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Casual Hiker
07-09-2012, 05:41 AM
Does anyone know how early in the day you can claim a tentsite at Liberty Spring? My daughter is visiting for two weeks from Tennessee, and we'd like to do a dad/daughter backpacking trip. We're both excited at the thought of doing a Franconia Ridge traverse, and we'd love to spend the night up there. My concern is that we be able to find a site. And to make it even worse, the only days we both have free are Friday and Saturday. Maybe we're seeking the impossible, but my thought is that we arrive in the notch early Friday morning, climb the Falling Waters trail, head over to Liberty Springs to grab a site, then spend the rest of our day on Liberty and Flume. Saturday morning we would get up, hike over to Lafayette, and then down the Old Bridle Path back to the car. It seems like a perfect plan, except for the possibility, or even likelihood, that we won't be able to camp up there. What are our best options? Are we nuts, and should we try something else? I would just love to do this hike with her.

MichaelJ
07-09-2012, 07:08 AM
That seems fine to me. My gut feeling (I haven't personally stayed at Liberty Springs) is that it's Saturday night that's the issue. On Friday enough people are still at work, or not coming up until late afternoon, that I would think a morning start on FW would find you arriving at LS with plenty of space available.

peakbagger
07-09-2012, 08:01 AM
There are legal but not necessarily comfortable sites along the AT north of the Junction of Liberty Springs trail and the Franconia Ridge Trail. The ridge top is narrow but flat in spots and the trees are large enough and spaced enough that a relatively flat area can be found (as aof a few years ago). I am not sure of current practice but the caretaker used to refer hikers up to this area when Liberty Springs was full. There is no water or outhouse and the ground is lumpy without a lot of privacy but its used to be used quite often. Be aware that the caretaker can and will share tent platforms between two groups. Just because you have one to yourself in the afternoon doesnt mean you will have it that evening an you may have to repitch your tent to make room.

The caretaker may or may not be around when you get to the campsite. Unless the policies have changed there is no formal checkin, just set up a tent on a platform, in the afternoon the caretaker will arrive and start managing what is left of the spots. There is room for abuse of this system and keep in mind that there are numerous folks hiking past the tent platforms all day so you need to carry your valuables with you on your day hikes.

If you do use the area on the ridge noth of the trail junction, I seem to remember that its in a shallow saddle. Once you start climbing out of the saddle, the woods grow in. There are a couple of spots north of there but they typically are muddy patches immediately adjacent to the trail and tend to be used for bathroom spots so they are unpleasant at best.

Note that there is no camping within 200 feet of Liberty Springs trail or withn 1/4 of a mile of the Liberty Spring site.



Here are the rules

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5363715.pdf

Casual Hiker
07-09-2012, 08:55 AM
Thanks, this is exactly what I needed to know. If the weather stays as predicted I'm hoping she can use my backpacking tent, and I'll use my bivy sack. I certainly don't mind sharing a platform if necessary to accomodate another weary hiker, I just wanted to see what our odds were of getting a site. Sounds good!

Peaks
07-09-2012, 03:59 PM
If the caretaker is on the ball, he always knows where to find a place for another tent or two. And there are always spots along the ridge.

RoySwkr
07-09-2012, 06:05 PM
I don't know how casual a hiker you are, but allow me to suggest an easier option:
Friday morning hike Liberty Spring Trail to campsite, so you'll know right off if you'll get a site. Set up tent to claim site and visit Liberty-Flume. Saturday as planned except that one of you needs to walk bike path to fetch car (could do this Friday but that would get you to campsite later).

If no site available to your satisfaction, continue with packs to ridge, tag Liberty-Flume and camp along ridge somewhere - carrying water from spring is a lot less weight than carrying whole pack up Falling Waters and back down.

Michelle
07-09-2012, 09:10 PM
I bet you'll score a spot, but just throwing this out there............I hiked up Liberty Springs and over to Little Haystack yesterday (Sunday) and all/any sweet looking camp spots along the ridge (less than 200 yrds from trail, therefore....illegal) had signs that said "revegatation area: please keep out"......so, don't count on these! But as someone else mentioned, if the tentsite is full, the caretaker can suggest a different campspot for you guys. Have fun!

peakbagger
07-10-2012, 05:21 AM
Michelle, thats interesting. Before I posted I checked the WMNF backcountry regulations and that section of Franconia Ridge Trail trail is not listed as subject to any camping restrictions. As long as someone heads about 250 feet north on the ridge trail from the junction, they are 1/4 mile away from Liberty Springs campsite and also 200 feet away from the Liberty Spring Trail. Franconia Ridge Trail is not listed as one of the trails on the backcountry regulations as requiring a 200 feet buffer (Like Liberty)and the trees in that area are over 8 feet which rules out the above treeline prohibition. I also considered the Pemi wilderness 200 foot rule requirement but the FRT is just slightly west of the borderline. In that case only camping on the west side of the ridge would be legal.

