Date(s) Hiked:2007-09-26 to 2009-09-27

Trails(s) Hiked:Liberty Springs Trail, Franconia Ridge

Total Distance:10.7

Difficulty: Strenuous

Conditions:Dry Saturday, rainy Sunday

Special Required Equipment: Rain gear, windbreaker up top

Trip Report:

2009-09-26 Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume

This trip started early in the day. We made the trailhead by 7:30 AM and were hiking at quarter of 8. Got an early start, as this was our first hike of the year with full packs, and we were well aware of our physical condition. We were happy to make Liberty Springs campsite by 10:30, which puts up there in pretty good time according to the book. (If we make book time on our first full pack hike of the season, we are happy). We set up camp on platform 9 (Way in down the trail) as it appeared to give us some view of the sunset, and we had our neighbor’s dog, Sammy, with us, for his first hike. We were uncertain how he would handle being around strangers on the mountain. He is pretty well untrained, and barks constantly at home. I have spent some time with him, and he calms down and quiets down around me pretty well. I was pretty sure he would be okay for this hike, and mostly, he was. Sammy did well, had plenty of energy and agility for this hike. I massaged his muscles at night, to help prevent him coming up lame.

On to the hike. After meeting Rich, the caretaker, and setting up camp and dropping gear, we loaded up lunch, clothing and hiking poles into my backpack and headed up to Mt. Liberty. We were only 3/10’s of a mile from the Franconia Ridge trail, and another 3/10”s of a mile from the peak of Liberty. What a nice mountaintop!!! It is a rather large area of rock with plenty of room for the 3-4 dozen hikers up there. We all got good seats to enjoy the view and have lunch. We had roast beef and swiss sandwiches. Jeannette had Sammy’s leash hooked to the toe of her boot. Another dog came up the trail and Sammy bolted for the dog, which caused Jeannette to toss her sandwich into the sand. I grabbed Sammy’s leash and gave him a couple good yanks to calm him down. Yes, he just wanted to see the other dog, but to go charging another dog like that will often invite retaliation or defensive actions from the other dog, as well as injuring the person on the other end of the leash. Soon, we finish lunch and head the additional 1.1 miles to Flume, which involves some 500 foot elevation drop and gain, each way.

On Flume, we find a smaller are of clear rock, but it is spread out more. Most of the rocky area here is set up like staircases going down the slope. You could pretty much sit anywhere you chose. We spent an hour or so there, just enjoying the view. I caught a couple small cat naps up there it was so peaceful. After a while we head back, first to Liberty, then to the camp.

We get back to the camp, and just sit on the platform, resting for a bit. Then we gather some energy up and refill our water containers at the spring. This left us wondering…. We weren’t sure what to do with Sammy. He had not barked but maybe 6 times the entire trip, each time being forcefully told “No!!!!” and “Quiet!!!” We figured we didn’t want to leave him at the tent platform, as he would likely have started up incessantly barking, and you just don’t bring a dog into the back country and allow him to do that. We also did not want to have him wading in the spring water collection area, or drinking directly from it, or “marking” the territory. Drinking water is precious up there. So… we brought Sammy with us to the spring and we tied him to a fence post some 25 feet from the spring, close enough to him that he would be comfy and quiet. That worked great, until another playful dog came along, unleashed and wanted to play with Sammy. Then that dog marked Sammy’s leash. At that point we asked those folks to get their dog and take him away from our dog. We don’t want to have to handle a leash that a dog has pissed on. Idiots!!! They couldn’t understand what we were upset about. When they let their dog come back over, I think they saw I was about to get up and take care of their business, then they got their dog and moved along.

So we head back to our tent platform. Rich comes over and registers us, and collects the $8.00 fee for Jeannette and myself. We chatted a bit. He is a nice fellow, friendly and engaging, willing to share his stories. Dinner consisted of rice with a pound of chopped up chicken we had prepared. Why does it taste so good after a day’s hiking, yet we seldom eat like this at home? We followed that up with Kraft Macaroni and cheese. I think we finished up about half of our gorp for dessert. I guess we worked up and appetite!

