Cannon Mountain: The Eleven Mile Hike!

We have this theory that we are cloud-magnets. But for some unknown reason, we selectively attract the grumpy and the overemotional ones (read: thunder and rain clouds). We also believe our cloud magnetism powers only work in the midst of mountain ranges during the most inconvenient times. Two weekends ago, our theory proved correct once again during our attempt at a twelve-mile hike to bag Cannon Mountain and the Kinsmans. While we’re not ones to shy away from a little rain or mist in ordinary circumstances, it’s certainly wasn’t ideal for us to be hauling up boulders and slippery slopes while the sky was having an emotional breakdown.

The one thing that makes us feel better about hiking in the rain is having a nice, sit-down breakfast beforehand. We walked into Flapjacks right when the doors opened, and lingered at our table for a long time in hopes that the clouds would clear. No such luck. After downing some fabulous omelets, we mustered up all the optimism we could manage and headed over to Lafayette Campground, which hosts the trailhead for hiking the Kinsmans and Cannon. Parking was free, so that made us feel marginally better. With our gear packed and water stores filled to the brim, we embarked on the Lonesome Lake trailhead to conquer the Kinsmans first, or so we thought.

Our yellow-blazed trail lead us up through the Lafayette campsites and into the woods. The first half of the trail was an easy grade with great footing. We met a good number of families with small children heading down from the lake and its hut. One precious little boy shyly asked if we were hiking mountains (his jaw dropped when we told him we were climbing three!). We passed the fork to Hi-Cannon Trail on our right and eventually emerged at a crossroads right at the shore of Lonesome Lake.

The lake was shrouded in an eerie mist that clouded the water’s characteristic glassiness (we’ve seen many a photograph of gorgeous Lonesome Lake during autumn’s peak). Substitute the towering pines for robust redwood trees, and we would have believed we were teleported to the Northwest. We both stood silently in awe for a long time. There was so much beauty to take in–had our pupils widened any further, we both would have gone blind. As much as we didn’t want to leave, we determined it would be best to keep going, seeing as the forecast for rain was approaching quickly.

At the junction we headed right to continue down the Lonesome Lake Trail, following it around the north shore and diverging right after a short period. The fun, easy grade ended here, as we quickly began to head upwards towards the Kinsman Ridge Trail. At this point, we realized that we had, in fact, started ascending the trail for Cannon Mountain instead of the Kinsmans. We were a little bummed that we screwed up, but ultimately, our mistake turned out to be for our benefit (more on that later). So, off to Cannon we went!

In about a mile we gained around 700 feet in elevation and were pretty tired once we reached the end of the trail. Nevertheless, we continued down to our right to follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the Coppermine Col, at the base of Cannon Mountain. The path was gradual at first but soon became extremely strenuous thanks to the huge, slippery boulders blocking our path. It made for a fairly arduous journey up to Cannon, but it was also cool hiking in the mist, which we presumed was a wispy cloud resting by the mountainside. Upon reaching the top at around 11:00AM we were engulfed by a glorious panoramic view of, well, absolutely nothing! The summit and viewing platform were both completely veiled by mist and cloud, and the fog was so opaque and dense that we couldn’t see five feet in front of our faces. The viewfinders at the observation tower were pretty much rendered useless. Despite the white in all directions, we were happy to add 4,000 Footer Number 7 to our list! After marveling briefly at the powerful gusts (Katie was convinced and terrified she would be blown off the summit) and the fact that we were literally hanging out in a cloud, we headed back down and retraced our steps to the connection with the Lonesome Lake trail.

From here, we left the Lonesome Lake trail on our left and began climbing the first of the three “Cannon Balls” on the Kinsman Ridge Trail. Our views were still obscured by the fog, but we still admired our surroundings as we sloped up and down several times at an easy to moderate grade over all three of the Cannon Balls, which were sizable mountains themselves. There were several, sharp upward climbs here, but they were short bursts with fairly good footing. After about two hours of traversing, we entered Kinsman Junction. The clouds were thinning enough for the sun to occasionally break through, so we decided to try our luck and continue on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and, hopefully, at least bag the first Kinsman. Bad idea.

