02 02 2016.

hiking: north and south kinsman

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Last year for my birthday, Darren and I did something a little bit different than we usually do. Instead of booking a hotel room somewhere, we decided to go camping and hiking in the White Mountains. Darren bought me a beautiful lightweight tent as a gift – since I had been rambling on for a while about wanting a tent that we could carry with us in our packs for multi-day hikes.

Saturday evening, we packed all of our gear in the car and drove out to the Tripoli Road to scout out the Russell Pond Campground. We were intrigued by the first-come-first-served concept of a lot of the spots in New Hampshire and we had our sights set on Russell Pond.

Luck was on our side that afternoon. As we drove through the campground, we found the most beautiful spot that was quite hidden from the road and other sites (turns out, the majority of the spots at the campground were pretty secluded). We parked the car on the lower tier of the lot and set up camp. The campground host had firewood for sale, so we were able to set up a fire just before sunset to battle the approaching cold temperatures.

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The tent worked out beautifully. We both had sleeping bags that were rated for below-freezing temperatures, so when we woke up the next morning, we were actually pretty warm. In fact, the whole tent was! The outer shell of the tent managed to keep a lot of the warmth inside.

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Once we stepped outside, though, we were so cold – it was 40 degrees! I tugged on two layers of leggings and my omni-heat jacket, then proceeded to heat water to make some French press coffee and our breakfast of mason-jar oatmeal.

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We packed the tent up in record time and hit the road to the base of Kinsmans. The parking lot for the Kinsman hike begins at the The Basin parking lot on the east side of I-93. After parking, you follow the bike trail under the highway and end up in this gorgeous park that follows streams and waterfalls from the Pemigewasset River.

Darren and I actually got lost looking for the trailhead. Instead of crossing the bridge straight ahead after going under the highway, we veered right and followed the bike trail about a half a mile north before realizing that something wasn’t right. So we ended up walking about a mile by the time we got back to the bridge and found the trailhead.

So we got hiking. The first part of the hike had us crossing the Pemigewasset River a few times. We’d be on the east side, cross to the west, and then we’d find ourselves on the east side again. It was pretty flat at this point – we didn’t really start to climb until we reached the end of the Cascade Brook Trail and started on the Kinsman Pond Trail.

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We had read in trail reports that we should expect the trail to be wet and slippery, but the trail was actually quite dry. There was a sign at the fork of the Cascade Trail and Kinsman Pond Trail that there was a washout somewhere ahead – with a bridge out of order. We were mentally preparing for a river crossing, but we never found it, figuring that it was probably along the Lonesome Lake Trail.

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By mid-morning, it was finally warm enough to take my hat and longer layers off. As we neared the pond, the sun was out in full force and shone brightly and beautifully through the trees.

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The pond provided a nice new sight after being in the trees for so long. There wasn’t a view or outlook yet (we were probably at an elevation of 3,500′) so the pond was our first bit of perspective as to where we were. Across the way, we could see the North Kinsman peak and the climb that was to come. It looked pretty steep!

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As is typical with most of the 4,000-footers in the Whites, the last half mile to mile stretch before the peak was the steepest. The footing was great though – there were plenty of rocks to climb on to – not a lot of loose gravel or sliding.

Finally, we were above the treeline and had reached the North summit. It was such a beautiful day – the skies were blue and we could see for miles around. We could pick out Lincoln, Libery, and Lafayette nearby and spotted Washington and the Presidentials beyond that.

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It was still early in the day, so we decided to postpone our lunch until we reached the South peak – knowing that there was less than a mile between summits and that it was mostly ridge-walking with no significant loss in elevation.

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The South Peak views were even more spectacular. There was a slight breeze that cooled us off as we munched on PB&J sandwiches and bananas. We stuck around for a little bit to admire the views to our south then headed back.

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Before we knew it, we were descending from the North peak. The descent was a bit more tricky than the ascent. There were a couple of areas where I had get down on my butt and slide down some rock faces – they were much easier to go up!

After passing by Kinsman pond again, the descent became more gradual. We were moving pretty quickly down the trail. We ended up veering left onto the Basin Pond Trail, which shortened the end of the hike by about a mile. This was the perfect end of the hike, though, because The Basin was beautiful. Even walking along the trail for a while at the start of our hike, we had no idea how big The Basin was. We even walked past a gorgeous waterfall!

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Overall:
Distance: 12.2 miles
Elevation: 4,293′ (North Kinsman) + 4,358′ (South Kinsman)
Time: 6:31


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