Friday, January 11, 2013

Waumbek and Cannon 1/10/13

Working title: A double hit and run? Don't mind if I do.

Mike and I had planned two hikes for the day, two of the shorter ones that we both needed for our respective winter lists. After last Saturdays hike to the Carters, I came up ill. It started as a hacking cough on Sunday morning, and worked itself into a full blown fever by Sunday night. I worked Sunday night through Tuesday night, and persevered through the sickness, though I'll be the first to admit, it wasn't fun. Only a lingering cough persisted through until the morning of the hike. After these hikes, I feel like I'm 100% again!

Hike #1:

Peaks: Starr King, Waumbek

Trails: Starr King Trail

Mileage/time: 7.2 miles, 2900 feet of gain, book time of 5:03, actual time of 4:10

Early, early, early. That's what time I get up these days for hikes. I exited my house to find that it had rained in Portland that night. Great, I would have left earlier had I known. The Portland area wasn't bad, but once I got a bit further inland, the roads became slick, until I reached Conway. I thought to myself, I'll just take the Kanc, it'll be faster, and more direct. More direct, yes, faster, no. Just as I made the turn, it started to snow lightly, then as the road climbed, it snowed harder, and harder. The slowdown, and getting stuck behind a plow, made me about 20 minutes late meeting Mike at the Cannon Tramway lot.

Piled in, and on the road. Along the way, it looked like someone (probably a big truck) hit a deer or some other large animal. The only sign that it happened, other than a few frozen chunks, was a big bloody swath of snow-covered road. The Starr King Trail summer lot isn't plowed, but there was enough room that I was able to back in, and not block the driveway to the house that's right there. We suited up, which didn't involve much since it was pretty mild, put on snowshoes, and started up the trail.

We soon worked up some internal heat, and were comfortable the whole way in base layers. It's been a long time since I went up this trail, and it's really very mellow, climbing through beautiful hardwoods to start. They almost looked like birch trees the way the snow had blown in, but I knew better. The wind was blowing across the slope from our left, and was biting at times, though as long as we were moving, we stayed warm. More quickly than expected, we hit the conifers, and continued up into the clouds, there would be no views from these peaks today. Here the trail became slightly drifted in places, but it was easily broken back out. Soon, we popped out into the clearing near Starr King summit, and took mandatory photos of the fireplace.

We proceeded quickly from here over to Waumbek, despite the trail being drifted over almost the entire way. Blazing on the trail was good, though most blazes were at chest or hip height, and this allowed us to follow the trail relatively well. Waumbek wasn't very impressive, and there would have been no point in trudging through the snow to the viewpoint, so we turned tail and got out of there.

The return to Starr King was uneventful, and we quickly made our way past it, and on down to the car. Mike started jogging on the way down, and I haphazardly tried to follow him. Running in 30 inch snowshoes feels weird, and must look funny as hell. Just as we reached the car, we saw the only person of the morning, a local resident (who has a super cool little house right by the trailhead), and chatted her up for a few minutes before departing. We made awesome time, and now hopped in the car to head back to Franconia, and get some lunch.

A limited view on the way down Starr King Trail

After returning to Mike's truck at Cannon, we went to Dutch Treat in Franconia for lunch. Mike had potato skins and I had a turkey bacon cheddar burger, all things were delicious. A cup of tea and a bunch of water with lunch helped get us ready for what was to come, another hike! I could get used to hike interludes like this, warm and with food!

Hike #2:

Peak: Cannon

Trails: Kinsman Ridge Trail, Rim Trail

Mileage/time: 4.4 miles, 2300 feet of gain, book time of 3:23, actual time of 4:20

We had no illusions that we'd be slow on this one, because let's face it, another few miles and another couple thousand feet of gain should be no problem. It really wasn't a problem, just a bit slower, with more stops. The same base layers were on (we never bothered changing), the snowshoes came back, and we took off up the trail. Let me put it this way, this trail doesn't fuck around. Right out of the lot, it charges upslope, and doesn't really let up until just before the summit. We ran into a solo hiker right at the base, and a couple in bareboots up higher.

Eagle Cliff from the trailhead

Kinsman Glade ski trail, looks like it would be fun with more snow!
The trail switchbacks (a novel idea in New England) up the mountain, crisscrossing the Kinsman Glade ski trail several times on the way up. With a couple more feet of snow, the trail looks like it would be a hell of a lot of fun. After the last crossing, we got into the flats before the summit, and took the view spur to some amazing views.

Shortly after the spur, we reached the Rim Trail, which had only been broken out to the south. No problem, we'll just make a loop out of it, and break out the other end on the way back. This was the first time all day we had to put on our shells, but we would be glad we did. Around the Rim Trail we went, it's fascinating being almost right at the level of the clouds, with views below you, and cloud above. We soon reached another junction, with Kinsman Ridge Trail continuing south, and signage pointing north to the summit. I checked out a little path I saw heading off to what looked to be a view, and almost immediately ended up in a spruce trap up to mid-thigh. Classy, though the views were worth it.

The back side of the Kinsman Ridge

West view from the viewpoint
Now it was on to the summit, a quick jaunt to the tower, underneath to hit the true highpoint, then up the stairs (tricky in snowshoes) to see if we could get some views. There were views to be had, but there was a fierce west wind to deal with too, this being the most exposed to the weather we'd been all day.

Rime on the tower

Mittersil peak from Cannon
We didn't stick around long, and made our way down to the top of the tram. The back door wasn't unlocked, so we went around and were able to get into the building on the north side. Unfortunately the guy inside informed us that he was closed up for the day, and that we couldn't get coffee. No big deal, we sat down, snacked, drank water, and chatted with some skiers who were finishing up their days. The guy running the place came over and chatted with us too. The big surprise to us, was when we were getting ready to head out, he came over with two cups of coffee for us! What a guy! Thank you so much.

Freshly caffeinated and warm, we ventured back out what had become the dim. Light fading, we made it down to near the view point, and becoming too warm with our shells, we took them off. The last rays of sunlight made their play on the mountains, and we were lucky enough to be able to capture some of them.

That's about all she wrote for this one. Quickly down, not needing headlamps, we popped back out to our waiting vehicles at 5 on the dot. Success! We drove into Lincoln hoping for Mexican food, but they were closed... Chinese it was. Then we parted ways, there's a Moosilauke and a Tecumseh to be climbed on Saturday.

The days final tally works out like this:

Mileage/time: 11.6 miles, 5200 feet of gain, total book time of 8:25, actual time of 8:30

I am now at 21 of 48 peaks in winter, and today marked Grid peaks #99 and #100!!!

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