Saturday, November 20, 2021
Start/end: Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters trailhead
Elevation gain: 8310′
I was up at 5am and on trail by 6am. I had to stop a few times to make layering adjustments – once on the way up to the hut to take off my jacket as the sun rose and then again at the hut, to put the jacket back on and add my fleece hat and glove shells to protect me from the winds. I made the summit of Lafayette by 8:30am and then headed along the ridge. The wind was gusting around 40 MPH, but when it was calm, the weather was perfect; the wind settled down within an hour or two, making for a beautiful, bluebird kind of day. Along the ridge, there were snow drifts up to 3′ deep, though most of the snow was 6-9″. I was the first person out this morning, so a few areas took some concentration to stay on trail.
I made good time and headed off of Haystack and over to Liberty by 10:30am. Near the summit of Flume, there were people with 4-5 unleashed dogs and two of them charged me. They didn’t respond to the person calling them initially, and the people didn’t seem to care about their dogs’ aggressive behavior. They just kept calling to the dogs, while the dogs continued to growl and stand just out of reach of my trekking poles, which I was holding up as a barrier between us. Once the dogs drew back a bit, I quickly hiked through, hoping I wouldn’t feel a dog’s teeth on my calves. The people didn’t say anything but looked at me like there was something wrong with me for being unfriendly to their dogs. At that point, I decided that I’d rather go down the slide than go back over and down Liberty Springs. I hate Liberty Springs descent unless it’s slideable in winter and I didn’t want the dogs at my heels the whole way.
The slide was trecherous as expected, and required a lot of tree hugging to get down safely. At one of the creek crossings lower down, it was just cold enough that the water splashing on the rocks had formed a clear icy layer. I ended up falling as I rock hopped, bruising one butt cheek and dunking one foot and one hand in the cold water. Once on the bank, I swapped out for a pair of dry gloves and kept on moving. I bushwhacked off the turn to hit the bike path, and then hiked along the Basin to get to towards Lafayette Place and the Cannon/Lonesome Lake trailhead. I headed up, taking the right to cut up Hi-Cannon Trail. I passed a number of people descending, but didn’t meet anyone else heading up. The ladder was a bit icy but still very manageable; there were a few other icy spots, but nothing too bad. The afternoon light offered some beautiful views of Franconia Ridge. I made the Cannon summit by 3:30pm, after carefully avoiding the large pools of standing water on trail. I then scurried back down to my car, and managed to get there quickly enough to avoid using a headlamp.