I’m pregnant! So to celebrate being half-way through my pregnancy (20 weeks out of 40), I decided to take a hike along one of my favorite sections of the Appalachian Trail: the section along Franconia Ridge in NH. It is a beautiful ridgeline hike that traverses three peaks including two 4000 footers (Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln) and can be accessed as a challenging, but worthwhile, day hike via the Mt. Lafayette Loop.
Though the hike is absolutely gorgeous, it is generally rated as a difficult/strenuous hike both in terms of length (~8.8 miles), total elevation gain (~3900′), and terrain (steep and rocky). Given the extra weight and extra dose of fatigue that I was experiencing from my second trimester, I figured it would be a challenge, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would go. Besides, I’d just come from my 20 week ultrasound and couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate the healthy baby girl I was carrying than to carry her up some of my favorite mountains :)
Trip Report: Mt. Lafayette Loop
- Date: June, 2021
- Activity: Solo Day Hiking
- Difficulty Level: Strenuous
- Trail Name(s): Mt. Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Loop (~8.8 miles total)
- Falling Waters Trail (3.2 miles) from the parking lot to the summit of Little Haystack (4760′)
- Appalachian Trail (1.6 miles) from the summit of Little Haystack to the summit of Mt. Lafayette (5260′)
- Greenleaf Trail (1.1 miles) from the summit of Mt. Lafayette to Greenleaf Hut)
- The Old Bridle Path (2.9 miles) from Greenleaf Hut to the parking lot
- Location: Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire
- Access and Amenities: Easy parking available. Restrooms consist of a couple of outhouses. Usually the smell is bad, and with pregnancy hormones in full swing I couldn’t get near them without getting nauseous and almost puking.
Falling Waters Trail
- Difficultly Level: Strenuous – steep, rocky uphill ascending 2800 feet in 3.2 miles.
The falling waters trail starts out as a relatively gentle hike following a scenic cascading stream (Dry Brook) with a number of waterfalls interspersed throughout the first part of the hike. The first is Stairs Waterfall (~0.8 miles from the parking lot; ~15 feet tall), which is near the beginning of the hike.
However, as you continue to ascent the trail gets steeper and rockier until you reach Cloudland Falls (~1.4 miles from the parking lot; ~80 feet tall).
Above Cloudland Falls, the trail is rocky and steep, and definitely a good work out… especially carrying the extra body weight associated with being 20 weeks into my pregnancy.
Then, of course, as the terrain got steeper and rockier my trusty trekking pole snapped in half. I looked at it a bit forlornly, since if ever there was a time I needed my trekking poles, it was for hiking 4000 footers while pregnant. However, I couldn’t complain too much… my poor trekking pole had survived my entire CDT thru-hike and had stood me in good stead for more than 3500 miles of hiking and backpacking. Nevertheless, I needed to figure out a solution because climbing without a trekking pole wasn’t going to work for me. I sat down, ate a snack, and quickly concluded that I could splint my trekking pole as if it was a broken leg. So I found three sticks, pulled out my duct tape, and got to work. Before long I had a functioning trekking pole. It was definitely heavier than the other trekking pole, but it would do :)
I have to admit that there were a couple of times on the ascent that I wondered what in the world had possessed me to make me decide to hike such a momentous mountain to celebrate my 20th week of pregnancy, but when I reached the summit of Little Haystack all of that melted away. I was nothing but excited to be on top of the world, and carrying a baby girl :)
Appalachian Trail (Franconia Ridge Trail)
- Difficultly Level: Moderate, some ups and downs
The stretch of trail between Little Haystack and Mt. Lafayette is just gorgeous, and I was excited to be there. I stopped to rest, eat a snack, and with a gigantic smile on my face approached a few strangers to ask them if they’d be willing to take a picture of me.
Then I set off along the trail, taking my time to soak in the views and the beautiful day, and stopping to take pictures along the way. In general, it felt great to be out on the trail and hiking, but I was definitely much slower on the up hills than I usual am.
Even though I was doing the hike as a solo adventure, I ended up having the same pace across the ridge as another group of hikers. Like me, they were stopping and taking lots of pictures, but they were generally slowed down due to a leg injury. As we made our way across the ridgeline we became friends. I gave them an ace bandage to help with their leg injury, and they offered to take a couple of pictures of me with their fancy camera set-up. (Thanks to www.billyhickeyphoto.com for the three photos of me below!)
- Difficulty Level: Relatively easy
After stopping for a snack at the summit, I descended to Greenleaf hut with my new friends. I regaled them with tales of my thru-hikes and other adventures and on the relatively easy Greenleaf Trail the time flew by. We were at Greanleaf hut before we knew it.
At the hut we fulfilled our dreams of ice cold lemonades, which were available for a small fee. One of the members of the group had some blisters to deal with, and I decided I would take my own advice and deal with some foot issues of my own. One of the things that happens with pregnancy is that your hair and nails grow faster than usual. This had happened to me, and one of my toenails was jamming into my foot on the downhill and needed to be trimmed before continuing onwards.
The Old Bridle Path
- Difficulty Level: Strenuous – steep, rocky uphill
With a belly full of snacks and lemonade and much more comfortable feet, I began the downhill keeping pace with the group. Unfortunately, barely 1/4 mile down from the hut I had a misstep, my ankle rolled a little bit, and I slid down onto my butt in a less than graceful way. Thankfully I’d tweaked my ankle and hadn’t sprained it! The whole group stopped to make sure that I was ok. I assured them that I was, but that I was going to have to take a break to deal with my ankle and that they should keep going on their own. Not only did I need to wrap my ankle, I was going to have to slow down my pace and acknowledge that I was more fatigued than I realized.
Thankfully, I’d brought two ankle braces as well as two knee braces and the ace bandage with me on the hike. I’d read that during pregnancy the body releases more of a hormone called relaxin, which helps loosen ligaments and can destabilize your joints a bit, so I’d come prepared. I settled in to lace my ankle into it’s fancy brace and waved goodbye to my new found friends.
Before long I was once again slowly making my way down the trail and enjoying the lingering views that the Old Bridle Path had to offer. Part way down, I noticed a little instability in my other ankle. Not wanting to risk tweaking or spraining it I immediately took a break, ate a snack, and put on the second ankle brace.
I was glad I did. It stabilized my ankle and made me so much more comfortable that without realizing it my pace increased, and I made it back to my car at the base of the mountain before I knew it.
All in all, it was an amazing hike and a great way to celebrate the baby on the way!