Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mount Cabot and A Sea of Clouds

After driving to the trailhead yesterday and watching the clouds roll in with obscured summits I decided to postpone my hike to Mount Cabot until today. As it turns out, yesterday was a pretty nice day. There was a very thick cloud cover this morning and the mountains were completely covered. I decided to go for it and I was in for a real treat known as undercast. The plan was to start at the York Pond Trail to Bunnell Notch Trail and up to the summit of Mount Cabot (4,170 ft.) via the Kilkenny Ridge Trail.


This was the shortest drive to a 4,000 footer that I will have, 11 miles from driveway to trailhead. It's a good thing that I did not leave any earlier today. The gate on York Pond Road to the Fish Hatchery was closed. There were two vehicles waiting, so I parked and didn't have to wait long. The gate was unlocked at about 7:30. It was another two mile drive to the trailhead.

Cold  slow-moving toad

Wide, flat trail

Most leaves have fallen

Arriving at the trailhead parking there were several vehicles parked along the road and the lot was empty. Obviously there were some hikers that spent the night. I hit the trail and it was a cool, damp, overcast start. It was a short 0.2 mi. to the Bunnell Notch Trail. These trails start out as old, overgrown logging roads and make for easy hiking.

Many small waterfalls along this trail

The Bunnell Notch Trail follows a stream up through the notch. There are many small waterfalls along the way. Most of the leaves have fallen and there are good views far out into the woods. But the leaves also cover the trail and it sometimes required paying close attention so as not to veer off the path.

Climbing higher I left the sound of water flowing down the stream. What I soon became aware of was the silence that surrounded me deep in this woods. There was no sound of wind in the trees or rustling leaves, no babbling brook, no birds, no other hikers, no far away traffic, nothing but stillness and quiet. I could have heard a pin drop on the forest floor. The silence was deafening.

First glimpse of sun and blue sky

Pathway to a view

Hazy Presidentials on the cloudy "ocean" horizon

At 2.8 miles I turned right onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail and was looking at another 1.7 miles to the summit. As I climbed higher the sun finally broke through the clouds. When I reached the viewpoint there was a phenomenal scene of mountains rising out of the cloudy undercast. It was a fantastic sight! I took a short break for a snack and pics then continued on to the Cabot Cabin.

Standing on the edge of the undercast

Sunlit pathway

Reaching the cabin I had not seen the first hiker. While I was hanging out at the cabin another hiker arrived. We spoke for a few minutes and then I left for the summit. The trail went up to a clearing and I thought I had reached the summit. The sky was a crystal clear blue and there was a heavy undercast. The sun was nice and warm.

Cabot Cabin

The Horn

There were hikers coming from the other direction and I asked them if this was the summit. It wasn't and they said I had about another 15 minutes. I set out for the true summit. Reaching the summit I found a sign and no view. I took a photo and started my descent and did not look forward to leaving this beautiful day up here for the cloud cover below.

Blue sky over an ocean of clouds

Mount Cabot summit

A last look at Cabot Cabin on the way down

When I arrived at the viewpoint on the way down the clouds were rising and there was no view. I was glad I got photos on the way up. No view so I turned around and continued my descent. There were several hikers heading up as I made my way down.

Tree wart

It was not long before the sun disappeared as I dropped down below the cloud cover. Blue sky was replaced with gloomy gray but somewhat better than early this morning. The cloud cover was lifting and I could start seeing the mountains again although not the higher summits.

Where clouds meet blue sky

Back at the trailhead it appears the weather kept hikers away, there was still plenty of parking space. Despite the cloud cover today this was actually a very enjoyable hike. I also got to chalk up another 4,000 footer!

Mountain "islands" in a sea of clouds

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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