Hikes,  White Mountains - NH

Thoughts of a Pemi Loop

We did it again. Made a plan for greatness and had it defeated…
2nd Weekend of October, Peak fall colors… We decided to make this a 3 day weekend to celebrate our 1 year anniversary… Packed up our packs, drove up to a hotel, attempted to sleep (thank you college football players above us…) and set out for the White Mountains.
Saturday morning, as we drove up it was super overcast and the temperature continued to drop… we arrived at the gas station to get a lighter, we forgot to pack, and checked the weather again. It called for 30-50mph winds, 40% chance of rain/snow that day (Saturday), a sunny windy Sunday and 60% chance of rain for Monday/snow… This weather was what we assumed/averaged based on both the reports for the towns in the valleys and Mt. Washington’s weather station. Not the best forecast for a hike completely on an exposed ridge line.

Pemi Plan!
Pemi Plan – We always try to send my mom a highlighted by day plan for backpacking trips. She is our reasonable parent that will remember to come find us, but also not worry if we are a day late to respond or re-connect.

Original Pemi Plan: Complete a 3 day Pemi Loop, which is an approximately 32mi loop through the  Pemigewasset Wilderness in the White Mountains, NH.

Day 1: Arrive to the Lincoln Woods Trail Head early, hike ~11.5mi to the Guyot Shelter.

Day 2: Wake up early, hike ~ 14.7 mi to Liberty Springs Tent Site

Day 3: Hike ~7 mi back to the car at Lincoln Woods Trail Head and drive back to NJ.

We were happy with this plan and will likely re-visit it in the spring when the weather isn’t calling for snow and high winds on an exposed ridge line (and I am not recovering from oral surgery the week before…) You can read about our previous experience in that scenario when we first attempted the prezi!
New Plan! Our new plans actually gave us a little time to relax and enjoy our time in the woods, a balance we are struggling to find. We decided to do the short hike up to the Liberty Springs Tent Sites, experience sleeping on one of the platforms! We purchased some sangria at the gas station and headed to the Liberty Springs Trailhead Parking and started up the Whitehouse Trail.

We also luckily realized at the last minute, that since I had oral surgery the week before, sucking water from my bladder through a filter was not the best plan. We swapped my 3L bladder and filter for 2 extra water bottles, one of which we designated as the “dirty water” that we could squeeze from, and one had a pop top, so I could easily drink. For more info on our usual water set up click here.

We hiked the 3.35 mi up to the Liberty Spring Tent Site, slowly and in varied weather, with good gusts every once in a while, making us happy with our decision to change our plans!

Sign pointing us up to camp!

We settled on tent pad #7 (There were about 10 sites total, ~2 were designated for large groups) and started to set up by wiping the snow off the platform!
I was freezing when we got up there because I had been too lazy to monitor how much I was sweating on the way up. I sweat a TON on the way up, despite the snow coming down and had to completely change into new dry clothes to feel semi-human again. That was a TERRIBLE thing to do!!! I am going to be a lot more cautious about monitoring my layers. I am going to wear a little less, making my self a little cold when I stop for water/air instead of being a little too warm and sweating while hiking. If I had not been prepared with a complete change of clothes this could have been very bad.

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I also learned that my waterproof boots from 2014 might not be as waterproof as I thought, so my socks and boots were quite damp, making the trips to go pee, and eat a lot less fun. I have had boots freeze on me before (a post for another day) and that was also terrible, so I decided to bring the boots into the tent in the hopes that our body heat would keep them from freezing!
We drank wine, I napped, we played cards, ate dinner, and wrote each other our 1 year anniversary letters (a month late b.c that’s how we roll). We went to bed and awoke with the sun.
I did not sleep wonderfully, I was NOT prepared for just how cold it was going to be, and only brought at 20 degree synthetic sleeping bag. I am also a dog momma and every time Nova moved, I unzipped myself to make sure she was warm enough.

Nova very happily snuggled in her sleeping setup!

With my lack of sleep, and being cold, I was SUPER lazy when we woke up, and took my time leaving my sleeping bag. We decided to that we were going to hike and then head down later in the day. I packed up all of our gear inside the tent before willing myself to get dressed for the day and leave my warm cocoon.
We got dressed, ate breakfast and headed up to the ridge, deciding to head North towards Little Haystack/Franconia Ridge (one of our favorite hikes!). The hike descended a few hundred feet before climbing back up toward the summit. At this point, I wasn’t feeling my best so we modified our plans to make our day a bit easier. On Hiking Project (a really neat hiking app we like), we found that there was an overlook several hundred feet below the summit.  The overlook was just atop a pretty large rock with a 6′ ladder. Zack and I decided it was not a great idea to get Nova up, so we took turns enjoying the gorgeous overlook and headed back down.
We planned on hiking down and out immediately, but as we hit the intersection for Liberty Springs Trail we saw a couple coming down off Mt. Liberty. I asked how the 0.3mi hike was to Mt. Liberty and if the view was worth the effort and the woman was just SO enthusiastic that we couldn’t pass it up. She was right. The view was totally worth it, and we honestly would have been happy to only hike up Mt. Liberty!

The view of the foliage is why we came up to NH this specific weekend. All the way on the right of the photo you can see a white ridge, that is Franconia’s Ridge with Mt. Lafayette way in the back!

We hiked down, very happy with our little add on of Mt. Liberty, packed our packs and decided to head down. We SLOWLY went down, because neither of us stretched the day before, and my legs were not happy about it.
As we cross the liberty spring we stopped to rest and enjoy the beautiful day! (If you have your sound on, you can hear the babbling from the stream)

As you can see, towards the bottoms we got below all the pines and the leaves looked incredible! We were all super happy campers at the end of this day and excited for some McDonalds before our drive home!

TRIP RATING: 8/10 – 2 days ~ 11 miles and 3,200 ft of elevation gain

Based on this experience, I would recommend REALLY digging into the weather and I am likely going to tend to assume a slightly warmer sleeping bag then the temperature may indicate. I did not enjoy being borderline cold all night! The fall colors in the north east are spectacular, and this trail area was a significantly less populated area to enjoy them!

TECHNICAL: Attempted 10/13/2018

  • Saturday:
    • 9:04 AM – Liberty Springs Trailhead Parking, on the Whitehouse Trail
    • Turn onto Liberty Springs Trail
    • 1:15 AM – Jess Arrive to Liberty Springs Tentsites (I went super slow towards the end, I was NOT drinking enough water)
Here is a map of our first day!
  •  Sunday:
    • Wake up at Sunrise ~7AM
    • 8:45 AM – Head up Liberty Springs Trail, Turn towards Little Haystack
    • 10:20 AM – Arrive at scenic overlook, just below peak of Little Haystack
    • 11:45 AM – Arrive at Liberty Peak & Enjoy the View and Some Snacks
    • Hike back to camp, pack up tent hike down.
    • 4 PM – Back to car in the Liberty Springs Parking Lot
Here is day 2!


  • Always Pack Warm Clothes/Gear
  • Don’t underestimate the wind/chill at the higher elevations.
  • There can be snow up and ice at the peaks, even if the weather didn’t show that.
  • Trust your instincts, if you are worried about your original plan being too much to handle, don’t feel bad about changing it up to make it a safe and enjoyable experience – It is all about getting outside and enjoying yourselves!

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