Anticipation mounted as we approached what could easily turn out to be one of the most ambitious and challenging adventures to date. Our goal was to traverse the Pliny and Pilot Range via the Kilkenny ridge trial from north to south over eight official summits, two of which where over 4000,’ over three days and two nights. 19.7 miles and a combined total elevation gain of nearly 7000.’
We planned to do this by dropping a car at the entrance to the Starr King Trail on the southern end of our intended route. Then driving nearly 45 minutes around to the northern end of the Pilot range, and the starting place of our journey, the eastern end of the Unknown Pond Trail.
What makes this trip so unique from other trips has to do with a few things. As if the sheer numbers were not daunting enough, we were carrying fully loaded packs donned with camping gear and three days supplies. Second, as it was a through hike, we would be traversing new and unknown trails the whole way, leaving little room for error. Lastly, it was a relatively new trail, likely to get little use, so we expected to come across lots of unbroken trail.
Given the challenges we faced on this hike, I spent a great deal more time the night before carefully going over each and every piece of gear, making sure I had everything I needed without carrying more weight than necessary. I spent equally as much time assembling the various types of food I would need to eat along the way. As it was, even with very thoughtful and careful packing, my pack easily weighed in at over 60 lbs? Even so, in the past it’s been worse so I was feeling good and ready.
It would be just Gordon and I on this trip. We rose well before the crack of dawn on the first day of our journey, with a 6:00 am meeting time at a gas station just off the highway. We needed an early start to accommodate the two and a half hours to get to the first car drop and another forty-five minutes to get to the actual start of our hike. Mount Cabot is the northern most over 4000-foot summit in the Whites. Between the distances we had to travel and all the normal little delays - getting coffee, gas, and miscellaneous things, bathroom breaks, etc.- we would be lucky to be on the trail by 9:00 am.
It was a glorious morning as the sun rose on our drive north. It was very cold, but the air was crisp and the sky clear, not a hint of wind to speak of. The valley running along the western slop of the whites was absolutely pristine. Blanketed with fresh white snow and wisps of smoke rising from every chimney as far as the eye could see. Evidence of the rising sun could be seen as a halo along the entire rim of the presidential rage at the eastern end of the valley. It would be at least another hour before the sun would be high enough to show itself above the mountains.
The forecast for the three days ahead was a promising one. Although it would be quite cold the first day and night, it was to get steadily warmer as the weekend progressed and nothing but sunny days and starry nights right through to Sunday.
We dropped Gordon’s truck off in a parking lot just off the trailhead where we intended to conclude our trip in just three days. We piled Gordon’s gear into my truck and headed north through Berlin to our starting point, York Pond Rd., a very long dirt road that takes you right into the heart of the mountains. Oh yes, with just one more stop on the agenda, a trip to the supermarket to get a bottle of Tylenol PM. Nothing beats Tylenol PM for getting a good night sleep in less than ideal sleeping conditions.
It was 9:30 and we were preparing to depart. Given “Gordon and Bob time”, I would say we were doing very well, or where we? This is where things started to break down. After all the careful planning for this epic journey, as I reached into the back of my truck to get my pack a horrible feeling started to well up in my head. Sure enough, I looked over to Gordon who was getting his pack ready on the other side of the truck and filled him in on the bad news, I left half my food on top of my refrigerator.
Gordon’s initial response was one of good humor as he was sure that this was just another one of my silly jokes and I would be saying “ just kidding” any moment. After a few long seconds of watching the seriousness of this situation sink into my face, he soon understood I was not joking.
All was not lost, I had all my dinner and breakfast food in my pack and my pockets were brimming with snacks of all kinds. As Gordon and I usually both pack twice as much food as we need, we quickly agreed that this was only a small problem and easily overcome. It did, however, take our risk factor up a notch or two. We agreed that we needed to give careful consideration of our limited food supply as we approach other risky decisions we might be forced to make along the way. Our margin for error was getting smaller by the moment.
