Yesterday, we finally had a day off together to do whatever and we had our heart set on a big hike. We decided to hike the Kinsmans (North and South) so Lindsay could cross them off her 4,000 footer list. As we looked at maps and packed our bags, one of our cats had other plans.
We snuck the map out from underneath Muncy and headed out the door. Since it was Labor Day weekend, we knew the hiking parking lots would be packed. As we drove past the Appalachia parking lot, we were glad we weren’t stopping there since it was filled with cars, trucks, and two buses! We drove through Bethlehem, NH and stopped for a bagel at Maia Papaya and then made our way to the Mount Kinsman Trail. Our AMC Guidebook said the parking was on the side of the road and the trail started between two stone pillars off of Route 116 at the Franconia/Easton town line. We found the trail, but did a drive by and good thing we did, because just down the road is a new large parking lot and new trail connector. Ten other cars were already in the lot but there were still plenty of spaces.
We hiked along the new trail that soon connected back up with the original woods road. We passed an old sugar house and soon made our way to the old Kinsman Cabin site and brook crossing. Our maps didn’t give the brook a name and our guidebook called it a “substantial brook”, so that is what we will call it. We took a short break sitting on a rock in the middle of Substantial Brook and watched 10+ people and 4 dogs hike pass us back down the trail. Most didn’t have packs so we concluded that they must have just went up to Bald Knob for a view.
The next water crossing exhibited a neat mossy ledge. But we didn’t linger because we wanted to find the Flume that was promised at an upcoming water crossing.
The next water crossing was Flume Brook and on the downhill is a sign for the Flume. We took the short and narrow trail down to view the small Flume.
We hiked back up to the main trail. The Mount Kinsman Trail continues up hill at a moderate pace, and since Lindsay wasn’t feeling 100% and Andrew admitted later that his stomach wasn’t feeling good, we stopped for water breaks more than usual to get up the 3.7 miles to the ridge. To pass the time, we listened and watched for gliders through the trees. Back down in Bethlehem we had driven past a small airport filled with glider planes. As we climbed in elevation, we would hear the regular plane overhead come close then disappear, shortly after we would hear a faint whistle and if we looked up we could make out an outline of a glider plane and hear its silent whoosh as it floating through the air.
When we finally made it to the Kinsman Ridge Trail (Appalachian Trail), we both sighed in relief. Just a short .4 miles more to the summit of North Kinsman. Andrew promised Lindsay a long break and nearly pulled her up the last few ledges. But before the break, we scampered up the tip-top boulder to make the summit ascent official.
We took a long break and watched the glider planes. One came so close that Lindsay waved and got a wave back! We checked our maps and time, we would certainly be out after dark if we tried for South Kinsman, but it would be a shame to not do it since we were only .9 away. We decided to just go for it.
The hike to South Kinsman was pleasant bringing us down into a wooded valley and then back up onto the ridge with 360 views. As we approached the summit we heard the distinctive nasally chick-a-dee sound. Boreal chickadee! Boreal chickadees, as their name implies prefer high elevation, and sound very similar to their cousins the black-capped chickadee, but boreal’s have a more nasally sound and don’t complete the full “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” instead just calling “chick-a-dee”. Boreal’s also make interesting buzzing noises and we find that boreal chickadees are “friendly” and will likely be found right next to the trail, perfect for snapping a quick photo. If you see them this close, you will notice that they have a brown cap instead of a black cap like their cousins.
We found the large rock pile and concluded that this must be the actual summit of South Kinsman. Andrew spied a brown snowshoe hare hiding under the stunted balsam fir trees and Lindsay found a mourning cloak butterfly.
We checked the time and realized we better get a move on. We made our way back to North Kinsman and down to a view that we passed earlier. Two Appalachian Trail hikers greeted us and asked us if we’d seen Billy Jack on South Kinsman. We hadn’t and wished them luck as we continued back down to the Mount Kinsman Trail junction.
Even though our hike down was much quicker and we took less water breaks, the sun set faster than our legs could carry us. We weren’t worried though since we had multiple flashlights in our packs. We passed the Bald Knob view-point and Andrew scampered out to a wonderful view over to Vermont and up at the Kinsmans we had just conquered. Lindsay hiked ahead and was waiting for Andrew just below Flume Brook. When Andrew met back up a small bird flew down the trail toward us then turned back and landed on a branch. It did it again and we got a good look at what it was: a Northern Saw-whet Owl! At 7 inches this little owl is just about the cutest thing! With the fading light it was a little difficult to get a good picture, but he was so curious with us that he let Lindsay take a flash picture. We continued on down the trail excited at what we had just seen when two more saw-whet owls flew off the trail! Now that’s something you don’t see when you hike only during the daylight hours!
At Substantial Brook we pulled our flashlights out. The moon was full the night before but it hadn’t risen yet, so we were forced to use our lights for the last 1.5 miles.
We made it down to the car after our 10 mile hike. We were hungry so we drove to Lincoln and got Subway grinders and then stopped at the local dairy bar for soft serve ice cream. It was a long hike, but well worth the trip. Lindsay checked off two more 4,000 footers, we saw boreal chickadees, snowshoe hare, and saw-whet owls. Not to mention the high elevation views from the summits.