At 4:00PM, the rain poured down on us in sheets, and thunderheads started rolling in quickly. Colin must be a little psychic, because not even 5 seconds before the rain started, he simply stated “It’s going to rain soon. I’ve got a feeling…” So we grudgingly aborted our journey and headed back towards the junction. We took a very short break at Kinsman Junction on the way back, which provided a perfect time for a much needed rest and for Colin to take some pictures of the clouds rolling over the mountains, truly a magnificent sight. But the break was brief and we continued on back to the junction where we began our journey back down to Lonesome Lake via the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail.

This was an interesting decent, and by interesting, we mean torturous and awful. The rocks were soaked and slippery and provided little to no footing. Butt-sliding became our main method of descent for the steeper parts of the first half of Fishin’ Jimmy, which didn’t matter much to us anyway since our pants were already soaked from the rain. Unfortunately, it added a lot of time to the total amount of hours we spent hiking. Eventually the rain let up (for the most part) and we crossed several misty brooks before eventually reaching the Lonesome Lake Hut, a beautiful little hide-away that we would love to stay at someday (if we ever become rich or really feel like splurging for a night or two). From here, the trail was an easy, yet muddy, stroll on a trail of bog bridges around the southwest corner of the lake, which ultimately led us to the Lonesome Lake Junction we visited earlier that day.

Now, it was simply time to backtrack down the Lonesome Lake Trail to the car, where we finally collapsed at 8:00PM. Our legs were eager to abandon their abusive bodies (sorry, legs—we love you!). And so we began the ride home, trying to look back at the bright sides of the hike. If this had been a nice day, it would have been a hard but definitely doable loop. The weather may not have been in our favor but we still had an amazing time together and, as always, pushed ourselves to our limits. We have no regrets about the hike. Heck, admiring Lonesome Lake in the mist was satisfying enough, and experiencing the raw power of nature on top of Cannon was pretty awesome, too. Another great thing about hiking on cruddy days is the lack of people on the trail. We enjoy the solitude together, which totally sounds paradoxical but it makes sense, we swear! Even though we ended up hiking eleven miles total just to summit one mountain, the journey was just as adventurous, beautiful, and rewarding. If mountains could laugh, North and South Kinsman would be howling as they ridicule the crap out of us for turning back 0.2 miles away from NK’s summit. Even though we didn’t accomplish our original plan, we’ll have the last laugh when we’re standing atop their summits after a safe ascent. Oh, and Mt. Tom? Don’t you even think for a second we forgot about you.

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Katie and Colin Try Being Tourists: Flume Gorge

We already know what you’re thinking. And no, we won’t stop kidding ourselves into thinking we’re a different breed of tourist (we prefer “frequent visitors”). However, reality points to us being guiltier of tourism than we’d like to admit. Neither of us permanently lives in New Hampshire. We’ve shamelessly dined in cute, bear-themed breakfast places, hoarded souvenirs from the many gift shops scattered across the neighboring mountain towns, and very briefly entertained the idea of taking a moose-sighting tour. The one thing we swore we wouldn’t do was to pay money to see something shaped by nature itself. We personally believe everyone should have access to these sights and places free of charge. But on our non-hiking day, we had arrived at our campsite unusually early and had an entire day to kill. So, we caved to hypocrisy and headed over to Flume Gorge to see what the fuss was about.

Outside the huge, wooden lodge guarding the entrance to the Gorge, we were invited to play a guessing game in which had to we match the animal to its correct footprint. It wasn’t enough for Colin just to guess the common name of the animal. He gleefully provided the genus and species of nearly every animal he guessed (typical, passionate wildlife major). We talked with the guide, Andrea, who was super nice, and learned we were both hiking the Kinsmans the next day! After some talk about the area and hiking, we said goodbye and ventured into the lodge. A fake stuffed moose greeted us, along with a (real) stuffed bear, and an old carriage amongst other things. Although the building is spacious, it seemed much smaller due to the swarms of people inside. Fifteen dollars later (each!), we embarked on our walk through Flume Gorge.

