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  • Writer's pictureIzzy Risitano

Greenleaf Trail | April 4, 2024

I don't enjoy snowshoeing in the spring all that much. I discovered this as I worked through the first mile of the Greenleaf Trail in Franconia Notch.

Looking up to the 5000-foot line from Greenleaf Hut

The Greenleaf Trail has a reputation as a somewhat rugged trail, the reviews making it seem like a horror of all sorts. One reads, "never-ending scramble up and down a giant cascading ‘riverbed’ ... Too many trees ...the views were disappointing at the summit and Franconia ridge." I suppose the giveaway I'd disagree with was the final statement, but it still left me suspicious as I began my drive to school I was jamming a hike into.

After I parked in the hiker lot by the tram, I waddled awkwardly towards the underpass with my snowshoes in one hand and my trekking poles in the other. As there was no sign, I walked past the trail the first time, before noticing the "know the code" yellow sign and dipping into the woods. As expected from my Facebook surfing, two people laid down tracks over the weekend, making my life much easier.

The only un-faded blaze

Even so, the snow surface was light, and the tributary crossings were often at first. Combined with the rocky side hill, the footpath was narrow for snowshoes. I felt as though I spent more time listening to them screech on rocks than being supported by them. By the time I was a mile in, I had lost the bottom half of my trekking pole on account of it not closing all the way, but the highway was getting quieter in exchange.

As I approached Eagle Pass, there was a surprising amount of switchbacks for an older New England trail. Around here the snow got deeper and more firm, changing my ill opinion of my trusty planks.

Eagle Pass

Right before the pass, there was one loose spot up a boulder that required some momentum, but I can confidently say that was the only thought-provoking moment of the day. After Eagle Pass, the gain got more straightforward and though there were few views, the woods were gorgeous and somewhat peaceful. Except for a helicopter overhead every 5 minutes!

A much-wider footpath

In addition to my podcast, I began distracting myself with the timing of the helicopter, counting a flyover roughly every 5 minutes as it flew in and out of Greenleaf Hut to drop supplies. Once I got close, I stopped checking my GPS and instead looked at where the helicopter descended, directing me right toward my destination.

When I arrived, I was greeted with the sea of postholes those climbing Old Bridle got to deal with, and watched the last two helicopter drops before they ceased. While I was there, it was just lumber drops but the final lowering was to pick up all the netting used in the transfers. I didn't stay for long, as I had a whole lot of unpacking to do, but I did enjoy my first-ever clear view of the Franconia Ridge! 54.2% traced with countless days in the Notch, and yup- first ever.

Don't see that everyday

Though I had taken a longer-than-expected 2 hours to ascend, I was closer to an hour coming down. The mix of knowing what was coming and not sluffing through snowshoe steps bigger than mine was an easy recipe for speed in the latter half. I did not, however, find the other half of my pole. They remain poke-less.

Cannon Cliff through the trees

Having witnessed "the horrors" described in the reviews, I disagree with the negative energy about the Greenleaf Trail. I wouldn't choose to do such an isolated trail in the winter again without intending to summit, but I think it could be a great addition to a longer route in the warmer months. Regardless, I probably will not be back for some time as I've got plenty of rocky and rugged trails left to explore!

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