"HHH and One Tough Trail" (pictures)
We hiked the loop over Flume and Liberty Sunday. Parked at the hiker parking lot just past the Flume visitor center. Start time was 7:45am. The trail in was wet and muddy down to the bike path. From there we took a right onto Liberty Spring trail and then broke right again onto the Flume Slide trail. It was pretty easy going on the first half of the hike. Gentle to moderate grades, lots of river/brook crossings and the trail was pretty wet in spots.
After making a final crossing of the Flume brook we began our ascent of the slide. A narrow, gravelly trail to start. Then steeper, and then you arrive at the first of many wet rock slabs. The rock slabs require climbing on hand holds and is quite difficult. Not to mention they are wet! One bad move on these steep, 50 foot long chunks of granite and you'd be in a world of hurt...or worse!
Near the top of the slide a rotted 10 foot tree suddenly fell right at Scott! He blocked it with his arm as it slammed into him and fell across the trail. Yikes! One of the branch stubs punctured his arm and it was scratched, swollen and bleeding. Just another moment to say that is why you hike PREPARED! You never know what can happen thousands of feet up on a mountain. I had antiseptic spray and band-aides in my bag. We sprayed it and Scott wrapped one of his handkerchief towels around his arm.
After leaving the head of the slide it was one last steep climb to the Flume summit area. We popped out of the trees on a mass of rock jutting into the sky! What a sight! We followed the trail along the ledge to the actual summit and dropped our bags for a much needed lunch! Arrival was 11:30am. Unfortunately the skies were cloudy and the mountains in the distance were hazy but we could still see plenty. The nice breeze was enough to make us happy on this hot, humid day!
After a half hour break we packed up and headed for Liberty at 12:00pm. We dropped steeply off the summit and down into a col. A Spruce Grouse crossed the trail in this mossy area and was nice enough to pose for pictures for me. Then it was a gradual hike to the base of Liberty where the trail became steep again, but not unbearable. At 12:50pm we made the final climb to the rock spired summit, looking back at the slide scarred flume peak we just came from.
Black flies were bad here and no wind so it was a quick snack, pictures and we were headed down the other side. #41 and #42 completed on the NH 48/4K! The trail down Liberty Spring was steep but had easy footing and was nice and dry. We were really feeling the hike now, our legs and feet sore and getting tired. We were a little slower going down than usual, but still made good time arriving at the parking lot at 3:30pm.
Shout out to the two ladies from MA that we met on the way up whom were also hiking the 48. We ran into them the entire hike and were very pleasant and funny. Had a great lunch with them on Flume :) We pretty much had the mountains to ourselves. Only ran into a handful of people on the trails including a Forest Service Ranger. She was very pleasant and confirmed our analysis that Flume Slide is one of the most difficult climbs in the White's.