Bedtime came at 7 PM, as the clouds killed the sunset and rain was forecast, and we were up early that morning. Sammy slept under the fly, right outside the zipper to the tent. A couple times that night he growled at the other campers walking by to the last campsite. A quick “Quiet Sammy!” put a stop to that. Strange, he never felt he needed to accost the squirrel or chipmunk that walked allover our platform several times that night???? It started raining right at 3 AM, and never really stopped for the rest of the time we were out there.

At 6:30 or so, we woke up and started to pack. We ate a few things that didn’t need cooking, packed up, when the rain let up for a moment. We dropped the tent, shook the rain off the fly and rolled it up and loaded up the backpacks. And soon, we were on our way down the mountain. We said goodbye to Rich, and then let Sammy off leash. I had an idea he would stick near to us. All yesterday, I had been leash training him to walk next to me, never to pull the leash, and he caught on to that real good. Since we were heading downhill, on a pretty good grade for a couple miles, with wet and possibly slippery rocks awaiting us, the last thing I need is a dog leash in my hand. Sammy walked next to us just like he was on leash for the most part, otherwise he would investigate off in the woods a little bit. But really, he did well. When we got back down to where the trail coincides with a paved bike path, I put him back on leash for the easy walk to the car, which was about a mile long.

Some interesting notes about this trip: On the way down off the mountain, we ran into a group of 20 or so coming up, in the rain, no view possible. I can think of better timing to start a hike…. We found a fossilized rock, having seashell imprints in it. We also found a glove near a trail sign. We hung it on the sign, so it would be more visible. Rich, the caretaker, passed us on the way down. He makes this trip 3-4 times a week, and can he motor along! We were a little discouraged by our rain gear. Normally, when it rains, we walk in minimal clothing, as the hiking will keep us warm. But down hill, a bit slow to assure we don’t slip, we covered up to keep warm. We did drop a shirt after 20 minutes. Our gear failed us a bit. We got wet, but it was sort of like a wet suit, in that we stayed warm, and we certainly were not as wet as we would have been had we not worn the gear. Both of our gloves were soaked thru, our hands were clammy. My rain pants left my pants half wet, as well as my gore-tex jacket. I wasn’t sure, until I took it off if was sweat or rain (rain). I didn’t check to see if I had the zippers velcroed over to keep them dry, so I need to test them again. It does look like I am in need of new rain pants however (Jeannette’s worked just fine). Fortunately, our gore-tex, LL Bean boots were completely dry inside, they worked great!

About Sammy, the dog: Earlier this year, we had just had Suzy put down, as she was failing fast. Sammy looks so much like Suzy that we often called him Suzy, and referred to him as she and girl….. While he did very well for his first hike, it took a lot of my attention to get him to know what to do. It’s not that he didn’t want to do good, he just didn’t know. Once he learned it, things were good. On the trip up, in addition to hiking a strenuous trail, I had to restrain from chasing and charging, teach him to heal, keep him from barking, etc…. Don’t get me wrong, I think he did very well, and I enjoyed having a dog on the trail with me. (The whole idea was Jeannette’s, as with a dog along, you are less likely to see a bear). But he was a lot of work. When he made Jeannette toss her sandwich, I asked her whose idea was it to bring Sammy along anyways? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself…LOL!!!!) Sammy is a couple years old. He came up just a little lame after riding in the car from the mountain to Maegen’s house in Vermont (A couple hour car ride). We were just a little stiff ourselves and getting out of the car felt good to all of us. Sammy seemed fine after he walked around a bit. Young pup! When we returned him that evening, his owner was not home. Once we put him back in the house, he started barking. I unlocked the door and admonished him, 3 times, yet he still kept barking. In those two minutes he barked more than he did the entire weekend on a mountain with all kinds of strange new things. I could not see his bark collar, or else I would have put it on him. It is just wrong to allow a dog to bark incessantly for hours on end like he does. Some dog training class would really be good for him. He really is a good natured dog, that wants to do well, but just doesn’t know how.