Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hiking Up to a Wintry Mount Cabot Summit

After perusing my numerous weather resources I was getting conflicting forecasts. I finally just stuck my head out the door into a very damp, cold, cloudy and dark morning that felt downright raw. The weather was not motivating me but after deliberation I relented and slowly got myself going. My plan was to hike Mount Cabot. After checking the unbroken Unknown Pond trailhead from the Mill Brook road yesterday I decided to go in from York Pond.  My route would be York Pond trail to Bunnell Notch Trail and up the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Cabot and return on the same trails.

I arrived at the trailhead on a snow-covered York Pond road. Just as I drove up to the parking area a very large barred owl flew off the chain-link fence that surrounds the fish pools and into a nearby tree. I jumped out of my car and saw where it landed. I was able to get a couple of good shots before it flew off into the woods. I considered that to be a good start to my hike.

I was the first one in the parking lot today and first on the trail but was quite sure I would not be the only one. There was a little snow on the ground but the trail was clear and wet from the previous day's hikers. When I got onto the Bunnell Notch Trail the going was getting sloppy from slushy snow and mud. It was quite the slippery mess but I didn't use traction. I thought there would be a balling issue with the sticky snow as it was already sticking to my trekking poles. As I hiked higher there was more snow and the trail was smooth and firm for the most part. I did add my waterproof layer with hood to keep melting snow on tree limbs from going down the back of my neck.

I stopped very briefly at Bunnell Rock that has a good view on a clear day. I could hear hikers talking far below and knew they would soon catch up with me. Sure enough, soon after leaving Bunnell Rock and further up the trail I looked behind me and saw some brightly colored clothing quickly moving up toward me. I immediately recognized them, it was Nate, Alton and her dog Cole. I had never met them but have been following their awesome hiking adventures. Alton said they had been talking about me, well actually talking about the Weeks summits that are on this trail but in the other direction. She told Nate that it would be funny if we ran into Don Weeks and as they came up the trail I just happened to be standing there. Now that's an extreme coincidence!

We talked for a moment then Nate, Alton and Cole soon disappeared up the trail. My next stop was at the Mount Cabot cabin. I took a few photos and decided to eat lunch there on the way back down from the summit. I was feeling no motivation at this point and it was a slog to the summit. Seems I probably should have eaten something instead of waiting. I met Nate, Alton and Cole again as they were returning and making their way back down. There's now views from this summit so a few pics and I was on my way back to the cabin.

Arriving at the cabin I got something to eat and was glad I had brought the hot tea along. I also changed into a dry layer and was beginning to feel refreshed. There were many hikers passing through as I ate lunch. I was starting to cool down from standing around so I packed up and continued my descent. I passed more hikers as I made my way down the trail.

When I was halfway down the Bunnell Notch Trail I saw some familiar faces coming toward me, it was fellow hikers Jason and Andrew. I had previously met Jason on a hike to Mount Cabot last year and Andrew recently finished a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. I follow their amazing hiking adventures online. It just so happens that Jason, Andrew, Nate, Alton and Cole have all done some extreme hiking adventures together. It was quite the day for meeting some awesome hikers!

With the warmer temps the Bunnell Notch Trail had gotten very sloppy. I just kept trudging along. When I was talking to Jason and Andrew four ladies passed by and I was now behind them. One of them pointed out a bird nest beside the trail that was in a very odd place. The tree was about three feet high and the nest was one foot off the ground. I would be curious to know how a bird survived in this nest so close to the ground and beside a busy trail. I snapped a photo of it.

This was my fifth hike to Mount Cabot. Today was not the best of trail or weather conditions but at least the hint of rain held off. It's in between seasons that sometimes brings more of a challenge to hiking in not knowing what kind of weather to expect and what gear to pack. Seems I kind of overpacked as usual but I'd rather carry it and not need it then need something and not have it. I was not counting on any good views and I didn't get them. But it was still a great day to be out in the woods on a mountain with a preview of winter trails and I met some awesome hikers along the way!

Enjoy the photos!

 Some thin ice on York Pond

 Snow-covered York Pond Road

 Barred owl in a tree at the trailhead

At the trailhead

 Bare but wet York Pond Trail

Easy water crossing

A slushy slog along the Bunnell Notch Trail

Three water droplets with background reflection in them

More snow higher up on the Bunnell Ridge Trail

At the Kilkenny Ridge/Bunnell Notch trail junction

A good-size fresh moose track

More snow as I gain elevation

Kilkenny Ridge Trail

A brief momentary view

Met awesome hikers Nate, Alton and Cole on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail

A rare glimpse of blue sky

More snow

Mount Cabot cabin

There's a decent view from here on a clear day

Thought this looked like a snowy moose head

Snow-laden limbs

Summit signs

On the summit of Mount Cabot

The actual Mount Cabot summit

Where the unofficial summit stick used to be

A snow-feathered limb

Gray Jay watching and waiting from a snow-encrusted tree

A partial view from the outlook above the cabin

A view from the cabin porch

A rare and brief limited view for today

Some mud

More mud

Bird nest in a small tree about one foot off the ground and right beside the trail

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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