Moments after realizing I left my food home, Gordon realized he too left some critical equipment behind, he was short a couple pairs of glove liners and a extra pair of socks. Yet again, both our propensity to over pack for these trips came through for us yet again. I was carrying several extra gloves and liners in my pack and I even had a third pair of socks. You can never have enough pairs of dry sock and gloves.
Although we had a plan and felt fairly confident that between the two of us we had the gear and food to continue on our journey safely, again, we needed to proceed with even greater caution. With a thinning margin of error, we knew that should anything start to go wrong, we would need to weigh heavily on our newly lightened loads before taking any risks.
What else could go wrong? It was a beautiful day, and forecasted to stay that way through the weekend, and everything was beginning to look up again. So off we went. It was around 10:00 am and we set off on the “Unknown Pond Trail” with our first destination being the Unknown Pond and the Kilkenny Ridge Trail junction just 3.3 miles ahead. A mere 1550 feet gain in elevation should make this first segment of the journey go pretty easily. Wouldn’t you know it, just 5 minutes on the trail, I realized I had left the Tylenol PM in the truck, #@$%#! This, no doubt, would be worth the short delay to run back and get it. Gordon hiked on as I dropped my pack and made the run back for the Tylenol. I would be very pleased about this latter!
As suspected, the grade was very gradual as we progressed along a narrow river valley. It must have been about 5 degrees, but with our effort and the intensely beating sun, we were quite comfortable. Give the gradual assent the layers came off less quickly then usual, but we were comfortable and making good progress. From the river valley we could see the ridge and several summits above and began speculating as to which summits they were and whether they were to be included in our route or not. I must say, it was hard to imagine at this point that our route would include these distant summits.
The trail ran along the sides of the steep slops on either side of the river, crossing back and forth to accommodate the best route. At times this made for some challenging footwork. On the steeper slopes you would slide half a step down the embankment for every step forward. Although this was just a minor nuisance in the beginning, as we began to realize that this trial would be more or less like this for the majority of the way to Unknown pond it became downright aggravating. The easy solutions would have been to switch to crampons but we were too stubborn to stop and take the time to do it and persevered on as best we could.
At a little more than halfway up the valley Gordon needed to tend to a blister. We found a nice sunny spot to stop, and while Gordon tended to his foot I switched to crampons. I had had just about enough of slipping sideways every step. Gordon opted to stick with the snowshoes and struggled on. I struggled no more. Crampons have to be my single most favorite piece of winter hiking equipment!
It must have been around 1:00 pm when we crested the ridge at Unknown Pond. The Unknown pond is a very small pond nestled below the Horn, our next destination along the ridge. It was truly an idyllic little pond. I only wish we had more time to appreciate it.
We were a little concerned with how long it took us to get to Unknown Pond. We had hoped to be farther along and had it not been for the constant side sloping trail we might have been. We were feeling the pressure to keep moving. Our destination that evening was a small cabin on the south side of Mt. Cabot. Cabot was a little over three more miles and another 1000 feet of climbing to go.
We paused for a moment at the junction of the Unknown pond campsites to get our bearings and for me to switch back to snowshoes. It was at this moment that we realized that things could get worse. Gordon had suspected the Kilkenny ridge trail to depart on the eastern side of the pond and when it didn’t we thought it best to consult our map just to be sure, remember, very little margin for error on this trip. You guessed it; our map did not include the Pliny and Pilot ranges. Needless to say this was not good, we were about to attempt a three-day journey through little traveled territory and should we continue on, we would be breaking one of the most important rules of hiking, always carry a map. We gave serious thought to whether we should continue at this point. These are the kinds of stupid mistakes that get people into a lot of trouble and worst-case, gets them killed.
After careful consideration of our situation we agreed to continue on. Given the very favorable conditions that we were hiking in and the expectation that these conditions would be with us for the next few days, as long as the trial continued to be clearly marked we would be fine. We also affirmed with one another that if for any reason conditions turned for the worse or became unpredictable, that we would turn around and walk out the trial we came in on, ANY REASON.
With the map issue settled (as well as it could be) we went back to focusing on finding the trail junction for the Kilkenny Ridge trail. I was pretty confident that I had remembered the trail departing from the west side of the pond so we decided to continue on hoping the turn would come up soon. Sure enough, just moments after moving on, we saw the Kilkenny Ridge trail enter from our right with clear signage indicating its direction. We then assumed that the two trails become one for a short distance before the Kilkenny Trail would bare off the current trail and head south, sure enough. This is why you need to carry a map!
Now we were sure we were on the Kilkenny Ridge trail and confidently heading to our next destination. We were very pleased to find the Kilkenny Ridge trail very well marked making us feel even better about our decision to go ahead without a map. Of coarse, that could change quickly enough.
Our next destination for the day was a short spur trail that would take us to the summit of the Horn, the mountain that dominated the horizon, standing watch over the Unknown Pond. The Horn is only 3,905 feet so it is not on our list of 4000 footers but it is on the list of New England’s 100 highest. Had I mentioned this was our next goal? We figured that since we were already here, we might as well bag it. We had no idea how far along the ridge we needed to travel before getting to the spur, a problem that was going to plague us for the duration of our three day journey. We were really going to miss that map!
All the dillydallying we did at the pond took more precious time form our day so we were anxious to make tracks. We decided to postpone lunch until we could find a big enough break in the trees to benefit us with the warmth of the sun while we ate. Both of us had developed a little chill during our prolonged stay at the Pond. Keeping moving would also let us work that chill off a bit before stopping. Ultimately our need for nourishment circumvented our need for sun and being warm. Both our stomachs were screaming for food, we had been hiking for over 3 hours with nothing but a couple little snacks.
Gordon very generously offered me one of his sandwiches (my food was on my refrigerator, remember). We jammed the sandwiches down along with a couple of chocolate bars. We were eager to get moving, it was just two cold to be standing around.
Sure enough, once we got moving again things warmed up quickly. We were climbing steadily now and would be for the better part of the rest of the day. After a while we began to think that we must have missed the turnoff for the Horn. We both had suspected we should have been there by now. Nothing we could do, but continue on the marked trail and hope the cut off was still ahead of us and would be well marked for us to recognize when we saw it.
Things were starting to look up, there it was a big sign clearly marking the Horn cut off; we made it. It turned out that the cut off was about 1.7 miles from the Unknown Pond and is located at 3,650’ in the col between the Horn and the Bulge, the next peak along the Kilkenny Ridge. It was three tenths of a mile and about 250’ to the summit of the bulge. We dropped our packs, and covered the distance in no time at all. It felt so good to be without my pack, I felt like I could fly to the summit of the Horn.
It turned out that this rather inconsequential little summit offered some spectacular views. The summit turned out to be a giant boulder that stood out above everything else around it. Not a single tree blocking the view in any direction. Given how cold and dry the air was, the visibility was the best I had ever seen. I am sure we could see well into Vermont to the west and well into Maine to east. I was absolutely giddy to have been rewarded with such outstanding vista. For the first time all day we could see were we where going. Off to the south of us was the Bulge and directly behind that, Cabot and the rest of the Kilkenny Ridge. Unfortunately, do to the fact that we did not have a map (did I tell you we did not have a map), we were not able to verify exactly what we were seeing past Cabot. Had we had a MAP, we would have realized that we could see the entire length of the rest of our journey from to top of the Horn.
Sadly, the extreme cold and few short hours of daylight left kept our excitement brief and forced us to move on much sooner than we both would have liked. We still had two more mountains to climb before the day was done.
Upon retrieving our packs we attacked the trail ahead with all new vigor. Our spirits lifted by our discovery of the Horn and with less than 1.5 hours of daylight to get to our destination, we had to hurry. The next summit, the Bulge, 3,950,’ came and went quickly, quite anticlimactic after our experience with the Horn. It was marked and we did get our obligatory summit picture by the sign. Again, the Bulge is not on the 4,000’ list but is on the highest 100 list.
