recent snow was in pretty good shape.
One switchback and a few twisting turns made the first mile disappear quickly. We walked up to our first trail intersection sign, and the edge of Lonesome Lake at about 2650 feet elevation. The snowy white of the winter season covered the entire pond, like the freshly made sheets of a military bed. However, underneath that innocuous cloak, lay the uneasiness if the pond was safe to walk across. There was not any evidence of any tracks crossing it. Could this innocuous, pristine looking pond, instantly swallow up any hiker foolish enough to test the strength of its ice? We were at a high elevation and it still had been cold; especially at night. It was windy with snow blowing around so we added a layer, put on our hoods and made the journey across. Old man winter was stubborn in relinquishing his grip, hence today's short blasts of the white stuff. Off I went on the lead where we all crossed safely quickly depositing us on the west side, a short distance from Lonesome Lake Hut. While gazing across the lake's edge, a steady stream of falling snow rained down upon us.
Our next mark was Kinsman Junction, 2.3 miles up the Fishin Jimmy trail. The crunching path guided us on a winding course. It slabbed along the lower side of Kinsman Ridge before angling more steeply upward and pushing directly at Kinsman Pond. The loose snow on top of a the steep sections made for some tough climbing. Except for Kevin, we raised the Televators (heel bars) of our snowshoes and climbed. The aggressive nature of our snowshoes made climbing the steep sections much less difficult. On this day, the trees displayed a white crust, like drop-cloths covering the furniture in an abandoned house. Underneath, it awaited the unhurried buzz of mother nature's alarm clock that spring had arrived.
At the Kinsman Junction, we were standing on more than five feet of hard packed snow, now at 3900 feet. We decided to check out the shelter [0.1 mile off the trail] and go inside to have lunch since the high winds on the summit would make it difficult for us to stay idle for too long. Following a much needed food tank-up, we went to check out Kinsman Pond. The frozen, snow free, blue surface begged to be captured by anyone's camera. The wind and snow was blasting at the roots of our hair, with a determination only a mountain winter storm could produce. It felt like we accidently dropped into Alaska. The only missing accessory were polar bears. We could only imagine the conditions higher up, so we put on extra layers; with Kevin deciding to put on his North Korean terrorist Ninja outfit.
From here on, the trees simply grew shorter with heavy snow, icicles dripping off the edges. Their stunted growth exhibiting the harsh climate of their surrondings. As we pushed on, with only a half a mile to the North Kinsman summit, the wind had subsided to our delight.
Step by step, we marched, I maintained a toasty warm body temperature from within my enclave. Mere inches from my nose the frosty flakes zoomed past, dispatched by this late season snow shower. Incidental fluffy snow particles pelted us. These were full winter conditions.
Only a short time after leaving Kinsman Junction, we all arrived on the summit. It's just a bump next to a cairn right before you hit the great ledges that face west. We went to the main ledges imagining the view of the Franconia Ridge on a nice day.
Leaving North Kinsman the trail was well packed and relatively easy to follow. The trail drops fairly quickly from the North summit. We really enjoyed the beautiful snow covered trees. The clouds seemed to be lifting so we were hoping that perhaps we would get some views today after all. We got to South Kinsman and had the place all to ourselves. It's a great feeling to have a summit to ourselves, not a worry in the world.
As we headed back, we were lucky for mother nature to give us the great view back to North Kinsman; if only a moment. Alex pointed to a view of Kinsman Pond. Normally our attention on a nice day is focused on the views all around us so it was the first time any of us realized there was a view of the pond from this direction. It seemed very quick getting back to North Kinsman. After a rest, water and a snack we headed back down for good. We were able to catch views of Cannon Mountain from the ridge on the descent.
The amount of snow on the trail made the descent pretty enjoyable. Alex shared a couple of magic carpets; Alex carried one while Jon the other. Alex and Kevin enjoyed sliding down the steep sections.
The trail was more consolidated as we descended so Kevin and Alex took their snowshoes off. We cruised to the trailhead. The final walk out from Lonesome Lake had no surprises. We enjoyed a nice snowshoe track all of the way back to the trailhead.
Thanks Alex and Kevin. Spending a day in the mountains with you guys is always a treat. This one would have been a tough winter hike, if it was still winter.
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What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event
- Somebody forget to tell the Mountain Gods we have moved onto spring. This hike was a powder hounds delight & memorable experience. - JDNnh
- What a treat whole this trip was for me!! Hiking with 3 probably the most experienced hikers from GO was pretty special to me. Spring has not arrived there yet but climbing with 3 wing men + 2 Kinsman kept me constantly hot and safe in that harsh condition :). 11 miles was not long enough distance for Alex, but we surely did some long butt sliding that I will remember for a long time:) Thank you J&M so much for leading this trip and comforting dinner. See you all soon in that brilliant na - liketodo