Saturday, February 23, 2019

Mt. Cabot Cabin

The snow is deep in the North Country. As we drove north Friday on Route 16, the snowbanks got progressively higher. Through Pinkham Notch we were slowed by a plow truck that was clearing an overnight snowfall and then waited while a tow-truck pulled a vehicle from a snowbank. The High Presidentials were in the clear, so we were hoping for same on our first-ever hike to the summit of 4,170-foot Mt. Cabot.

Headed north on Route 16 through Pinkham Notch, following a plow truck.
High Presidentials in the clear.

York Pond Road from Route 110 in Berlin to the Berlin Fish Hatchery and trailheads was mostly plowed, except for the 4+ inches of new snow. We got underway at 9:50 am on the York Pond Trail. The snowshoe-width trail was discernible, but the fresh powdery snow made for extra work. A young man headed out at the same time and soon passed us, breaking new trail for us the rest of the way.

Thanks to the hatchery folks for keeping the road into these trails nicely plowed.

The York Pond Trailhead was also plowed out with room for 2-3 cars. 

In our group of two people and two dogs, Kodi, the 11-year old, led the way at the beginning. On the way down though he made and tried to curl up in three snow nests, until we urged him on. He was ready to hop back in the car at the end of our 8.8-mile hike. His legs were tired.

Kodi gets underway on the York Pond Trail.

Henna, the 6-year old, is a runner, so has to remain tethered, which helps pull the person she is tethered to up (Srini) and down (me) the trail. She did have one planned and one un-planned free romp. There were several stream crossings that required a steep hop across, which is tricky on snowshoes and tethered to a dog. Henna got better at it, as did we.

One of the small brooks that required a hop across on snowshoes.

Henna, during her planned off-leash period, followed by her unplanned romp up the trail. Fortunately the deep snow kept her contained and she ran back to us after a bit.

We climbed up to the Kilkenny Ridge via the Bunnell Notch Trail, which ascends through a sapling forest (an old clearcut), then a beautiful yellow birch-paper birch forest, and then into a spruce forest. We were in and out of the clouds, with a light snow falling, so couldn't see any distance views. The beauty of the woods was a good enough view. A grouse flushed from its snow fort beneath a small spruce tree. Higher up, where the spruce dominated, we noted marten tracks criss-crossing the trail. Otherwise the woods were quiet, except for our beating hearts as we climbed.

The Bunnell Notch Trail as it begins to ascend through an old clearcut.
Apparently, beneath the deep snow there are stone steps.

The lower section of the Bunnell Notch Trail ascends moderately
through a beautiful hardwood forest.

The trail begins to climb more steeply as it ascends along the north bank of Bunnell Brook
and past large, old yellow birch trees.

At this point along the trail the hardwoods give way to red spruce.

Henna chases Kodi up the trail.

At the junction with the Kilkenny Ridge Trail we stop for a snack break.
The trail signs are just barely above the snow.

The snow-laden spruce trees made for a winter wonderland.

Kilkenny Ridge was in the clouds and cloaked in snow.

The last stretch of the combined Kilkenny Ridge-Cabot Trails follow a series of steep switchbacks, which allowed me to take periodic rests and absorb the beauty of the woods.

It was good to finally see the Cabot Cabin, where we paused for hot soup. Our fellow traveler reached sooner and was not able to find the trail to the summit. He turned back as did we, happy to have gotten to the cabin at 4,070 feet. Two young women were nearing the cabin as we descended, so the trail was well-packed for Saturday hikers.

By the time we descended and looked back, the ridge was finally in the clear.

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