I wish I could say Cabot had come as easy as the Bulge, quite the contrary. Given that we had been climbing all day with little respite, our pack seeming to grow heavier by the hour, Cabot would not offer us any mercy! We slowed to a snail’s pace up the steep side of Cabot. We had about 500 feet of elevation to put behind us before the summit and were going to have to work for every one of them. The good news was, just on the other side of the Cabot, perched on the south slop was a cabin equipped with a wood stove.
As we began to crest the top of Cabot, I was treated with the most amazing site. Straight ahead of me, the setting sun’s bright red rays were streaming through all the gaps amongst the tree-covered summit. It looked as though the forest was on fire. I had never seen anything like it. I suddenly forgot that I was completely exhausted, threw my pack off and readied my camera for the last few moments of the setting sun. What a treat, we could not have made the summit at any more opportune time then we did. It was a true spectacle, like none other, WOW! I was running around the summit like a kid taking all the pictures I could of this wonderful moment, knowing full well that I would never be able to capture the true wonder of what I was seeing on camera, but I’ll be dammed if I wasn’t going to try.
Gordon must have thought I had gone off the deep end. He arrived at the summit a few minutes behind me only to find my pack half buried in snow with tracks heading off in every which direction. I heard him call for me as I was wandering around in the bushes. Once the excitement was over and we had all the pictures we were going to get, including the obligatory summit shot in front of the Cabot Summit sign, we moved on.
Mt. Cabot stands at 4,170’ and would be the highest peak of our three-day adventure. The summit is dome shaped and is pretty densely populated with trees, but with a little wandering around we found great views to enjoy the sunset on the southwestern side of the mountain. About two or three tenths of a mile beyond the summit heading south, you come to the clearing where the old fire tower once stood. From this vantage point you can see clearly both to the west and east. By the time we arrived to the clearing the sun was almost completely set and you could see the lights of the town below begin to dominate the horizon. I continued fumbling with my camera, so Gordon continued on without me in search of the cabin.
No sooner had I put my camera away and entered the clearing Gordon had disappeared into, I saw Gordon at the bottom of a short path taking his snowshoes off and preparing to enter the cabin he found. We were so excited; it didn’t come a second too soon. We were truly exhausted. What a wonderful place. It must have been about 10’ wide by about 12’ feet deep with windows on all sides, and the cutest little front porch overlooking the entire valley below, it was just spectacular. We could not wait to get in and fire up the wood stove for our first bit of true warmth all day. I even brought a mini fire starter log just for the purpose.
To our surprise and great disappointment, upon entering we discovered the stove was no longer there. I think the disappointment alone made me feel even colder. I didn’t know now if I would ever feel warmth again. It was what it was, and we had to make do. We began to settle in to our new home for the night. A quick assessment of our environment; two rooms, one with four bunk beds for sleeping and one with a little picnic table on one side and a counter with a sink basin on the other. The bunk beds were made of 2 by 4s and plywood and stapled to the tops for padding were foam camping pads. It wasn’t great, but it we would do. The inside walls of the entire cabin were lined with Styrofoam boards for insulation, the only problem was, there was no heat being generated, so it was just as cold inside as it was outside. We were glad to be out of the wind.
Tonight’s dinner would be Tuna Surprise, uuummm. This was made up of a package of tuna helper and a bag of tuna heated on the stove. The stove gave us all kinds of trouble before we could get going, and one of us needed to stand by it with vigilance the whole time we were cooking to keep it from going out. When we weren’t cooking we were doing a traditional “I am freezing my but off” dance around the cabin trying to generate warmth. Thankfully we remembered Jack (as in Daniels). At least Jack made us think we were a little warmer than we were, and eventually even forget that we were cold at all. No, that would have taken more Jack than I would have been willing to carry.
Cooking dinner, gathering and melting snow for tomorrow’s water supply, doing the dishes, making tea and hot chocolate, unpacking and sorting out our bedding. It’s amazing how much time it takes to do the few tasks necessary for us to prepare to sleep. To think we usually do all this in a little 5’ by 8’ tent. It must have been around 8:00 p.m. before we finally settled in to our sleeping bags for the night.
