Mt. Liberty: My Little Sister's 1st 4,000 Footer!
I've been hoping to get my younger sister, Sophie, into hiking since I started, so when she agreed to hike with me yesterday I was ecstatic. The weather was beautiful, it was a weekday, and Lucy even tagged along for her 11th 4,000 footer. It was a perfect day for a quick jaunt up Mt. Liberty with the possibility to add in Flume if we were feeling good after our first summit. Although Sophie isn't a hiker, she's super athletic and plays club hockey at Boston University where she's about to start her junior year. Typically I wouldn't bring someone up a 4,000 footer for their first hike, but I figured she could handle it especially since it was a relatively short one.
The hike started off really gently on Whitehouse trail to the Franconia bike trail traveling just under a mile to get to the Liberty Springs trailhead. I didn't realize that the parking lot was so far from the trailhead, so I hadn't factored in the extra 1.8 miles into my plans. It wasn't bad since it was mostly paved and flat, but it did add some extra time that I hadn't anticipated.
The climb up to Liberty really started about a mile into Liberty Springs trail. It was rocky and it seemed to go on forever, but it wasn't terribly steep. It was one of those signature White mountain trails reminiscent of an uneven rocky staircase that never ends. We took our time with lots of breaks and were relieved when we reached the sign pointing out the quarter mile boundary to Liberty Springs tentsite. Sophie was relieved, but I knew better than to trust it. Those signs always say you're within a quarter mile, but I swear it's usually at least a half a mile or more to the site!
When we reached the tentsite and spring there were many thru hikers perched to filter water. We had seen a bunch of them along the way and it was nice to talk to them. I have so much respect for their perseverance, and I'm constantly humbled by their love of hiking. We offered them snacks and candy and continued on with Lucy leading the way. From there it was a short but steep walk up to the junction if Franconia Ridge trail. When I saw the sign I had the strongest urge to turn left for Lincoln and Lafayette since the weather was so beautiful, but with Lucy and Sophie I knew it wasn't an option. I've never seen the glory that is Franconia ridge in good weather, but I know the time will come soon enough!
The portion of Franconia Ridge to the summit of Mt. Liberty was actually pretty easy. With the top consisting of such jagged, dramatic rock you would think there would be some tough scrambles leading up to it, but it was all relatively easy. Lucy had no problems since there were no steep slabs and we were at the summit before we knew it.
Looking across the Pemigewasset wilderness has always made me feel very small. It's so remote, with no signs of civilization and as I looked across at the Bonds I couldn't help but smile. I love the Pemi. It's so wild and free, feeling so vast when you're standing in it. The Bonds are my favorite mountains in NH, and looking across at them I couldn't help but feel like I was home.
I pointed across at all of the summits, showing my sister where I had traveled on the Pemi loop the year before. They looked so far away, and it was hard for me to gather that I could have walked from here to there in just a day or two. I've wanted to do a single day Pemi loop for a while, but looking at it up close it seemed so long that I'm not sure it's a realistic goal for this summer. It's a 32 mile loop that I did in 2 and a half days last summer as a backpacking trip (with some extra miles added in) and a beast of a hike with over 12,000 feet of elevation gain.
Soph and Lucy were pretty impressed with the views, but Lucy seemed to be more excited about eating bugs flying near her face. Sophie was more fascinated that she could see the water slides at Whale’s Tale water park in the valley below than with the mountains beyond but hey, whatever floats your boat! I was so proud of her for hiking her first 4,000 footer but the hardest part was still to come.
When we started the descent Soph started to have some trouble with the traction on her shoes. She didn't have hiking boots, and her being a size smaller than me borrowing an extra pair of mine not an option. So that left her with Nikes that were clearly not made for the rugged terrain in the Whites. With every few steps she slipped on the granite staircase, forcing her to gingerly inch her way down the trail. At a certain point I could tell that she was getting frustrated, so I tried to make conversation to distract her. The descent is always my least favorite part of a hike because it's long and there are no awesome views to look forward to. I could tell she felt the same way.
The trip back to the parking lot seemed to last forever, but Lucy loved our slower pace because it gave her lots of time to rest along the way. I began to think that maybe if I went more slowly she would have more fun when we hiking. Sometimes she runs out of energy or wears down her paws on a hike, but she was doing really well. I made a little mental note as we walked to try to remember to slow things down in the future. She was so happy to mosey down the trail, a contrast from our usual scurry.
After the long hike down we were all relieved to get back to civilization. As I was taking my last few steps off of the trail onto the paved sidewalk, in true clumsy Lexi fashion I rolled my ankle. I was so close to making it through my first hike without tripping or rolling an ankle! Maybe next time! I think my little sister and Lucy both had a good time, although afterwards Sophie made it pretty clear that hiking wasn’t her thing. She liked the ascent and the summit, but the descent kind of ruined the experience for her. I’m a little sad that hiking won’t be an activity that we share, but it’s okay hiking isn’t for everyone! This being said, it was another beautiful day in the mountains with some of my favorite people!
Mt. Liberty (4,459 ft) via. Whitehouse Tr and Liberty Springs Tr [9.0 mi, 3250 ft, 7:10].