Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cabot 3/13/13

Working title: Entering the single digits

Peak: Mt. Cabot

Trails: York Pond Trail, Bunnell Notch Trail, Kilkenny Ridge Trail

Mileage/time: 9.6 miles, 3100 feet of gain, book time of 6:20, actual time of 8:10

Thankfully, the above reference to single digits doesn't involve temperatures, for once. It does, however, signal the home stretch for my winter 4000 footers list. Even though I won't be able to finish this year, I'm comforted by the fact that next season will be easy by comparison. Depending on how the last available day for me to hike goes, I'll either have 8 peaks, or 5 peaks remaining. Though, in all honesty, I'm looking forward to non-winter conditions, more comfortable footwear, and a lighter pack.

It had been a while since I "maximized" a short weekend, hiking after I get out of work on a Wednesday morning. I was feeling pretty tired when I got out at 6am, managed to make it until I got coffee in me, and wound my way north to Berlin. Along the way, I realized my mistake in route selection. Long story short, Route 35 is a fine way to take in the summer, but frost heaves and my car don't make for a comfortable ride. I'm sure that went a long way towards keeping me alert. Sooner than later, I turned onto York Pond Road, which was in decent shape, overly sanded, slushy in spots, and soft once on the dirt portion. When I pulled into the trailhead, I was shocked, SHOCKED, that no one was there yet. Quickly changing out of my work clothes, I started getting ready. Mike and Inna pulled in shortly thereafter, and I informed them both that they weren't seeing me at my best.

We waited around a bit for the fourth member of our party, who got lost trying to find the trailhead, and didn't make it before we left. Starting out in snowshoes, we headed towards the turn onto Bunnell Notch Trail. The snow was soft, thanks to the warmth and rain, and I was sinking in at times, being the heaviest of our party. It was a comfortable stroll up the road portion of the trails, in base layers. Inna and Mike were talking, but unless we stopped, the sound of our snowshoes crunching in the soft snow, drowned out most of their conversation. Turning off the road, we climbed up into the beautiful woods lining Bunnell Notch.

The Kilkenny is a place that I have a lot of love for. The feeling of remoteness I get here, trumps most of the places I've been, and it didn't disappoint in the winter season. I recognized areas from my last trip up here, and it's still amazing to me what a couple feet of snow can do for a landscape. Streamlets ran across the trail at times, slicing deeply through the snowpack. Spring is definitely on the way.

Climbing higher, the gentle walls of the notch closed in from either side, and the woods became denser as we reached the flat floor. This area is generally very wet, and it was nice to not be sinking in mud this time around. When we reached the Kilkenny Ridge junction, it didn't appear that the trail up to North Terrace had been traveled this winter. The sun even tried to come out a couple of times, and there were traces of blue sky here and there.

We continued our leisurely pace up out of the notch, and climbed up the shoulder of Cabot, the dropping temperature stiffening the trail beneath our snowshoes, making them crunch harshly. Not that I could hear anyway. Soon, we realized we were climbing into a cloud. Thankfully, the views were somewhat clear from Bunnell Rock.

Where the west shoulder of Cabot should be

Towards Willard Basin from Bunnell Rock

We soon entered the clouds that were shrouding the upper elevations, and some light rime was starting to form on the trees, thanks again to the dropping temperatures. Stopping at the cabin briefly, we continued on past it towards the summit. Sadly, the firetower viewpoint was clouded in, but then we entered the woods along the summit ridge, which are always a treat in my opinion.

The packed trail meandered a bit off the actual trail, but it got the job done, popping out on the summit from the east instead of the south. We went to the stick, the actual summit of Cabot, and took pictures for proof.

Mike and Inna at the summit
Since there was nothing to see there, we retreated to the relative comforts of the cabin. It felt colder inside than it was outside, and the cabin itself has seen better days. Looks like everyone and their grandmother came in and out with spikes, as the area in front of the door is getting all chewed up. We ate and chatted, and soon geared back up and started our descent. I wanted to be comfortable, as my ongoing love/hate relationship with my boots and snowshoes, so I opted for spikes to descend with. Indeed, it was comfortable, and fast, though as we reached the floor of the notch, I started to posthole. I got irritated, and it showed a bit, as I was getting mentally tired. My body was willing and ready for whatever, but my mind was reeling. I just needed to get off the mountain.

After I donned my yellow foot destroyers, we continued our descent, which went smoothly as far as I could tell. The sun even started to come out! I made sure to document the awesomeness of the trees.

Cabot, the Bulge, and the Horn

Reaching the cars, we got out of our gear, and saddled up for the ride into Gorham, there was a Chinese buffet to be had! Dinner and great conversation was had, and we eventually parted ways. On my way home, I stopped at one point in Fryeburg, out away from the town. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but I have never seen the stars as I saw them last night. It was the capstone on a fantastic day.

Sadly, when I got home, there was no heat, and we couldn't reach the landlord. So instead of a hot shower and bed, I got bed. I still woke up feeling like a million bucks.

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