Mt. Flume Slide Trail and Mt. Lafayette - October 14, 2017
Another early wakeup call. 3 am alarm and on the road before 3:15. I'll be parking just past the Flume Slide visitors center at Liberty Springs / White House trail head parking lot. This is less than 2 hours away so I should be on the trail by 5 am. This trail head does have a latrine which I take advantage of. I'm on the trail by 5:15 and I have a nice long walk in the dark ahead of me.
From the trail head I take White House trail to Liberty Spring trail which briefly overlaps the bike path. The first mile is parallel to the road and it seems like I'm well into the woods and then I see headlights and hear trucks passing by. Flume Slide trail is easy find and follow in the dark. I'm worried if I might go so fast I end up getting to the slide portion while it's still dark, but just as I start getting close to the real uphill the sun comes up. It's completely cloudy, as predicted, I'd hoped for more spotty clouds than one big overhead cloud, oh well.
Beginning of Flume Slide
Before going up the slide I switch from Vibrams to sneakers, in case it rains I prefer real shoes. The slide is steep and exposed. As I get higher I climb into the cloud that had been overhead and while it isn't raining everything is moist and condensation drips from the trees as if it was raining. There are spots where the water is running down the rock and often these slick spots can't really be avoided. Unlike North Tripyramid slide I really didn't trust my footing here and was extra careful about utilizing hand holds. The whole thing is practically a no fall zone and I can see how someone might work themselves into a corner and get stuck. In fact I actually down climb (down slide on my ass) at one point to take a more protected route.
Partway through Flume Slide
Further up the Flume Slide
Last section of Flume Slide - Don't Slip!
The trail is relentless, it eventually levels off and I head towards Mt Flume. I pass along some ledges which apparently are Mt Flume I don't realize it at the time. I get to Mt Liberty and it's really windy and foggy. Since it isn't raining I find it fun, although the lack of view is disappointing. Then I go to leave Liberty to get out of the wind and check the map. I don't realize it but I take the same path that I just came from, my mind now has north and south backwards, and I'm plodding along in the exact opposite direction. Since it's foggy I miss most of the clues that would have corrected me, rocks and ledges it all looks the same. I'm actually having a grand old time by the time I pass Flume again, I actually stop and take more photos this time because rain doesn't seem to be a concern right now. Shortly later I reach the Flume Slide and Ossseo junction. I almost walk right past confident that I want to stay on the ridge. Then I read the sign and I'm bewildered. How could it be? I pull out my map and compass and orient myself, then double check there wasn't some loop I accidentally did, I wonder if I went up Liberty Spring.
Mt. Liberty Summit
Sitting on the edge of the earth
I'm not sure what happened, but I now know I need to walk 1.5 miles back in the other direction and come to terms that must have walked the wrong direction off Liberty. The second time at Liberty I see the same trail marker I just egressed from and the recollection of following that one out the first time around and it's confirmed that's what happened. I'm pretty annoyed since the almost 3 mile detour would have put me almost on Lafayette by now and I'll have no chance at beating the crowds. I also don't know if I have the energy to go all the way to Lafayette and come back on the ridge as planned to take Liberty Springs trail down. As I make my way towards Little Haystack Mountain the sun comes out and for the first time that day I can see the valley below, it also feels really good. Little Haystack is extremely crowded and I don't linger. The ridge trail from Little Haystack further north is also really crowded and it's an effort to be constantly trying to pass people. Past Mt Lincoln the crowds thin out slightly and there are a couple moments of peace. I decide that I'll go all the way to Lafayette and go down that way as well, completing the loop along the bike path instead of back tracking the ridge. That way I won't have to worry much about how my legs are doing or the weather.
The abyss near Mt. Flume summit
Mt. Lincoln from Little Haystack
As I go higher I end up back in the clouds. When I reach Lafayette it is cold and windy and there is a much smaller crowd on the summit. There's also an area inset into the ground like the basement of a house or foundation and I sit here to rest my legs and have a quick snack. It's starting to get pretty cold and I realize I either need to dig my jacket out of my bag or keep moving. I opt to keep moving, although after a bit I decide to get my mittens out. Not long after this I'm below the clouds and it's a sunny day again. I put my mittens away and sprawl on a rock and relax in the sun for a bit and take in the views. There is a constant flow of people coming and going. I know it's a long walk still ahead so I don't stay too long.
Mt. Lafayette Summit
Shortly I'm at Greenleaf hut and it's as much a circus as Little Haystack was. I stop only to take a picture of the bog and I'm back on my way. From here to the bottom I'm just painfully placing one foot in front of the other and occasionally stopping at the overlooks. I probably slow down to almost one mile an hour. Near the bottom someone actually asks me if I pulled something in my leg because of how I was walking, nope just my knees. By this point my right knee is bothering me too, although in a different spot, it hurts when it's three quarters extended, I've probably overused it in an attempt to lighten the load on my left knee.
Mt. Truman and Mt. Lincoln (in the clouds) while descending Mt. Lafayette
Greenleaf Hut Mt. Lafayette
By the time I reach the Lafayette parking lot my legs are shot and I'm glad I didn't try to walk back along the ridge. The bike trail is at least flat and it's only hurting my feet to do this. I would have really like to have a bike right about now. I trudge along, stopping at The Basin to rest on the wall then realize the 'The Basin' is right next to the trail so I take a picture and am content to see this attraction without any extra effort on my part.
Once I get back onto White House trail, the last half mile to my car, my legs are really shot. Since it's a trail there are once again rocks to go up and down and it now really aggravates my legs. I then notice a tendon in my glute is snapping on my femur. It doesn't hurt, but it mentally bothers me since it shouldn't do that.
Back at the car I all but collapse and sprawl out in the back seat. I let me feet breath and snack a bit. I clocked in at 11 hours and 15 minutes, though I wasn't sure how far I went, I'm thinking about 20 miles. Back at home I check my map and I went about 19.5 (Pemi Bike trail isn't on the AMC map, approximating slightly less than the regular Pemi Trail). Of course a few miles was on a nice paved bike trail, regardless I'm happy with the distance and time
Full loop on google earth satellite view
Time: 11 hours 15 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 6260'