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New Adventures : Our first overnight in the mountains

You know those bucket list items you want so badly to check off, but can never find the courage to do? Whelp, I finally checked one of those things off my list! I took a deep breath (several), I invested in the equipment I needed, I planned (a lot) and I freakin' went for it. And my goodness - it felt so darn good!

I still don't know how I managed to fit all of this gear in my bag!

I've always enjoyed to go for nature walks and hikes. I started checking off my 48 New Hampshire 4K footers back in 2015 and have found so much love for the mountains. I'd see other hikers with full packs and overnight gear and find myself daydreaming of doing that myself. I didn't grow up camping, and really have only gone camping a handful of times,

but I loved the idea of trekking into the woods and waking up in the mountains. I daydreamed for years. I would do some research on gear and backpacking tips, but I always let my fears get in my way. I also never felt comfortable spending that much money on gear, and I was well aware that I was not hiking into the mountains for an overnight without the right gear.

Fast forward to a week and a half ago and I found myself planning my first overnight hike. Kalen and I were discussing doing North and South Kinsman and camping up at Kinsman Pond Tent-site and figuring out how we could make it happen. We also were talking about a hike we were considering for our trip to Hawaii in December, knowing we would likely need some overnight gear for that as well. By the next afternoon, we were on our way to EMS to look at gear. We selected sleeping bags (tall one for Kalen!), a camping stove, a bigger bladder for my pack, some new gloves and socks and a few other items. We then ordered a tent online (the one we wanted from EMS was out of stock), some dehydrated food and sleeping pads. We were ready!

I spent a lot of time researching our route and the tent-site itself, as well as the parking situation because I knew where the trailhead was is a very popular spot. We initially had planned to hike into the campsite on Saturday afternoon, sleep and then on Sunday morning hit the summits and descend all the way back to the parking lot. Luckily, through my research, I realized that parking any time after 7am on a Saturday was likely going to be a difficult feat and force us to park quite a ways away from the trailhead and I also learned that the tent-site filled up QUICKLY, especially this time of year, because it is along the Appalachian Trail and August is a busy time for thru-hikers to be passing that area.

We changed our game plan and decided to head up north early Saturday morning and we are so glad we did!

We started at Lafayette Campground (had to park in the overflow at 6:20 and walk through the tunnel) and took the Lonesome Lake Trail up to Lonesome Lake. This trail had a fairly stead incline, but wasn't super technical. A few rocky spots requiring medium sized steps, but also a lot of dirt path. It is certainly a trail that most people can navigate, just at different paces (we saw a lot of families going both up and down on our descent on Sunday). It was about 7:45am when we got to the lake - it was absolutely beautiful, definitely a place I would like to visit again in the fall. I couldn't believe how peaceful it felt. We could hear some families from across the lake, who I suspect had stayed the night before at the hut.

We took just a few moments to soak in the serenity of the lake, but didn't go into the hut.

From there we took the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. I was excited and terrified to try this trail, I had read many mixed reviews - some people love it, some people hate it. It was technical in spots and certainly would have been sketchy after a rainfall, but my husband and I loved it! It wasn't nearly as scary as I expected. I loved the various steps that had been put in to help hikers navigate certain spots. There were a few steams along the way that I just loved. The sound of moving water in the woods is one of the best sounds in the entire world.

Home for the night! Our tent was surprisingly easy to set up.

We arrived at the Kinsman Pond Tentsite around 9:30. The caretaker was out, so we helped ourselves to a platform (not sure if we were supposed to do that but we weren’t sure how long she’d be out). I was excited to make our "home" for the night. Setting up our new tent was super easy. I got the sleeping pads set up and tossed our sleeping bags in the tent. We dropped off the overnight gear we knew we wouldn't need while going up to both peaks - it felt so good to have lighter packs! By the time we had everything set up and headed towards Kinsman Ridge, the caretaker was at her site and we checked in with her. She made sure we were aware that it was likely we would have platform mates for the night.

We then trekked up to North and the South Kinsman via the Kinsman Ridge Trail. It was a bit steep, but overall not too bad getting to the North peak. There was a beautiful lookout spot where we enjoyed our sandwiches and a mildly cold beer. It was extremely clear and we could see sooo far. I would have spent more time there, but it was quite warm in the sun!

Gorgeous view from North Kinsman

From there we went to South peak. It took us about 45 minutes from North to South and again, it wasn't very difficult. A few spots that I had to scoot myself down, or have 3 points of contact, but nothing too wild. What is considered the summit of South (at least based off what I read) there was not much of a view. Some fellow hikers let us know that if we trekked a few hundred yards further, we'd have a clearer view. We were grateful for this tip! I am sure I had read it in my research, but at that point had forgotten.

Enjoying beer #2 on South Kinsman
We weren't the only ones soaking up the views!

We headed back down and got to camp a little before 2pm. We ended up having two platform mates - a father and son. By that point, there were lots of tents set up (tents can only be set up at designated spots) and platforms were full. If you want to spend the night here - you definitely need to plan accordingly and get there early. This is a popular spot! Especially during AT season.

For the rest of the afternoon, we hung out by the pond. It felt incredible to have my feet in the water after a day of hiking. I considered swimming, but the rocks in the water were quite slippery and I really didn't want to slip and get hurt. This was our first overnight and we definitely didn't plan our water refill very well. We ended up using out Jetboil to boil water, let it cool and then transfer to our packs. This worked, but was a slow process. Honestly though, it was nice to have a project. Don't worry - Amazon should be delivering our water filtration bags today. (Along the trip, we talked about filtration options and what to buy and it was decided that saying "water bottle filter" is weirdly a tongue twister - especially when you're hot, tired and on the side of a mountain.)

