(Full Disclosure: Please read the title carefully! This hike was done on Christmas Eve back in 2009 when we were blessed with a nearly perfect winter day.)
The weather conditions for the higher summits as predicted by the Mt. Washington Observatory were simply too irresistible to pass up. By mid morning, I could no longer resist the urge to spend a portion of Christmas Eve in the mountains. So, I opted to head up the Franconia Ridge via the Falling Waters Trail.
Before reaching the area around Cloudland Falls, I had already peeled off all my layers and was down to shirt sleeves. Although perspiration was dripping off me, the liquids around me were suspended in a frozen state.
Ice Display Along Falling Waters Trail
As I began gaining altitude, I kept glancing up to admire the cobalt-blue sky and to take an occasional snapshot. In the photo below, I presume the tree with red berries is Mountain Ash, and I presume that the white streak seen through the branches is probably Santa on his way? :)
Blue Sky Through the Trees
Once I was on the ridge, it was obvious that a clear day was not being enjoyed by everyone! Looking to the west and to the north, my "undercast" was an "overcast" for folks at lower elevations. Cannon and the Kinsman Ridge were visible, but were surrounded by a sea of clouds.
Cannon & Kinsman Ridge Surrounded by Clouds
Looking northward toward Garfield, there was also a fair amount of undercast.
Northward View Toward Garfield
However, there was no undercast when looking northeasterly toward the Twin-Bond Range with the Presidentials in the background.
Twin-Bond Range with Presidentials in Background
And, there was also a perfectly clear view looking eastward over Owl's Head toward the Bonds and Carrigain.
East View Toward Bonds & Carrigain
Oh! And, the view southward was also good, but with some haze and some signs of undercast particularly to the southwest.
This hike was done for pure enjoyment, with no list or other goal in mind. And, with a mid morning start-time, I was uncertain how far along the ridge I'd actually get.
By the time I got to Mt. Lincoln the wind had picked up and there were some pretty impressive gusts. Also, it was nearly 3PM and I had Christmas Eve plans. It was tempting to complete the classic loop which would have not been all that much longer to do. However, considering the time and the increased wind, I thought it best to just take the shortest route and head back the same way I’d come. Besides, why be greedy?! I'd already had a marvelous day!!
With the firmly consolidated snow pack on the Falling Waters Trail, the return trip went very quickly. Just as the last ounce of daylight faded away, I was back at the trailhead. More importantly, I was home in time to hang my stockings by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there!