One of the best things about the White Mountains is that there's always a new way to go to places you may have already been. Unless you've already red-lined all the trails in the White Mountains, there's always new ground to cover. This proved true once again for us this past Sunday as we hiked the Skookumchuk Trail to just above timberline and the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail, then turned south to hike the beautiful ridge-line across North Lafayette to the main summit of Lafayette. The clear, cool, wind-blown conditions made it one of the finest ridge-line hikes we have ever made.
Insects were virtually non-existent throughout the hike and the day seemed more like a fine September day than a mid-June Father's Day, one of the best Father's Day presents I could hope for. We literally saw no one but each other along the Skookumchuk Trail, either going up or down, and only a handful of folks along the ridge of North Lafayette. Crowds on the main summit were light and fluctuating. We spent quite awhile at the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail, just above timberline having lunch. The views were breathtaking as we popped up onto the ridge and had our first look around.
From the junction we took a leisurely stroll along the ridge, up and over several humps as we made our way towards the main summit of Lafayette. In the distance we could see a conga line of folks heading up and down the Greenleaf Trail as they made their way to and from the summit. To our west our eyes were drawn to Eagle Lake below us, then over to Greenleaf Hut, then beyond to the huge, impressive cliffs of Cannon Mountain. To the southwest the mass of Mount Moosilauke filled the expanse, further north along the same ridge were the Kinsmans. Beyond these on the northwest horizon we could clearly make out Camel's Hump and Mansfield along the Green Spine in Vermont.
To the north we could make out the Percys and Dixville Notch. Further east from there were the Pilot, Plinys and Crescent Ranges. Just before the Northern Presidentials began to rise up from the horizon we could make out the Mahoosuc Range with Old Speck seemingly beside Mount Adams. From Adams south the Pressies rose above the Twins, culminating in the highest point of Mount Washington set above all against the northeastern horizon. Closer to us were Garfield with its impressive southern facing cliffs, and Galehead.
To the east, from North Twin, the ridge rolled along south over South Twin, Guyot, Mount Bond and its sister West Bond, and rolling off to Bondcliff. Behind these we could see in the distance behind Boottt Spur and Isolation, the Baldfaces, Chandler and Sable, the Doubleheads and Kearsarge North. Closer were Bemis, Nancy, Lowell, Vose Spur and the mass of Carrigain, further south were the Hancocks. Beyond these along the horizon were Paugus, Passaconaway, Whiteface and the Tripyramids. At our feet was Owl's Head.
When we got up higher we could look along the Franconia Ridge to the south where we could name Lincoln, Liberty and Flume, with the Osceolas and Scar Ridge beyond. Mixed in were dozens of others too numerous to name, but which we spent much time gazing at as we took in the day. Chocorua, Mount Shaw, Gunstock, Cardigan, Kearsarge, the list went on and on. It was as picture perfect a day as anyone could ask for, and rather than rushing along to peakbag, we sat back and soaked in as much as we could. Along the trails below timberline I found, Bog White Orchis, Bunchberry, Starflower, Goldthread and Clintonia, which down low was already turning to Blue Bead, but up high was sprouting first blossoms. Along the ridge the Diapensia had faded, but Labrador Tea was coming into blossom. Mountain Avens and Mountain Heath, along with Mountain Cranberry were all in bloom.
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and make our trek back across the ridge and back down into the cool shade of the forest. Even now in the heat of the day the bugs were at a minimum except for a few short, boggy sections along the brook. We had made quite a day of it, once again covering new ground and filling up with views to carry us through the coming week. Even the Emma and Blue seemed renewed as we made our way back down from the ridge, recharged, refreshed, and ready to face whatever the coming week could bring.