The walk itself was pretty. We picked up a scavenger hunt (provided by Andrea and clearly intended for children) to make the trip more entertaining. Colin even scared away a poor little boy by waddling like a penguin behind him (we had to walk like animals across the street!). The sights were well marked and interesting. Along the way was a glacial boulder, a covered bridge, and various viewpoints that showcased cascading waters and unique rock formations. After weaving through groups of families, we finally reached Flume Gorge.

It was a sublime feeling to stand between two colossal sheets of prehistoric rock, and look down at powerful streams water surging in graceful swirls below. It was amazing to ponder how the gorge itself came to be, and to see evidence of its age through the dark streaks of the main basalt dike. Flume Gorge was majestic. The clusters of tourists were not.

We completely acknowledge that if your family is not the rugged, mountaineering type (or if you have younger children in tow), places like Flume Gorge are an amazing way to experience nature’s masterpieces on a limited schedule and without the exhaustion. But in all honesty, we felt trapped in a tourist’s nest. We couldn’t get any good pictures of the Gorge without at least one person in the shot. While we tried to stop and admire the scenery for two seconds, we were interrupted when we had to make room for lines of people who wanted to keep crossing the narrow bridge. And worst of all, we witnessed parents allowing their children to go behind the fences that guarded potentially dangerous parts of the area (something that hit home for us, especially because of last weekend). One boy was playing directly on top of a waterfall! WHO LETS THEIR KID DO THAT?! Maybe it was just the day we were there, but a potentially enjoyable experience was dampened by too many people.

Flume Gorge’s beauty is not worth fifteen dollars–it is priceless. However, we were both a little bitter about forking over $30 total to not even have an opportunity to fully appreciate its beauty. We walked back, trying to conquer our disappointment before we reached the lodge. Sure, we realize that we were also part of the congested walkways, the narrow footpaths, the small wooden staircases. We were tourists, too. There’s no denying our hypocrisy. Flume Gorge is a stunning testament to the glory of nature, and we’re so appreciative that it is open for anyone who wants to see it. We even excuse the expensive admission fee, since a lot of people work hard to maintain its beauty. But for now, we’ll just stick to the mountains, where the people are sparse but friendly, the surroundings beautiful, and the admission fees non-existent.

Adventures in New Hampshire: North Woodstock, Lincoln, and Beaver Brook Pond

Whenever we haul up to New Hampshire for the weekend, we reserve Saturdays for exploring the surrounding towns, making spontaneous stops at waterfalls, ponds, and scenic overlooks, and occasionally visiting a historical place. Given our typical late-afternoon arrivals, we find ourselves left with only a few hours of daylight (especially after scrambling to find a campsite, which we somehow always manage to do), so it works for us. It’s a great way to relax and soak in the state before setting out to the heart of the mountains. Last weekend, we took some time to get better acquainted with North Woodstock and Lincoln, the closest towns to our campsite, and sought some sweet tranquility at Beaver Brook Pond.

The stress of finding a vacant campsite at four o’clock in the afternoon can be a little overwhelming. The stress of watching people in an RV snatch the site you were two seconds away from pulling into absolutely transcends frustrating. So, when we finally set up our tent and deposited our money, we went searching for a place to just hang out. On our way into town, we stumbled across a glistening pond half encircled by mountains. Sights like these are pretty common (but certainly not unappreciated by us!), but what compelled us to stop and walk around was the trail to a large rock that jutted out into the water. Off went our shoes, and we crossed a shallow stream to reach the little trail. After a minute’s walk, we reached the rock, sat down and basked in the scene surrounding us. Since we were right next to the Beaver Brook Trail, we thought we could see Moosilauke from the pond (we were wrong, oops!). Colin and his camera had some fun, too, as evidenced by the pictures in the post!

