Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gnarly and Nasty Trails to Mount Cabot

Spring hiking can be tough with the varying trail conditions and today was going to be no exception. I would be joining Jill and Larry for a hike up Mount Cabot via the York Pond Trail to Bunnell Notch Trail and Kilkenny Ridge Trail. The forecast was early morning sun to clouds and late afternoon showers with cool temps. I've said it before and it bears repeating, take the weather forecast with a grain of salt and be prepared for anything.

It's a fifteen minute drive from my house to the York Pond trailhead so I put most of my hiking gear on before leaving. The sun was rising up into a blue sky with a wisp of clouds and the temperature was cool. When I arrived at the fish hatchery the gate was open. I got to the trailhead parking and Larry was already there, Jill arrived soon after. We made the decision to carry the snowshoes having read the trail reports that suggested they might be needed toward the summit. Just as we were about to hit the trail there were some familiar faces walking up. It was Bernie the Bernese Mountain dog and his hiking companions, last seen on a hike to Mount Eisenhower. Bernie was very excited and raring to go!

We set out on a bare and dry York Pond Trail and soon turned onto the Bunnell Notch Trail. We came to our one and only tricky water crossing. It's usually an easy crossing on the rocks but the stream was swollen and moving fast. There would be no dry rock hopping today. After studying and strategizing for a moment we found that there was only one dry place to cross and that would be across an old log. I carefully stepped out onto the log and checked to see if it was slippery. It seemed dry enough so I proceeded and had no problem. Larry and Jill were hesitant and searching for another way across. There was no other dry way to get across. I coaxed them onto the log and they crossed with no problem although they would have preferred not to cross on that log.

Further up the trail we started wading through mud and water, there was lots of it. Then came the snow and a narrow monorail. Last night's cold temps firmed up the snow and there was no postholing problem but there was some recent deep postholing from previous hikers and a moose. When we got to the Kilkenny Ridge Trail the decision was made to put the microspikes on. This was short-lived as we were soon out of the snow and back to a bare trail with stretches of mud.

We got to Bunnell Rock and briefly took in the views then continued up. As we got into more snow and a very narrow monorail the microspikes went back on. The snow was very solid and the was no postholing. When we got to the cabin Bernie was there with his hiking companions, they were on the way down. As we were standing there frozen precipitation started coming down, so much for the late day showers. We made a brief stop for lunch and continued on to the summit.

The snow was getting very deep but we were still managing not to posthole. It was a very confusing trail but we made it to the summit without any problem. We walked over to the actual summit and took note that there was no summit marker on the tree. It was removed last year, apparently it was unoffical and not allowed. We didn't linger long and were soon starting our descent. For some reason Larry and I were starting to posthole in this direction but not too badly. Back at the cabin we saw two more hikers and then no others for the remainder of the hike.

The microspikes stayed on until we got out of the first stretch of snow then stayed off after that. As we dropped down in elevation there was light rain starting to fall. We turned onto the Bunnell Notch Trail and for some reason it seemed a lot wetter and muddier than on the way up. We soon found it necessary to put on a waterproof layer. When we arrived at the water crossing Larry and Jill wanted no part of crossing on that wet log. Instead they made a mad dash through the water and still managed to have dry feet on the other side. I chose the wet, slippery log and had no problem crossing.

We arrived back at the parking lot as the rain stopped, so much for the late day rain. Once again I can understand why the hiking trails do not get a lot of use this time of year. The one thing we had going for us was the cool temps that kept the snow firm and stopped us from doing some major postholing, the snowshoes got a free ride. There's still plenty of snow in the higher elevations to create an arduous hike if every step is a posthole. With more rain in the forecast this week the trails are sure to be sloppy and challenging throughout the White Mountains.

Enjoy the photos!

 Upper Ammonoosuc River on the way into the fish hatchery

 York Pond

 The number 7 is forming in King Ravine

 The Unkown Pond trailhead

 We meet Bernie the Bernese mountain dog again

 On our way

 York Pond Trail

 Turning onto the Bunnell Notch Trail

We're going up there

 Larry and Jill are hesitant about crossing the log

 Jill is doing the single log crossing

 Larry is doing the double log crossing

 The trail goes up that way

 LOTS of flowing water from everywhere

 LOTS of mud

 Starting to see snow

Spring has sprung

Monorail is fading out

Watery trail

On the Kilkenny Ridge Trail

More mud

A narrow monorail

A view from the trail

Franconia Ridge

Cannon Mountain

Bunnell Rock

A view of the Mahoosucs in the distance

Heavy clouds moving in from the west

On the official summit at the unofficial summit tree

Descending toward the cabin

A view from the cabin porch

Cabot cabin

Navigating a narrow monorail

Back on the Bunnell Trail

A very wet trail

Moose posthole

A very muddy trail

Jill walks through a blowdown on the trail while Larry watches

Back to the tricky water crossing

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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