Side of the Road: Profile Lake

Profile Lake

For our three year anniversary my wife and I spent the weekend in North Conway at the Buttonwood Inn on Mount Hurricane. I remember that it was 2003 because it was just before our older son’s first birthday and it was our first time away from him. We went shopping at the outlet stores and we drove up Crawford Notch, and drove down Franconia Notch and the Kancamagus Highway. It was a relaxing weekend and it encouraged my love for the White Mountains.

On our way through Franconia Notch we stopped at Profile Lake to see the Old Man of the Mountain. As far as I could recall I had never seen it, so I was excited to get a glimpse of the rugged profile. Unfortunately clouds were shrouding Cannon Mountain so we couldn’t make out his face. We continued on our merry way not realizing that it had been our last chance to see the Old Man of the Mountain. Less than a month later, on May 3, 2003 between the hours of midnight and 3 am, the Old Man’s face crumbled from Cannon Mountain despite decades of reinforcing the structure again erosion.

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Winter Hike: Cannon Mountain

Date Hiked: 2 January 2015

It was barely 2015 and I was preparing for the first goal on my list of adventures for 2015: climbing my first New England 4000 Footer in the winter.

In the past I blogged about my three-season daypack, but this preparation took a bit more. I had to use my 65L Osprey Atmos pack (though it was no where near full) as I wanted to have enough room to carry any layers I would shed during the hike and have the space to strap on my snowshoes. Aside from the pack, the only other additional gear was the multitude of layers and traction.

Preparing gear for my first winter 4000 Footer

Preparing gear for my first winter 4000 Footer

I took a vacation day from work (it hurts to do so on the second day of the year, but any day spent hiking is worth it) and my friend from work John met me in Portland. We drove to Franconia Ridge State Park and met my brother at the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway parking lot.

Both John and my brother brought their dogs for the hike. My brother had a male Black Lab named Clover and John a female Rottweiler named Roxy. After a few minutes of sniffing, testing each other and running around they were ready to get into the back of John’s vehicle with minimal encouragement. We drove through the snow to Lafayette Campground and found very little parking available.

As we bundled up for the cold weather (the higher summit forecasts and mountain-forecast.com were calling for a wind chill around -20°) snow was quickly filling the inside of John’s truck, and the dogs were romping through the snow and once again testing each other. My brother discovered that his water bladder had emptied itself yet the inside of his pack was dry, a mystery. There was no water to be found at the closed campground so we started up the Lonesome Lake Trail as through the falling snow.

Lonesome Lake Trailhead

Lonesome Lake Trailhead

When we came to the first water crossing we stopped so that my brother could fill his his water bladder. The Lonesome Lake Trail is pretty steep down near the trailhead and we soon found ourselves overheating and needing to take off layers.

The following is how I had my clothing layered:

Feet: Smart Wool socks, Timberland waterproof boots
Legs: Under Armor Cold Gear, Columbia hiking pants, Nike storm pants
Torso: Under Armor Cold Gear, synthetic t-shirt, Smart Wool sweater, Helly Hanson ski jacket
Hands: Dakine Scout Mitts (with included liner gloves)
Head: Under Armor Cold Gear tactical hood, Turtle Fur neck warmer, Sherpa wool hat
Packed: 2 pairs Smart Wool socks, Columbia Hot Dots full fleece jacket

I took off my sweater, neck warmer and tactical hood and at times I even carried my hat and only wore my glove liners. I pretty much stayed this way for the rest of the hike except for when we summitted I put on the tactical hood. I ended up with too many layers, but that is much better than being cold. I will most likely repeat this set up for all of my winter hikes going forward.

Once we all cooled off a little we continued the trek up to Lonesome Lake. It wasn’t long before the trail flattened off and the lake came into view. When we reached its edge we saw another group crossing the ice to Lonesome Lake Hut. Without much hesitation we followed.

The wind and snow picked up out on the ice but it was totally worth it for the experience. I absolutely love Lonesome Lake and to stand in the middle of it and take in the wilderness and towering mountains was amazing. To our right we could make out the bumps of The Cannon Balls and the ridge leading up to Cannon Mountain.

