Hike #6: Cannon Mountain
Elevation: 4,100 feet
Date: May 27, 2013
Location: Franconia, NH
Distance: 4.6 miles
Time: 4:30 (58:41/mile)
We didn’t originally plan to hike today. We previously planned to spend Saturday and Sunday hiking, bookending a stay at AMC’s Galehead Hut. Sunday’s stay at the Woodstock Inn & Brewery was for après hike pampering to round out the weekend, before heading back to Massachusetts on Monday. But Armageddon weather and two shorter day hikes left us with neither the mileage nor total time we’d sought. Part of this trip was for its own experience, and part was as training for mid-June’s Presidential Traverse, covering seven peaks over 20 miles in a single day. So we decided to tackle Cannon Mountain, which was nearby and under five miles. Given that we are typically ahead of book pace, we thought we’d come in at around three-and-a-half hours and be back home just in time to pick Tedy up from the kennel.
We set out from the parking lot of Cannon on the Kinsman Ridge Trail about 10:30. Our muscles were a bit sore and fatigued, but we were forced to contend with a trail that was immediately and often steep. We soon stripped off layers, heating up despite the dropping temperature as we gained elevation. The write-ups referenced this as a pretty intense hike and we began to understand why. When we hit a clearing, the view was great and the terrain turned from hardpack trail to quasi-rock scramble. The snowpack also was deeper than what we’d seen the day before at Mount Willey, on the eastern side of the whites. This meant that, instead of the temps quickly melting the snow, the snow was cooling off the temps while still creating enough runoff to make hiking and foot placement tricky. It seemed to also generate a silence, the chirping of birds and rustling of chipmunks left below the snowline, and the soaring hawks overhead generating only silence.
Our pace slowed as we sought handholds in some places, stepped carefully in others, hoping to remain both safe and dry. But as the trail transitioned back under evergreens we began ceding our comfort to the elements. The trail revealed puddles and slush in some spots that seemed largely impassable. Sara sucked it up and walked on. I was determined to use my alleged mountain goat-like nimbleness to hop, balance, and wend my way through while remaining mostly dry. It worked… at first. Then there was a foot slip on a rock, a mossy spot that sank more than it appeared it would, and a gap that an Olympic long jumper couldn’t cross. Next thing you know, my boots had gone from having a little snow on the reinforced tips to being officially damp, and the sticky palms from sap transferred from a tree trunk served as a temporary tattoo to memorialize my pointless caution. I felt compelled to be a baby about it, but mostly because I was nervous that the greater snow on Cannon and all the time in it would leave me more miserable than I ever expected for a day so gorgeous. It was a lesson for the newbie that there can be a lag between the weather improving and the conditions catching up.
But then I got over my mild case of the grumpies when we started coming out to some phenomenal views. We’d come to the ridge near where the Old Man of the Mountains was located before the disintegration (which is why Cannon’s also known as “Profile Mountain”). Over the aroma and immediately adjacent evergreens, we could see the peaks of the Franconia Ridge, and they were splendid with the snowcaps and exposed rock toward the summits, and greenery of spring nearer the bases, with enough snow covered trees closer by to make for views that would rival anything in leaf-peeping season. One of my daughters had made a picture for me, showing me hiking. I’d brought it with me, hoping to find a similar view and take a picture of me looking at her picture and the view, thinking she’d appreciate that. Finding a suitable lookout, Sara took some photos for me to send to her.
|My daughter's drawing was close... she didn't know to draw snow.|
With my spirit buoyed, we headed on, now leveling out temporarily as we continued toward the summit Then I quickly had a recurrence of the grumpies, this time longer and worse than before. We hadn’t expected to hike here so we didn’t have this part of the AMC’s White Mountain Guidebook with us. The online information we’d read had referenced a somewhat flat area near the summit prone to puddling. I guess that might be true during a once-in-a-hundred-years drought. But after a soaking rain and a half-foot of snow now melting under sun and 60-plus degree temps, it was essentially a shallow lake, soon to be bestowed a variety of nicknames, only some of which are suitable for print.
I didn’t bother with my “I can do this; I’m a mountain goat” crap. I just tried to find ways to keep my feet as dry as possible. Sara? She plodded on relentlessly, only being particular about her route in the absolute worst areas. Me? I’m bending over backwards as I’m clinging to trees, doing quick toe-taps across rotting trunks floating in the water, and doing the pelican pose from Karate Kid on tiny rocks jutting above the water. All while trying to be sure I don’t do a move to damage the landscape that I’m supposed to be enjoying and respecting. Predictably, it was a losing battle, with every errant step and sinking foot allowing more of my shoes and socks to be claimed by the freezing water. Sara could trace my progress behind her by the steady stream of expletives coming out of my potty mouth. At one point, I let loose a string of curses that even George Carlin would agree should never be uttered on television.
|Half-dozen of my 67 peaks in 67 months. |
Note the sideways snow on the post behind me.
|"He just saved my life... and someday I'll|
let him cash those chips in... maybe."
The initial descent wasn’t great. There wasn’t anything particularly bad, but I knew that I had to traverse the newest Great Lake again. And some safe spots were no longer safe, as they were one-time islands, now filled in with water. This time, when we got to the start of that stretch, instead of cursing I just stopped talking.
|What a hike! What a weekend!|
See you on the trail,
Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper