A Downfall of Social Media
I know you’ll know what I mean when I say that social media can be a bit unrealistic. Only a bit, of course. We’ve all seen a million places on Instagram and blogs that we are dying to visit. And we’ve all made it to destinations that have been totally amazing, but their social media portrayals have certainly been misleading.
Well the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is one place that to me, felt just as magical and transformative as tumblr had led me to believe it would be. I hadn’t been misled by strategic angles or cropping in Instagram photos.
When I walked along that ridge, I could feel nothing but sky wrap around me on either side, as I traversed mountain after mountain. The ridge connects 5000 footers Mt. Lincoln and Mount Lafayette, along with Little Haystack. You cross three peaks with ease, and it makes life feel like a real, accessible adventure. But it definitely took some effort to get there.
I’ve road-tripped to and hiked around the White Mountains twice now, and both trips hold extremely fond memories for me.
The first time was a semi-spontaneous drive to New Hampshire in July with two college friends. We car-camped at Dolly Copp campgrounds. We hiked Mt. Washington by day, and downed several bottles of wine over a campfire by night.
Mt. Washington was so much more intense than we had thought it would be! The summit actually held the world record for the fastest wind gusts ever – 231 mph! – until 1996 when it was claimed by a typhoon in Barrow Island, Australia. As we approached the peak, clouds closed in and wind picked up, and we pulled our extra layers out of our daypacks. We really couldn’t tell if a dangerous storm was closing in, or if these were normal conditions. We turned back just shy of the summit, because if adventurous tales of outdoor exploration had taught us anything, it was that nature is truly a powerful force not to be taken lightly. Still an incredible hike filled with bright evergreen groves, views of valleys on valleys, and extreme rock scrambling.
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that both my hiking experiences in the White Mountains have led me through Extreme Rock Scrambles. And by that I mean climbing up and down rocky stream beds of boulders! Activities that I previously might not have even considered as hiking.
After our day on Mt. Washington, my friends and I opted to take it easy. We woke up the next morning at our trusty Dolly Copp campsite, and instead of hiking to the Franconia Ridge as planned, we road-tripped to Maine (A whole other story).
Take Two: Making it to the Franconia Ridge
So the second time I made it to New Hampshire, I backpacked in the White Mountains with my Dad in August. We had set out to do the Pemi Loop, a 31.5 mile loop that hits 8 of New Hampshire’s 48 mountains that are 4,000+ footers, plus it crosses the Franconia Ridge. It would be an ambitious 3 day hike, but apparently some speed hikers do it in a day, and we considered ourselves to be in pretty good shape.
We thought wrong.
The first day, as we summited Mt. Flume and Mt. Liberty, we already knew we wouldn’t have the energy to complete the loop! We practically crawled to the tent platforms at Liberty Springs Campsite, and I barely had the energy to kick off my boots.
I think a large part of the reason was that our packs were pretty heavy. I’m definitely still trying to perfect an ultra-light pack. But regardless, the next morning we pressed on to the Franconia Ridge. I woke up sore, but excited for the sights ahead.
We summited Little Haystack… then finally traversed the Franconia Ridge. I took my time soaking it in. I’ve never been one to rush during a hike. To me, the point isn’t wholly to get from Point A to B, but to make sure you take in the journey. So I walked slowly across the Franconia Ridge, admiring the mountains, feeling elated.
The day was far from over though. We continued along the Garfield Ridge Trail and summited Mt. Garfield, before finally reaching the Garfield Ridge Campsite. Mercifully, it was a covered shelter, as rain was just beginning to pound down. It evolved into a storm and continued through the night.
By that point we had decided we certainly couldn’t complete the Pemi Loop in our 3-day timeframe. So on our third day we cut down its center on the Franconia Brook Trail. We were dipping through the valley, between the ridges we had traversed and the ones we had to rule out, Rock Scrambling the whole way.
So that was the journey through the rugged White Mountains that finally took me over the Franconia Ridge. And I must say, taking on the challenge of reaching those scenic destinations on Instagram for yourself increases their beauty tenfold.