After unwinding, we hopped back into the car and traveled a few miles down to North Woodstock to ogle at the cute shops. Much to our delight, the first thing we saw was the Cascade Coffee House. Obviously, we had to go in and we weren’t disappointed. We both got shots of maple syrup in our iced coffee, which was surprisingly delicious. Fuel in hand, we perused through many (if not all) of the charming local gift shops. Katie emerged from one with a wooden bear keychain that now guards her keys, while Colin found another shot glass to add to his travel-themed collection. The day began to wind down, so we journeyed a few minutes away to Lincoln.

Among all of its stores on the main drag, Lincoln has a little wine and cheese shop called Abbey Cellars that both of us were curious to explore. It’s been our tradition for a little while now to try a new wine and cheese when we’re together during the weekends. We had just narrowly missed out on a free wine tasting, but the staff was so helpful in finding us the best wine and cheese pairing (we ended up with a Pinot Gris and some delicious triple-cream cheese). We ambled in and out of a few more shops, one of which we discovered 65 cent plastic wine cups, how convenient! As the sun was setting, we settled down at our campsite, cooked some weenies (chicken sausage for us, though), and indulged in some wine, cheese, and soft acoustic music under the stars. Pre-hike perfection!

East Osceola and Osceola via Greeley Ponds and Osceola Trail

After our first hike up Tecumseh, we decided to hang out in the Waterville Valley area for an overnight camp and another hike in the morning. We ended up staying at a campground on the Kancamagus Highway for $20, but we decided later that it would have been a bit nicer to purchase a permit and stay along the riverside on Tripoli Road. Either way, we got a decent night’s sleep (the tent worked perfectly and set up was a breeze!) and had an awesome breakfast at Flapjack’s in the town of Lincoln the next morning. At 11:00 AM we pulled into the parking lot for the Kancamagus side of the Greeley Ponds trailhead. Our intent was to hike both of the Osceolas for a total of 3 peaks in the one weekend.

The Greeley Ponds Trail was very scenic with an easy grade and logs covering most of the muddy patches. There were two river crossings right at the beginning, one of which was easy to cross, and the other a bit wider and more difficult. We became a little confused when the trail would branch off in other directions, but after consulting our guidebook, we realized that there were also ski trails in the area marked by blue diamonds, so we avoided those. After a 1.3 mile walk we reached the trail’s intersection with the Mt. Osceola Trail, which veered off to the right.

The Mt. Osceola Trail was a bit more difficult because of the steep grade and poor footing in some areas, especially considering how sore our legs were from the day before. We took lots of breaks, but were treated to tons of awesome views through the trees (especially at a steep sloping rock face about a quarter of the way up the trail). The entirety of the trail was easy to navigate with no confusing paths branching off from the main one until just before reaching the first peak at East Osceola. This branch, which runs off to the right on flat ground at the top of a steep rocky climb, leads to an amazing view of both East Osceola and Osceola, giving us a great perspective on what was to come for the rest of the day.

After taking another long break, we headed off towards the east peak. East Osceola is horribly disappointing, the only view being a little ways before the peak. The top is marked by a pile of rocks (nature’s glory at its finest) and was really buggy, so we didn’t stay long. The pass between the two peaks was beautiful, offering tons of great views and a really fun vertical climb up “The Chimney.” At 3.8 miles, we finally reached the peak around 3:00 PM. Osceola offered the most amazing view we have seen on any of our hikes thus far, so while fighting off flies and snacking on sandwiches, we basked in the awesomeness on the clear patch of rock that marked the peak before heading back down the way we came. To no one’s surprise, Captain Feathersword encountered some paparazzi at the top (a really nice group of hikers asked to take his picture). If anyone has wondered why Captain Feathersword’s head is so large, it’s because it’s filled with delusions of self-importance and global celebrity status.

The trip down was relatively easy, with far less stops for breaks, but we also slowed down the pace to avoid breaking our ankles. We probably did more butt-sliding than walking. We reached our car at 7:00 PM for a grand total of 8 hours hiking that day (Captain Feathersword was pretty sore). We reached our goal of hiking three 4,000 footers for the weekend, which now brings our checklist down to 45!