Intro - travel to Lafayette Campground from MA
I started in central Massachusetts, so I ended up driving north up I-93. To reach the starting point for this hike at Lafayette, you have to drive past it going north, then turn around and come back. Because I left after 9 am, I did not arrive until after noon - so the parking was full. I had to park almost back to the highway off the side of the road.
It was a warm day in the 70s, kind of humid, partially cloudy. Start time was 12:35 pm (a little late, but acceptable).
Initial hike on the Lonesome Lake Trail
(See "The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains" by Smith and Dickerman as a reference for mileages, which I adjusted to my report. This is an excellent book.)
The Lonesome Lake Trail is a very popular trail, judging by the number of people climbing up and down. The trail starts at the Lafayette Campground and proceeds up to about 0.4 miles to the point where the Hi-Cannon Trail goes off to the right, then another 0.8 miles to Lonesome Lake. Before the switchback it is not too steep, but the second part seemed to me climbed more quickly. The last 0.1 miles or so levels off until you reach the lake itself.
I was doing well (or thought I was), passing families with children and other hikers, until this older guy (in his late 50s-early 60s, maybe?) and his dog passed me like I was standing still. (Well, I was standing still, since I needed a short rest. He didn't.)
At Lonesome Lake
When I reached the intersection, I turned left onto the Cascade Brook Trail (0.3 miles), which is level and has multiple sections boarded to cross muddy sections.
The view of the lake was very pretty, and I can see why many people go there. Lots of people were sitting out; one kid asked me while I was passing if I was doing the Appalachian Trail. I answered no, I was only doing sections. His mother asked him if he wanted to do that someday as I was walking away.
Fishin' Jimmy Trail (AT)
The Fishin' Jimmy trail takes you for 2.0 miles up to the Kinsman Ridge Trail. Right as you start, you come to the Lonesome Lake Hut. You need a different definition of "hut" to describe these lodgings, as I'm sure that I would see this as unbelievable luxury after many days on the trail!
The first part of this trail was generally not too difficult. I proceeded at pretty much a constant altitude, maybe gently descending, for about the first mile plus. During that time there were a couple of climbs and descents, but nothing major. The second mile is tougher and much steeper - I was glad for the steps on some of the rocks! A couple of younger guys with better knees passed me here.
When you get closer to the top, the trail seemed to be a little more level. There are a few places where the trail is boarded to cross wet sections, and I eventually reached the Kinsman Ridge Trail.
I thought the views looking up at North Kinsman were very nice, where the trees opened up.
Kinsman Ridge Trail (AT) to North Kinsman
I climbed the 0.6 miles up this trail to the summit of North Kinsman. This was steep in places. But, there were plenty of foot and handholds. There are some decent views as you look north.
I saw evidence of trail work going on in several places, with lots of lumber stacked for use.
The summit was not marked, so I wasn't sure I had reached it until I started down the other side. I was tired and wondered if I really wanted to go on to South Kinsman, and fortunately a couple of guys who had just come from there and were coming back told me the climb up was not too difficult. I looked at the time (I was OK - it was ~3:30 pm), considered the difficulty doing that peak again by another trail, and decided to go on.
Kinsman Ridge Trail (AT) to South Kinsman
This 0.9 portion of the trail descends somewhat steeply to the col, then ascends more gently to the N peak of South Kinsman. This is supposed to be the high point (at the cairn a short distance off the trail) - and it very well may be - but I decided to go for the S peak too just in case! There is another cairn and a open place there which was an excellent place to rest for a few minutes. Now I felt satisfied with my day of bagging peaks - and I could return happy that I had succeeded. Of course, the objective was to return in one piece before dark - and so I could not stay for long as it was after 4 pm.
The weather was partly cloudy, kind of threatening rain - but I did not feel a drop. The atmospheric visibility was not good, so the view was only OK.
I returned by the same route. The descent to the col was not difficult, and the steeper climb up to North Kinsman did not require much scrambling. I found that the descent down the other side of North Kinsman was potentially dangerous, since it was rather steep and I was tired. But, I took care to catch as many foot and handholds as possible, and so it went OK.
The Fishin' Jimmy trail has many steep places, but those steps saved my knees. I was so glad to use them to get down - and the volunteers who built them have my thanks!
I was able to drink more water, since I knew I could refill at the Lonesome Lake Hut. Dinner was in full swing as I arrived - it looked good and maybe I'll stay there in the future.
The Lonesome Lake Trail was not as difficult a descent as I thought it would be. Two good trekking poles helped to make sure of that.
Return to car was at 7:30 pm, with plenty of daylight left. Total time: about 7 hours. Total distance: 10.0 miles.
Wrap up and lessons learned
This was a strenuous hike for me. I thought after ~15 miles of Mt. Marcy a few weeks earlier that 10 miles of the Kinsmans would be no problem. But, that was not the case. This was a more humid, warmer day. The elevation change was about the same, but done in 2/3 of the distance. So, these factors made the difference.
- Water drank: 3 liters plus, carrying 2.5 liters. I probably could have carried just 2 liters at a time if I had topped off at Lonesome Lake Hut going both ways.
- Bug spray was necessary.
- Sunscreen was necessary.
- Clothing was good (zip off shorts - pant legs with me but not on, synthetic shirt, Capilene underwear, wool socks, baseball cap, sunglasses). I also had a headband, gloves, and synthetic jacket which I did not need.
- Boots were fine for this trek.
- Trekking poles were necessary and made this hike possible for me.
It was a good day for this hike. Not perfect, but fun. I met and spoke with some fellow day-hikers and backpackers on the way.
Sorry, no pictures.
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