Peaks: Mt. Cardigan (3155'), Firescrew (3064')
Trails: Holt Trail, Mowglis Trail, Manning Trail
Mileage/time: ~5.5 miles, ~1950' of gain, book time of 3:45, actual time of 3:25
Long story short, work got the better of me this week, and I decided to take a mental health day. A decent forecast was on tap, and I wanted to get out... that had all the hallmarks of an uncommon occurrence, of the TUESDAY Sleep Deprivation Special!
Out of work at 6am, gear gathered, breakfasting done, on the road! I had forgotten it was bike week, as there were a ton of bikers on the road, and my route took me perilously close to Laconia. Thankfully I never needed to go that far, as I soon turned off the main roads, and wound my way up to the AMC Cardigan Lodge. Only a few vehicles were in the lot, as I threw on my shoes, and started up.
The Holt Trail starts off innocuous enough, on an old road, passing beside campsites, at easy grades. Even still, the day had warmed into the 70's down low, and it wasn't long before I was sweating profusely. Passing the Manning Trail junction, the Holt Trail draws close to Bailey Brook, crossing it on a bridge as it nears Grand Junction. I ran into a solo gentleman, and talked to him a bit about the trails. I'm not sure if he worked at the lodge or not, but was headed up to High Cabin to see some work that had been done.
Above Grand Junction (rather the point of no return), the trail narrowed, and steepened a bit, staying close to the dwindling brook. The signage indicated that it was 0.8 miles to the summit from the junction, but what it doesn't tell you is that the last 0.4 gains 1000'!!! Still in the woods, the first scramble is reached, a cleft in a steep ledge on the trail.
|Lower Holt Trail|
|Holt Trail past Grand Junction|
|The first scramble|
Beyond the first scramble, the steepness continues, but mostly on rocks of varying sizes. Then came some tougher scrambles, requiring a bit of creativity, as views started to open up to the north and east. This is not a trail that I would do if it were wet or icy, and unsurprisingly, it's signed as such!
|Steepness on Holt Trail|
|View north to the east ridge of Firescrew|
|Looking west toward the summit|
Ducking in and out of the scrub, with scrambles interspersed, made for a super fun climb. There were even some highbush blueberries in bloom, and some three-toothed cinquefoil. The steepness didn't really let up until I crested the broad summit, where I ran into a couple of small groups, and far reaching, but hazy views all around.
|Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata)|
|Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)|
|Looking through the Cardigan/Firescrew col|
|West view from Cardigan|
|South view from Cardigan|
|Looking down the West Ridge Trail|
|Firescrew from Cardigan, hazy New Hampshire high peaks on the horizon|
I chatted briefly with five Dartmouth students, and took some pictures for them, before setting myself up in the open for lunch. A short hike to a great spot deserved something more, and out of my pack, I procured a bottle of White Birch Brewing Co's Berliner Weisse. Nothing like a great beer on a mountaintop!
|Yup, this happened...|
After finishing my sandwich, I wandered around the summit area, drinking my beer. I struck up a conversation (after taking some pictures for them) with a couple from Saratoga Springs, NY, and their three dogs. All in all, there were probably a dozen people on and around the summit area during my stay. Not bad for a late spring weekday afternoon!
I soon packed back up, and headed steeply down the Mowglis Trail on open ledges. Firescrew was so named due to the fires that ravaged these peaks in 1855, leaving their tops bare to this day. White blazes and some small cairns marked the way, and some great clouds passed by, along with views back to Cardigan. Reaching the signed junction with Manning Trail, I started down, ducking into scrub every once and a while, but mostly staying in the open.
|Cardigan from the col|
|Cardigan from near Firescrew|
|The steep east face that Holt Trail ascends|
Passing some boggy areas among the ledges, I had one parting view of Cardigan before dropping steeply back into the woods. Easy grades soon resumed, and before long, I was back on the lower Holt Trail. Back to the car just before 2, I changed, and started for home. In the future, when coming to this area, I'll be planning more than just one hike (if they're going to be short ones), because it's a long (2.5+ hours) drive for me. Sleep deprived as I was, I hadn't really done my homework. So it goes.
|One last view of the Sweater|
Once back home, I tried to write this up, and promptly (inadvertently) took a nap. This peak "counts" for two lists I'm working on, the 52 With A View (#38), and the New England 50 Finest (#16). Hooray for progress!
Big day on tap for tomorrow, stay tuned for the next post!