Monday, June 20, 2011

Mt. Waumbek & Mt. Cabot - 6-18-11

This week I bring to you a double feature; two separate hikes on Saturday to peak two 4000 foot peaks and one peak on the 52 with a view list. The choices are not getting easier when it comes to knocking these mountains off the list. Mt. Waumbek and Mt. Cabot are the two northern most peaks on the NH48 list. Waumbek and Cabot are not easily done together, but my plan was to start and complete Waumbek as early as possible, and be able to start Mt. Cabot as soon as possible after the Berlin Fish Hatchery gate opens.

My family has a place near Laconia, so I was relaxing Friday night by the fire and got decent sleep before my early departure at 3am. I started up the Starr King Trail exactly at 5am, just as the sky started to lighten from the sun coming up. The Starr King Trail was a pretty gradual ascent, and I realized that once I was into it. My legs were screaming at first, but overall the trail was generally very easy. Although there is not a whole lot of exciting stuff on the Starr King Trail, the woods surrounding the trail was beautiful with rich green colors from the moss and ferns. I got slightly steeper, and then I came to the summit of Mt. Starr King, which is 3907'. I had a slight glimpse of some under-cast through the trees.
I then continued on past the open area towards Mt. Waumbek. The stretch between Starr King and Waumbek was even more green and lush than below. It also seems flat and slightly open, which is odd for 4000 feet, but flat is good, and I was at Waumbek in no time, my 22nd peak of the quest. With no views and not much else to do other than get down hike another mountain, that's what I did. However, with about a half mile or so left, the heavens just opened up and it poured so hard. It had sprinkled a few times since I started, but it poured like crazy, so on went the rain jacket and rain cover, and continued to quickly descend the rest of the way. I got back down to my car, and completed this trip, a total of 7.2 miles in 2.5 hours, well ahead of my plan for the day, despite the fact it was now pouring and everything was completely soaked.
So I changed my shirt, dried my shorts with a towel, and headed towards Berlin to hike Mt. Cabot. I stopped at a store to pick up a sandwich and some more water, and it was still raining good. I knew the weather was going to be on and off for the day, so I knew it wouldn't rain all day. The York Pond Trail begins wayyyy down the York Pond Road, past the fish hatchery gate. Since I don't have experience dealing with the gate issue, this is why I planned it the way I did. I started up the York Pond Trail at 9am, and it was sprinkling but clearing a bit now. The trail is flat for .2 miles as you walk through a meadow up to the Bunnell Notch Trail. Once here, the trail begins to climb steadily as the trail leads over the notch toward the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. Some parts of the Bunnell Notch Trail are much more rugged than others, but overall, I liked the roughness of the trail; it appeared overgrown in some areas, which was cool (at least for a hike with no views).

Once I made it to the Kilkenny Ridge trail, there was definitely some more elevation gain to be had, particularly towards the top. Having hiked 7.2 miles earlier and already another 3, I was feeling it as I got closer to Cabot Cabin. The Kilkenny Ridge Trail did not give me any issues. The trail is rocky in some parts, but overall pretty easy to contend with. I made it to the Cabin and checked it out. What a place to have camp and hang out on a beautiful day or night. I wish I had been able to see the view, but at least it wasn't raining. I continued on to the site of the fire tower to get a minimal view of the mountains below. About 50 yards from the site of the old tower, there are a few humongous blow downs across the trail that have probably been there for a while, since there were visible paths around them. About 2-3 minutes later, I finally arrived at the sign to mark the summit. Another hiker was there, the first I had seen all day long. I had reached my 23rd peak of this quest.

With not much to look at on the summit, I set off back down the trail past the cabin and down. I snapped a few photos on the way down because the weather got slightly better, offering me slightly better views than on the ascent, which was a great treat. I arrived back at my car at 4:10pm, finishing this hike, a total of 9.6 miles in 4 hours, 10 minutes. The total for the day was 16.5 miles, 6 hours 40 minutes, and about the same elevation gain as an ascent of Mt. Washington. My plan for the day worked out even better than I thought, as finished these peaks in a very timely manner, which got me back to Laconia by 4pm for a much needed steak dinner and nap! Despite the view-less summits, these two hikes in the north country offered attractive trails, which included a variety of wild flowers and trail-side features such as the sound of small streams and waterfalls. I came across a white admiral butterfly and a nicely spun spider-web.

Hike Stats
Trails: Starr King Trail
Miles: 7.2
Elevation Gain: 2650 ft
Book Time: 2hrs 30min

Trails: York Pond Trail, Bunnell Notch Trail, Kilkenney Ridge Trail
Miles: 9.6
Elevation Gain: 2400 ft
Book Time: 4hrs 10 min

To view selected photos from these trips please view or click the slide shows below:

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