November 16, 2009

Cannon Mountain

Owen and Katy atop Cannon MountainFor several weeks, now, Katy and I have been hoping to knock off another 4000 foot mountain in our goal of hiking all of New Hampshire's 4000 footers. With winter closing in, there aren't too many weekends left before we would likely be hiking on a snow covered trail. With the recent unseasonably warm temperatures here in the Northeast, though, we planned a quick day hike up Cannon Mountain for this past weekend. Cannon Mountain is "across the street" from Mounts Lafayette and Lincoln, our first conquest, and is home to what once was the iconic Old Man of the Mountain. There are several routes up it, but we chose to start our ascent from the Lafayette Campground on the southeast side of the mountain.

The quality of the weather for this trip was in doubt right up until we took our first step on the trail. A significant rain event was forecast for all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, but it was unclear when things would clear out on Sunday. We were feeling optimistic, though, and were up before sunrise on Sunday and began the two hour ride to Franconia Notch in the dark and in the rain. By the time we reached the trailhead, the rain had stopped and patches of blue sky were trying to break through the low clouds and the fog. Things were looking up and we were on the trail at 8:40AM.

Katy navigating through some serious bouldersEven after deciding to start our hike from Lafayette Campground, there were still a number of interconnecting trails that could get us to the top of the mountain. On the way up, we hiked all the way out past Lonesome Lake via the Lonesome Lake Trail and continued our ascent up this trail to its northern terminus where it met the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The Lonesome Lake Trail was well maintained with a reasonably moderate grade as we ascended about 1700 feet of elevation in 2.3 miles. From there, we followed the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the summit. The most technically challenging and steepest part of the climb was definitely the section between the end of the Lonesome Lake Trail and the junction with the Hi-Cannon trail (about 0.4 miles from the summit). In this section we went up about 500 feet of elevation in less than half a mile, requiring quite a bit of scrambling over large boulders and roots. We reached the top a little bit after 11:00AM.

Katy doing a Matrix style pose at the summitThere's a tramway and ski area on the opposite side of the mountain that we hiked, so the summit is fairly well developed with an observation tower at the peak. It was warm, even at the top of the mountain, with temperatures in the 50's and we were able to enjoy at least some partial views with clearing skies and mountain tops peaking out of the clouds to our north and west. It was quite a bit of a different feel than our early October hike with fall foliage nearing peak season. This time around the trees were bare with evergreens peppering the mountain sides. There wasn't much to see to the south and east, though, as some low, stubborn clouds had settled in, obscuring the views over to Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge. We hung out at the top for a while and ate our lunch before heading back down.

Owen overlooking Lonesome Lake on Hi-Cannon TrailOn the hike down, we decided to take a slightly different route. Instead of going down the steepest section of the Kinsman Ridge Trail to Lonesome Lake Trail, we decided to take a left turn at the Hi-Cannon trail. This trail was narrower and seemed a little less traveled. We had to deal with some quite steep sections of long, slippery rocks, including one ledge that was so impossibly steep that a ladder was constructed to assist hikers. Some trail descriptions peg the middle portion of this trail as the most difficult trail on Cannon Mountain. There were several neat lookout ledges along the route overlooking Lonesome Lake with views down the notch. The Hi-Cannon Trail met up with the Lonesome Lake Trail less than a half mile from the trailhead and we arrived back at the car at 1:40PM. Total time was about five hours round trip for six miles of hiking including our extended break at the summit. We drove back home, stopping for some food along the way and were back home before 6PM from a quick, but satisfying and enjoyable trip to the Whites with Katy.

For those keeping track, that's 3 down with 45 to go!

1 comment :

  1. Wait until you try and get the to the Bonds, if you can find them!