Panorama of Lonesome Lake from the center of the lake

Panorama of Lonesome Lake from the center of the lake

video-icon Video of crossing Lonesome Lake

We crossed Lonesome Lake in short order, though I did lag behind trying to take it all in. When we got to the hut there was a large group getting ready to hike down to Lafayette Campground. One of the guy’s hands were bothering him because his hand warmers weren’t working and two others were in cotton layers and jeans or sweatpants. I’m still shocked that people go hiking and treat it like they’re walking down the street to CVS.

We stopped by the hut, said hello to the croo member who was outside shoveling and tried to see if we could get a view overlooking the lake. The steps from the lake to the hut were a solid sheet of ice and I took that opportunity to try out my new Kahtoola MICROspikes. I’ve been wanting to replace my STABILicers for some time and I finally picked up a pair of MICROspikes with a gift certificate from Christmas. They worked like a charm. I expected some slippage but could feel the teeth bite into the blue ice without a problem. Throughout the day, every single person we saw hiking was also wearing a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes.

Except for my brother. Who had traction woes.

We followed the Around Lonesome Lake Trail around the western side of Lonesome Lake trying not to posthole off the side of the planks that elevate the trail above swamp in the other three seasons. We hit the upper part of the Lonesome Lake Trail, a section of trail I hadn’t experience before. It climbed through the forest from the lake to the col between the tallest Cannon Ball and Cannon Mountain.

Partway up we were tiring so we stopped for food. I discovered that my water bladder tube was frozen despite running it down the neck of my jacket. I recently read that using a Nalgene inside of an insulated sock is the way to go. I will try that with my next hike. My brother took the rest as a chance to change from my worn STABILicers to crampons in anticipation for the steep climb up to Cannon.

When we go to the top of the Lonesome Lake Trail it was 1:15pm and we decide not to do The Cannon Balls as it would result in some of our hike down Cannon Mountain happening after sunset. We started up the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the summit of Cannon Mountain.

I had climbed this section of the trail back in October and knew it would be a slog. John’s dog Roxy needed some help up the icy sections and my brother busted both of his crampons on the way up. First one broke and he put a STABILicer on the other foot and then the other crampon broke. We stopped so he could put on his alpine snowshoes, which survived the rest of the hike. On the plus side we had a few views to the west and south and it started to look like the weather would clear out.

Clearing skies over The Cannon Balls

Clearing skies over The Cannon Balls

At the top of the ridge the trail flattened out and we made fast time to the junction with the Rim Trail. We dropped our packs and hustled up the observation tower. It was bitter cold and the wind was gusting hard but we relished the moment anyway. Though it had stopped snowing, the peak of the mountain was mostly cloudy. The view was still magnificent with glimpses of Franconia Notch below, all of the snow mantled trees and the entire surface of the observation tower coated in rime frost.

Cannon Mountain Observation Deck

Cannon Mountain Observation Deck

Back at the junction we stopped for another food break and discovered that frozen Clif Bars were hard to eat. We took our time hiking past the views at the ledges below the observation tower.

Ledges from below Cannon Observation Tower

Ledges from below Cannon Observation Tower, photo credit: John Ellingsworth

Before heading down the mountain we followed to the trail to the aerial tramway. We stopped and watch skiers go by and watch a tram make its way to the building.

Cannon Mountain aerial tramway

Cannon Mountain aerial tramway

After the stop at the tram we took our hiking poles out for the two mile descent to my brother’s car. The Kinsman Ridge Trail between the summit and Cannon cliffs vista was an interesting, exposed hike with great views and a few short steep sections. It was definitely a section of trail that I look forward to hiking again in clearer weather.

Heading down Kinsman Ridge Trail

Heading down Kinsman Ridge Trail

We took the short spur trail to the Cannon cliff vista but with the hard-packed snow, ice and cloudy view it wasn’t worth getting too close to the edge. Soon after the Cannon cliffs the trail dropped into trees and we focused on descending. The views became more limited and the trail was a moderate decline. We were down to the car before sunset.

