With a weather forecast predicting a beautiful Sunday, we scrapped our Chocorua plans at the last minute, and decided to try to get a long mileage day under our feet. In this case, the plan was to do a 13-mile through hike, from the Frankenstein Cliffs Trail, down to Ripley Falls, up and over the Ethan Pond Trail and out past Zealand Hut. Fairly flat except for the first couple miles, and full of waterfalls, ponds and big views.
So, we spotted a car at the Zealand Trail trailhead, drove south through Crawford Notch and got a 8 a.m. sharp start at the Frankenstein Cliff Trail trailhead. With stove, spicy noodles and plenty of time on our hands, we were off to the races.
Yeah, that last about two miles! Hah! Silly us.
The western end of the Frankenstein Cliff Trail was like the Amazon jungle. Henry Stanley would have a hard time finding Dr. Livingston in that mess. There we moments when the trail just stopped and dead-ended in a pile of downed limbs and brush. And not the stepping around kind. The kind that took bushwhacking through greens, and pines and prickles, and all kinds of forest nasties to try to find the blue blazes again.
Many of the blazes, in fact, we discovered on downed trees. Others had been painted on birch trees, which promptly shed their bark, and the blazes with it. We tried clearing some scrub here and there as we went, but it’s gonna take heavier metal then what we had to bring the trail back to speed.
Still, after resolving to the task, it was a lot of fun! Once the initial realization and acceptance passed that we were not going to make it all the way, came the fun of concentrating on wayfinding, semi-breaking trail and cleaning up the brush. But it did mean that we slowed to under a mile an hour and by the time we reached Ripley Falls – which was incredibly beautiful by the way – we were far enough off our planned time to scrap the Zealand plan, and just settled for a leisurely return loop via the Saco River Trail. Near the end, having some time on our hands, the walked on down to the river bank and broke out the spicy noodles anyway, gorging on our once planed trail dinner by the side of the road overlooking the pretty river.
Considering the scratches and pine needles found under our clothes, not a bad day after all!
Our photos for the day are up, check them out here: Frankenstein Cliffs and Ripley Falls
The trail first takes you under the Frankenstein Trestle.
Trail? What trail? Can you find the trail?
A perfect end to the day!