There was not a whole lot of space to hang out other than in your tent or right along the pond. It got quite hot in the sun and I reapplied sunscreen a few times to prevent burning. Throughout the afternoon it was cool to see hikers of all kinds come down to take in the beauty of the pond. From all of our down time, we definitely decided that, for us, bringing a deck of cards would have been worth it. It is now officially on our backpacking list.

Lingering colors from the sunset.

Around 7:40pm we were wandering around the tent-site, not quite ready for bed, and we bumped into the caretaker. She told us that if we walked a few minutes down that Kinsman Ridge Trail, we may still catch some colors from the sunset. We took her advice and within just a few minutes had a beautiful view. I imagine getting there a few minutes earlier would have been even better, but we took what we could get! Highly recommend planning for this if you stay at the tent-site overnight.

We went to bed around 8:30pm, as we were aware that hikers, especially thru-hikers, went to bed early and woke up early. I did not expect to sleep well, so I was relieved to know to expect stirring by 6am and that I would be able to get up early without being the sole person making noise. It took a bit for me to fall asleep, but eventually I did. I won't lie, I brought my bluetooth headband/headphones and listened to a sleep story - I only really needed this because I could hear our platform mates packing up for the morning and I just wasn't falling asleep with their noise.

Looking down the pond at 6:04am.

To my surprise, I didn't look at my watch until 2:30am! This was incredible and I am still super proud of myself for this. I tossed and turned a bit, but I was able to stay in a steady phase of sleepiness and doze back off each time I stirred. I fell back asleep and didn't wake up until about 5:30am. Shortly after, I heard the couple a few yards away starting to get up and pack for the day, so I took that as my green light to start doing the same.

Mountain Boujee

I softly whispered to Kalen that I was going to head to the pond in a few moments and enjoy the sunrise. I knew I wouldn't actually see the sun coming up, but I expected the morning light to be beautiful across the pond. He joined me and we made coffee by the pond. Kalen had made little single-serve pouches with coffee filters and brought a small strainer (from our mixology set) to put the filters in and do a pour over - he is mountain boujee when it comes to coffee. We took a few minutes and soaked up the beauty of the mountains. I think this was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. The pictures do not do it justice.

As the sun rose, the light off the side of the mountains was beautiful. I could have sat here for hours.

We packed up which took a little time because we are newbies and hit the trail around 7:30am. On the descent, we took the Kinsman Pond Trail - it was quite adventurous and I kept wondering if we should have stuck with what we knew and taken Fishin' Jimmy. In the end, I am glad we took a different trail, if for no other reason than to see more of the New Hampshire beauty. The Kinsman Pond Trail was very rocky, lots of moss, basically hiking on the stream for a ways. This would have been a "hell no" if it had just rained. We took it slow and did our best to stay upright. This trail was SO GREEN and mossy, it felt like we were in a mystical land for a bit. We didn't see any other people until close to the river crossing.

This was one of my favorite spots along the whole hike.

From the river crossing, we connected to the Cascade Brook Trail, heading towards Lonesome Lake. This trail was basically big rock hopping and quite a bit of an ascend. Trekking poles are highly recommended for this section! It was fairly quick, but I am glad we were going up that section instead of down.

We arrived at Lonesome Lake but it was quite busy at the junction area and we decided to continue to the bog bridges. Once we got to the other side of the lake, we stopped for a quick photo and then hopped back on the trail. We saw quite a lot of hikers coming up and wished them safe travels. The 1.2 miles descending on Lonesome Lake Trail felt amazing. A few rocky steps and a lot of dirt path - my knees were thrilled.

We did it!

Once back at the Lafayette Campground we soaked our bandanas in water and cooled off/wiped off some dirt. This felt heavenly! I highly recommend it. I brought sandals with me on the trip, so I unclipped those from my bag and put them on for the walk to the parking lot - I couldn't believe the relief my feet felt. One of the best decisions I made was to bring my Tevas!

We made it back to the car by about 11:30am which was a bit earlier than I had anticipate (especially factoring in the Kinsman Pond Trail). We had brought a cooler to leave in the trunk and were excited to find our beer was still cold! Well deserved! I had also packed some washcloths for the car, we soaked those and used them to give ourselves a little parking lot sponge bath. We changed, said goodbye to the forest and hopped back on 93 South to head home!

We had a wonderful adventure together and I am already planning more overnight trips for the fall (hope the weather holds out!). This had been on my bucket list for far too long, but my gosh, it feels so good to have checked it off! I am proud of myself and of us as a team. If you have been dreaming of an overnight adventure, go for it! Do your research, buy/rent/barrow some gear and get out there. You will be glad you did!

Feel free to reach out with any questions, comments or suggestions for a future hike!

Some additional thoughts..

  • This was our first overnight trip. We definitely could have made it a day trip, but glad to get our first overnight under our belt - I think this was a great one to start with!

  • Fishin’ Jimmy and Kinsman Pond/Cascade routes both had pros and cons. I personally am glad we did it the way we did, but my husband says he would recommend people do Fishin’ Jimmy both up and down.

  • Consider bringing a deck of cards or something light to entertain yourself at camp if you expect to be there for awhile.

  • Get a water filter to either attach to your bottle or one of the bags that you can filter water through and pour into your pack - we are eager to use ours!

  • Do your research! Know that either route is going to be a bit scarier after rainfall (though likely wet/slick regardless) and go slow!

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