Kinsman Ridge Trailhead

Kinsman Ridge Trailhead

We drove to car at Lafayette Campground and then to the very crowded Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery. We enjoyed some beer samplers, hot food and our windburned faces. The restaurant was packed with people who had spent the day outdoors which created a cozy end to the day.

I’m pretty psyched to have completed my first 4000 Footer winter hike and look forward to the next. Things went pretty much perfect despite our clear forecast turning to snow and clouds the night before (welcome to the mountains). My water froze and my brother broke his crampons, but the dogs were safe and no one lost any digits to frostbite so I think it was a win.

Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.
—Edmund Hillary

Note:
I’m currently working through the backlog of my hiking posts to add a map of the hike. My hope is that the combination of the map and the stats will help you plan the hike for yourself. And of course, if you have any questions about the hike feel free to ask them in the comments. Wander on.

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 4100′
Elevation Gain: 2150′
Distance: 5.2 miles
Book Time: 3:45
Actual Time: 5:20
Temperature: 0-10°s
Weather: snowing, mostly cloudy
Wind: W 30mph

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Lonesome Lake Trail

References:
Dakine Scout Mitt.” dakine.com. Dakine. Web. 8 January 2015.
Higher Summits Forecast.” mountwashington.org. Mount Washington Observatory. Web. 8 January 2015.
Hiking Cannon Mountain.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 7 January 2015.
Kahtoola MICROspikes.” kahtoola.com. Kahtoola, Inc. Web. 11 January 2015.
Mountain Weather Forecast.” mountain-forecast.com. Meteo365.com. Web. 8 January 2015.
Osprey Atmos 65 Pack.” rei.com. Recreation Equipment, Inc. Web. 7 January 2015.

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Hike: Kinsmans-Cannon Loop

Date hiked: 1 October 2014

For some time I’ve planned on taking two days to hike a loop around Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park to do North and South Kinsman as well as Cannon Mountain. As my last mid-week-vacation-hiking-day for the year approached I found that I would be able to camp out the night before. So, I scratched my plans of doing Mount Moriah and decided to attempt this hike in one day. I would camp out at Lafayette Place Campground the night before, get up before dawn and complete the hike in time to make a reasonable boat back to the island.

Kinsmans and Cannon from Franconia Ridge

Kinsmans and Cannon from Franconia Ridge

I woke at 4:45am, unable to sleep. As always I was as excited as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. I quickly packed my tent and moved my car from the campground to the parking lot, grabbing a prime spot next to the Lonesome Lake Trail.

My plan of attack was to take Lonesome Lake Trail up to Lonesome Lake, hop on Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and follow it to Kinsman Ridge Trail. I would follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail south to the peaks of North and South Kinsman and then double back to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy where I would stay north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and follow it to Cannon Mountain. After Cannon I would follow Kinsman Ridge Trail a little south and take Hi-Cannon Trail down to Lonesome Lake Trail, following it back to the parking lot.

I began up the trail with my headlamp in the pre-dawn dark. The trail started off pretty tame but soon climbed steeply toward the lake. As the sun began to rise I hit a thick patch of fog which limited my visibility and I flashed back to the night before, driving up the Kancamangus Highway.

To say the least, the drive through the Kancamangus Pass was eerie. There was construction on the highway and the new pavement didn’t have the reflective lane dividers or the solid lines on the shoulder. The only guidance was the reflective tape of intermittent traffic cones on either side of the road. Parallel lines of hovering dashes cutting through the forest beyond my high beams lead the way. As I approached the height of land a car caught up to me and rode my bumper. Clearly it was a local who was not pleased that I was driving at a conservative pace. Suddenly, I hit a bank of fog and my visibility dropped to under 50 feet. I slowed despite the car on my tail. The highway swerved through the fog, hit its high point and started back down.