Unless there is a recent modification to the policy, I expect that the revegetation signs on the FRT are a well meaning but misguided attempt to close down what are admittedly marginal campsites. They are quite popular with thruhikers who are on a budget and tend to arrive late at Liberty Springs. Obviously the preferred option is to concentrate use at Liberty Springs as it can be managed somewhat, but if its over full and there are no better options I expect these are going to be used. I expect some cynics may state that AMC is just ensuring a revenue stream.;)

The intent of the post is not to "shoot the messenger", its just that the 200 foot "rule" that is bandied about frequently isnt really applicable to 95% of the trails in the whites. I used to think it was gospel but while researching a couple of other areas and rereading the regulations a few times I discovered that what I thought were the rules really werent.

Casual Hiker
07-10-2012, 06:36 AM
I don't know how casual a hiker you are,

I guess I'm casual in the sense that I'm really, really slow. I love to hike, but I go at my own pace. I just got back from a 3 day backpack on the Kilkenny Ridge, so I'm not a newbie!

Lot's of great advice here. It's comforting to know that somehow we'll find a spot. My daughter has picked up my love of hiking and the outdoors, and I can't wait to share this experience with her.

Michelle
07-10-2012, 07:10 AM
Michelle, thats interesting. Before I posted I checked the WMNF backcountry regulations and that section of Franconia Ridge Trail trail is not listed as subject to any camping restrictions. As long as someone heads about 250 feet north on the ridge trail from the junction, they are 1/4 mile away from Liberty Springs campsite and also 200 feet away from the Liberty Spring Trail. Franconia Ridge Trail is not listed as one of the trails on the backcountry regulations as requiring a 200 feet buffer (Like Liberty)and the trees in that area are over 8 feet which rules out the above treeline prohibition. I also considered the Pemi wilderness 200 foot rule requirement but the FRT is just slightly west of the borderline. In that case only camping on the west side of the ridge would be legal.


Whatever the reason for the sites being blocked off, they are no longer options for Casual Hiker and daughter.......The AT hikers I hiked with on Sunday were going somewhere past Galehead hut and I mentioned a spot I'd camped at before off of Twinway...........who knows, maybe that is closed for revegatation too........I'm sure they found a spot.........as will Casual Hiker and daughter. Things always work out :)

Will
07-11-2012, 02:02 AM
Whatever the reason for the sites being blocked off, they are no longer options for Casual Hiker and daughterFrankly, I had always thought, in our love for thru-hikers rivaling only Kent, CT, we had blocked off the entire AT through the Whites with a 200 foot barrier. Welcome to our world.

If that's not true, and some of these sites were legal, hopefully it's not just some out-of-control caretaker or someone else without legal authority putting up those signs. Hopefully the signs have a sound legal basis for the prohibition, and are not just more random trail trash.

David Metsky
07-11-2012, 06:10 AM
If that's not true, and some of these sites were legal, hopefully it's not just some out-of-control caretaker or someone else without legal authority putting up those signs. Hopefully the signs have a sound legal basis for the prohibition, and are not just more random trail trash.
I think we can be assured that revegetation signs are legal and sound. Any otherwise legal camping location may be closed for a variety of reasons.

peakbagger
07-11-2012, 06:13 AM
I will leave it at that we should agree to disagree regarding the signage issue and wish the OP a great trip.

Puck
07-11-2012, 08:22 AM
This past Sunday I was coming down Lafayette and ran into Forest Service who had spent the night at Liberty Springs. They are fully aware of these sites and they have a presence up there. Not that consciousness should be the fear of the police or anything..

RoySwkr
07-11-2012, 05:14 PM
Frankly, I had always thought, in our love for thru-hikers rivaling only Kent, CT, we had blocked off the entire AT through the Whites with a 200 foot barrier. Welcome to our world.

If that's not true, and some of these sites were legal, hopefully it's not just some out-of-control caretaker or someone else without legal authority putting up those signs. Hopefully the signs have a sound legal basis for the prohibition, and are not just more random trail trash.

The backcountry camping rules for the WMNF can be found here, nearly all trails on their route have a 200' restriction except Franconia Ridge Trail:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5363715.pdf

Areas along the A.T. do have more rules than the Forest at large perhaps because they tend to get more use. The legal basis for these rules is the same as for ordering bridges removed and greater than for charging parking fees, and similarly many users disagree with the rules.

As Chickety might tell you if you bought her a few beers, not every A.T. thru-hiker complies fully with all camping regulations even if they happen to be aware of them. I assume that the guy is the base note does not wish to spoil his vacation with a ticket hence will avoid illegal sites and camp the correct distance away even though such sites are harder to identify. Fortunately they only need space for a small tent and a bivy sack.

Casual Hiker
07-14-2012, 05:32 PM
We ended up going up Falling Waters to Little Haystack and across the ridge to the tentsite. We got the last emply site, and loved it. I slept in my bivy sack, and woke up to a big male black bear around 5 feet away from me. I sat up, he snuffled a bit and then took off up the trail. Nothing will take you from asleep to fully awake like waking up to a big bruin! We had put all our foodstuffs and odor carriers into the bear box, so I suspect the poor guy was just visiting to see if he got lucky.

I appreciate all the pointers. It helped us to have a wonderful backpacking trip. Came back across the ridge to Lafayette today, and made it most of the way down before the heat got bad.

We observed several unoffical sites along the ridge trail, and not all had been signed off. Still, we were glad to be at Liberty Springs.