Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cannon and a Cannonball 11/2/12

Peaks: Cannon Mountain (4100 ft.) and Northeast Cannonball (3769 ft.) - #67 NEHH

Trails: Lonesome Lake Trail, Hi-Cannon Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Rim Trail, Around Lonesome Lake Trail, Dodge Cut-off

Mileage/time: ~7.5 miles, ~3100 ft. of gain, book time of 5:20, actual time of 4:55.

In the interest of sooner than later finishing up my New England 100 Highest list, I decided to go after some low hanging fruit. Also, I wanted to see what kind of damage the storm may have done. I've never been a late starter, usually I like to be on trail before, if not a bit after sunrise. This day though, I got up at 6:30, readied my things, went to breakfast at the Bayou Kitchen in Portland (for the money, breakfast in Portland doesn't get much better than this), then headed north. I then realized my mistake. Traffic? It's a concept that's foreign to me, what with early rising to go hiking, and working night shift (see: going the opposite direction as traffic), and here I was stuck behind the slowest of the slow. Most of the way there, on 113, on 302, on 112... reaching 93 was a relief. Eventually, I arrived in Franconia Notch, turned around at the Tram exit, and parked myself at the Lonesome Lake trailhead.

Today, I'd be hiking in some new North Face Hedgehog III GTX XCR shoes (please add more acronyms?), that I've been wearing religiously every day for the past two weeks trying to break them in. I also hauled out my winter pack, and stuffed it with everything I'd usually carry, excepting snowshoes, crampons, and ice axe. Also, I brought along my poles, which I hadn't used yet, I bought them in August after breaking my other pair in May on Mt. Abraham. Temperatures were decent (low 40's), with little wind, so I suited up and started up the trail.

The lower reaches of Lonesome Lake Trail seemed to do alright through the storm, though you could see some spots where there was water flowing, and some slightly more eroded sections. No down trees on the section between the trailhead and Hi-Cannon, then I made the turn. Not 30 yards from the junction, a large tree was blown over, pulling the root system out of the ground, leaving a hole with a giant rock in it where the trail should have gone. A short jaunt into the woods to my left brought me out to the other side of the hole.

Oh hi, there used to be a trail here, but I fell down

The Hi-Cannon Trail ascends by short switchbacks, it would have been exceedingly steep if not for them. After the first blowdown snafu, the trail was relatively clear up to the junction with Dodge Cut-off, where the Hi-Cannon sign is propped up against a rock on the ground, and the Dodge Cut-off sign is nowhere to be found.

Typical section on lower Hi-Cannon

Following the junction, the trail turned on me. Not only did the corridor close in around me, there were more blowdowns and tricky steep sections. Needless to say, I would not want to descend this trail. Things became damp due to the car wash like effect of the wet trees growing into the trail, and I considered throwing on my shell, but I was putting off heat like a blast furnace, and I wasn't uncomfortable in the least. Views began to open up, Franconia Ridge was in the clouds, but just below them, was a light white coating on the trees. That being said, I love winter. Soon I reached a ledgy area where I had to use two ladders, bolted together in the middle, to get up the face. It was a bit disconcerting, what with untested footwear, a heavier pack, and stupid poles. Above this, I got some nice views down to Lonesome Lake and south along the ridge. Around 3700 feet, the trail mellowed out and got much flatter, which brought along muddy sections, but also some snow clinging to the trees.

Not recent, but still cool

Limbo anyone?

South view

Navigational hazard

Sketchy ladder is sketchy

South over Lonesome Lake and the hut

Winter's on its way!

Reaching the junction of Kinsman Ridge Trail, I was in the clouds, and I knew that I'd be 0 for 2 for views on Cannon. The trail meandered gently up to the summit, where I was greeted with the tower, the east side of which was coated with rime.

The ice on the tower was a suitable reward, views would have been better, but there you have it. I wandered down the Rim Trail to the top of the tram, which wasn't running, so I went around to the junction with Kinsman Ridge. The summit wasn't in the clouds by much, and the cloud deck kept lifting and dropping throughout the day. It dropped as I went along the Rim Trail, looking off into the cloud, trying to piece together the scene that should be in front of me.

I worked my way quickly back to the Kinsman Ridge Trail, and down the Hi-Cannon junction. From here down to Coppermine Col was exceedingly steep and rough. The shoes didn't let me down, though some of the footing was tenuous at times, and the poles, oh the poles. At this point, they'll be strapped to my pack, to be used when absolutely necessary. I've gotten so used to hiking without them, that the return was clumsy and aggravating.

Ran into a pair at the Lonesome Lake junction, a mother and son, who were turning around and going back to the trailhead. After chatting with them, I went up towards Northeast Cannonball, and back into the clouds. The start of the climb is deceptive, nice rock steps leading out of Coppermine Col... then it goes vertical, some nice little scrambles, then I was on top. Looked like there would be some directional views, but mostly the summit is treed, cross another one off the list.

Northeast Cannonball from Kinsman Ridge Trail

Not the steepest section descending to Coppermine Col

Scramble on the other side

The "view"
Uneventfully, I made my way back to the junction, and caught up with the same pair whom I chatted with further, then pushed on. Lonesome Lake Trail was in decent shape, and I moved what downed branches I could, though there was a section with a couple of large blowdowns and uprooted trees just before the lake.

Around Lonesome Lake Trail was pretty nice, mostly bog bridges, that winds through a marshy area on the west side of the lake. There were a couple bridges that had a bit of movement in them, but overall they were pretty stable. One big blowdown sort of hanging in the middle of the trail, making it tricky to get around and under, just before the hut. By the time I reached the hut, the cloud ceiling had lowered, and it had started to drizzle steadily.

I hung out in the hut for a while, they had a fire going, so I sat by it for a bit and ate. They were doing all sorts of work, probably winter prep, there were at least 4 or 5 guys up there doing various things. Upon my departure, I went back the way I came, on now wet bog bridging. The precipitation was slow and steady, and it didn't know what it wanted to be. It alternated several times between snow and rain as I made my way around the lake to Dodge Cut-off. This trail was pretty nice and soft, probably doesn't get as much play as the rest of the trails in the area. It also didn't see as much storm damage as the rest of the trails, really none in fact, a couple muddy areas, and no blowdowns that I can recall. Back in familiar territory, cruising down Hi-Cannon, I ran into a guy who was ascending at 2:40... he said he was probably going to make a loop at the next junction. Hope he made it out alright, it was raining pretty steady at that point, though he seemed prepared for what was above him. Back to the parking lot at 3 on the dot.

Unsure how I feel about the shoes, and definitely sure how I feel about the poles (disdain/contempt). My new shell held up well, a bit warm for the conditions today, but should be perfect once full on winter hits.

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