When I finally broke out of the fog I pulled over at the first vista to let the local pass. I was about to start down the highway but took a look at the view, shut off my engine and stepped out of the car. A slivered moon sat starkly among the stars. It barely illuminating the peaks of Mount Kancamangus, the Osceolas and more beyond. A blanket of clouds draped across their peaks and drifted up and faded away as they flowed down their slopes. Far below I saw the headlights of cars skiing through the trees, making their way toward Lincoln.

I made my way up to Lonesome Lake faster than I thought I would. One minute I was chugging up the slope, navigating large boulders, the next the path flattened out and I could see the grey waters of the lake through the trees. The sun had not yet risen, but it was light enough out to put away my headlamp.

Pre-dawn at Lonesome Lake

Pre-dawn at Lonesome Lake

I made my way clockwise around Lonesome Lake. I had hiked this path once before with my brother on our first hiking brocation. Both times I have thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly suggest it to anyone looking for a challenging little hike. It is supposed to be exceptionally nice on a clear day when you can see Fanconia Ridge rising above the lake.

Voices and lights emanated from the Lonesome Lake Hut as I passed it by and took up Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. The Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was named after a caretaker of Lonesome Lake Hut who was employed after the original owners had passed away. He was a character in a story named Fishin’ Jimmy by Annie Trumbull Slosson, one of the original owners’ sister-in-law. The original owners of the hut had stocked the lake with trout and built cabins on the far end of the lake, making it a popular fishing retreat.

Shortly after the sign saying that I was leaving protected forest (areas within a 1/4 mile radius of established shelters in the White Mountains are protected) I saw a great stealth camping site with a young couple breaking down camp. They were the only people I saw all day until I was within easy walking distance of the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway. The lower half of Fishin’ Jimmy was a series of PUDs (pointless ups and downs) and the upper half was an interesting climb up slick rocks.

I got to the junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail and Kinsman Pond Trail well ahead of schedule. On the trail sign in the junction was a paper note written (presumably) by an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. It said something along the lines of: “NOBOs: 0.1 miles to Kinsmans Pond, view worth the distance.” The note was for other NOrth BOund thru-hikers but I took the advice as well.

As I made my way toward the pond the sun peaked out for the only time that day. I had to stop to capture a shot of it illuminating the moss on the side of the trail.

Sun trying to come out near Kinsman Pond

Sun trying to come out near Kinsman Pond

I approached Kinsman Pond Campsite and it was clear that no one was there. It was a nice location with tent platforms scattered through the thin forest and a shelter within a hundred feet of the pond. The tarn was the color of over-steeped tea, and North and South Kinsman peaks loomed overhead through the gathering clouds. It was definitely worth the side trip and luckily I was ahead of schedule and got to see the view before the clouds fully rolled in.

Kinsman Pond

Kinsman Pond

I made my way back to the Kinsman Ridge Trail and started south up the trail to North Kinsman. I made my way careful over the slick rocks toward the peak, the whole way worrying about my climb back down. I was once again wearing my trail shoes which did not perform well on slick surfaces. For a brief moment the clouds parted and Franconia Ridge appeared to the east.

Franconia Ridge poking out for a second

Franconia Ridge poking out for a second

By the time I made it to the summit of North Kinsman the clouds had completely swamped it in. There was a great overlook just below the peak, but all I could see were clouds which occasionally parted to show more clouds.

It was a quick two mile jaunt to South Kinsman and back with more cloudy views at the top. The elevation change between the two peaks was not terrible and the trail was more of the same slick boulders. I definitely felt isolated in between the mountains with the distance to any road so great, the lack of people and the clouds weighing heavily on the tree tops.

When I got back to North Kinsman at 9am I ate half of my lunch, a soggy, all veggies sub from Subway. I then made my way carefully back down to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy. I continued north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail toward The Cannon Balls and it quickly became clear that that section of the trail was not often hiked. The trail had become narrow and overgrown with moss and fallen trees.

