We got up just after 5 am, and actually managed to be on the road by 5:45, heading to Kinsman Notch. It seemed like we were actually going to get a nice weather day for a change, though the sun was still hidden by clouds.
Because we got a hotel so close to our trailhead, we actually got started hiking just after 6. The effects of the rain yesterday and the day before were evident, in the steep, muddy trail we had to navigate.
During my first break, nature provided some entertainment in the form of a woodpecker, which landed on a nearby tree and proceeded to chip bark off looking for insects. I regretted not bringing my camera, having decided yesterday that it wasn't worth the extra weight to carry on the off chance I'd get it out and use it.
Ascending Mt. Kinsman, not surprisingly, involved a bit of rock climbing. As opposed to Wildcat, which was just steep, hard, and annoying, this one was kind of fun. I think, though, that after spending a day climbing Wildcat, that shifted significantly my bar for what was "easy" and "hard".
The sun finally came out in the afternoon, adding color to the previously drab forest. Now, everything was a vibrant, lush green, with leaves and moss much more vivid and contrasting against the rocks and ground than they were before.
In a first on the trail, on the way down Mt. Kinsman, I saw an AMC volunteer painting blazes. (This is especially noteworthy since parts of the trail maintained by the AMC have a notorious lack of blazes compared to other sections of the trail.)
I took my third break at the Lonesome Lake hut, where Papa Monkey and Rainbow had been waiting. This hut was more like a series of interconnected buildings with nice wooden walkways between each building, in contrast to Carter Notch hut's uneven, rock-studded dirt paths. As the name implies, the hut is located on the quite picturesque Lonesome Lake.
From the lake, it was another few miles down the mountain to Franconia Notch, and then, unexpectedly (though it was clearly indicated in the guidebook) another mile down side trails to the parking lot.
We finished around 6, almost twelve hours after we started. Being relatively close to Hikers Welcome, Rainbow and I opted to stay there, while Papa Monkey went to Mt. Cube (ostensibly for the pancakes, but likely also because it was free).
Tomorrow: Mt. Moosilauke, the first of the Whites the AT climbs; we're hiking this section south since the north face of the trail follows a very steep waterfall, and we'd much rather have a steep climb than a steep descent, especially if the rocks are still wet from yesterday.