Overgrown Kinsman Ridge Trail approaching The Cannon Balls

Overgrown Kinsman Ridge Trail approaching The Cannon Balls

Many parts of the trail were dark and gloomy, but occasionally there was a potential view (where I saw more clouds). As soon as I summited The Cannon Balls, a Hundred Highest, the trail became deep and wide again. It seemed like most people going for the Hundred Highest must take the Lonesome Lake trail all the way up to the Kinsman Ridge Trail and then follow it the short distance south to the peak of The Cannon Balls.

The Kinsman Ridge Trail between Lonesome Lake Trail and Hi-Cannon Trail was a very steep climb over car-sized boulders. I really enjoyed the climb but had to stop often to catch my breath. I came across my first fellow hikers 6 hours into my hike as I closed in on the junction with Hi-Cannon Trail. They were two men who I had a hard time communicating with as they only spoke French and I only speak English. I believe they asked if the trail was harder down below and I tried to communicate that it was hard, but I didn’t know what was ahead to say whether it was easier or harder. As it turned out, it was much harder below as the trail soon leveled out.

The distance from Hi-Cannon Trail junction to the Cannon summit was very flat. I made quick time but got behind a big group of people on the approach to the observatory tower. So, instead of going to the peak I followed Kinsman Ridge Trail a bit further beyond to a spot that overlooked Franconia Notch. The view was mostly of clouds, but breaks in the clouds hinted at more to see.

After a few minutes I headed up to the observatory tower and got to it as the group was heading back to the aerial tramway. For a short time (between tram-loads of leaf-peepers) I had the observatory to myself. The clouds were starting to break up enough to see into Franconia Notch, with an occasional view of the towering ridge line above.

View from Cannon Observatory Tower

View from Cannon Observatory Tower

When the next group of people hit the observatory I headed back down to the overlook to meditate and eat the second half of my lunch. I had begun to eat my Subway sandwich when another crowd showed up. Several people commented that “they have a Subway up here?” I pretended to chuckle at their wittiness while devouring the soggy mess.

After eating my sandwich and a bit more of staring at the view of Franconia Notch I started off for the trailhead. I Didn’t know what to expect from Hi-Cannon but the top half was amazing. It was not as steep or rocky as the Kinsman Ridge Trail, it was more like the Old Bridle Path on the other side of Franconia Notch.

The awesome Hi-Cannon Trail

The awesome Hi-Cannon Trail

About a third of the way down I came to a few amazing ledge vistas that overlooked Lonesome Lake and Franconia Notch. The foliage from that vantage point turned the notch into a flaming orange cauldron.

Vista from Hi-Cannon Trail

Vista from Hi-Cannon Trail

After the vista the Hi-Cannon trail scrambled down a cliff face and dropped into the forest below. After the mid-point at Dodge Cutoff the trail became steep and gravely, with no rocks but an occasional root. It made for a great, quick descent. I was soon back to my car and ready to drive back to Portland.

The drive back through the Kancamangus Highway was slow due to leaf-peepers. I had to stay aware as they constantly slammed on their break and pulled over to the shoulder to take photographs. But, the colors were truly amazing.

I had been looking forward to this loop for a long time, and even though it was cloudy it did not disappoint. I finally got the solitude I was looking for, at least until the Cannon Mountain observatory tower. I definitely can’t wait to do Cannon again on a clear day, even if it is the second most frequented peak in the White Mountains.

Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.
—William Allingham

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 4358′
Elevation Gain: 4700′
Distance: 12.5 miles
Book Time: 8:35
Actual Time: 7:00
Temperature: 50°s
Weather: cloudy
Wind: E 5mph

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Hi-Cannon Trail
Fishin’ Jimmy Trail

References:
Fishin’ Jimmy by Annie Trumbull Slosson.” gutenburg.org. Project Gutenburg. Web. 23 November 2014.
History of Lonesome Lake Hut.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 23 November 2014.
Lonesome Lake Hut at Cannon Mountain.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 23 November 2014.
Ride the Aerial Tramway to the Summit of Cannon Mountain.” cannonmt.com. State of NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. Web. 23 November 2014.