Just as we were drifting off to sleep, we heard the sounds of someone or something walking outside the cabin. We were both startled. After verifying that we had in fact both heard it, we listened intently. Sure enough, there it was again, someone or something walking by the cabin, and it was big. We were so sure it was a person we started yelling, “who’s out there” “who are you.” We listened some more, there it is again. “Hello, hellllloooo,” no answer. We were pretty nervous at this point. It stopped. We listened quietly for some time without any further noise. That was very strange. The only thing we could think of was maybe a moose had come to check things out.
It was a wrestles and cold night’s sleep for both of us. It must have been about 10 or 15 degrees below zero in the Cabin and our bags, including fleece liners barely did the job. I had snuggled my bag up so tight, I had a three-inch hole to peer out of when I woke up. Further more, I was sleeping in a mummy bag with two water bottles, two boot liners, and an entire change of clothes, gloves, and hat. There is just not enough room for all these things. I suppose its better than having nothing but solid ice to drink in the morning and having clothes which have frozen stiff as a board from the moisture in them.
Amazingly, it was 10:00 when we finally woke. Given how cold we both were, we must have really needed the sleep to stay in those beds for over 12 hours.
We reluctantly left the semi warmth of our sleeping bags to the cold of the cabin. We were just not going to be feeling warm for sometime, so we resigned ourselves to it. We quickly set to getting breakfast going, maybe some hot food and hot coffee will warm us up a bit. Then we broke into a wild bout of dancing hysterically around the cabin beating on everything and stomping our feet like mad men. If you could have seen us, by any standard you would have found us ready for commitment. Did we feel any warmer after our hysteria? Hardly. There was nothing to do but get our butts in gear and hit the trail, the question was, what trail.
When we finally got our stuff together and left the cabin. Surprisingly we felt the warmth of the sun hit us and instantly warmed up. It seems all the insulation of the cabin was doing was keeping the warmth out more than in.
It was 11:00 and we were raring to get on the move again, but where to go. Not having a map and not seeing any signs in the vicinity telling us were we might find the trail, we were essentially lost. There were two options, the way we came and the other way. Obviously it must have been the other way, although it did not feel right for some reason. Remember though, we could not afford to make any mistakes without a map so we had to stay on clearly marked trails. We gave “the other way” a chance and began heading straight down the side of Cabot, switching back on itself as the trail descended. This couldn’t be it. Gordon remembered this as the trail that headed down the west side of Cabot and would dump us in Littleton. We aborted and headed back up. When we got back to the cabin we started to inspect every inch of the trails in every direction around the cabin looking for evidence of another path we might not have seen that would keep us on the ridge.
After half hour of wandering around, we were feeling very discouraged. Here it was 11:30 and we had gone nowhere. Things were looking pretty gloomy at this point. “Given that we had no map,” and we didn’t want to go to Littleton, we determined that we were licked and needed to call it quits and take the only way we knew back to the car. We hung our heads low and walked quietly back towards the summit of Cabot. My head was just screaming at me, we can’t let this end this way, we just can’t. Well Gordon’s head must have been screaming the same thing. He stopped dead in his tracks and said we can’t give up, we need a new plan!
Although logic says different, we know the trail we want is out there somewhere, so it must be further down the trail than we think. If not, we will walk to Littleton and hitchhike back to our car. At least then we would not have given up and would have looked everywhere possible for the trial. So off we went with a renewed sense of hope.
The trail dropped steeply and we moved very quickly making up lots of ground in no time at all. We were really dropping fast down the side of Cabot. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and as we dropped the temperature seemed to climb a little bit. We were once again warm.
Sure enough, 1.4 miles down the trail we came to the trail juncture we were looking for, the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. We had descended over 1000’ in the 1.4 miles, we knew this would be coming back to bite us.
Things were looking up now; we knew where we were (sort of) and there was now hope we might make our goal. It was pretty late in the day and with all the wandering around at the Summit looking for trails, we really needed to make tracks. As we started off in our new direction, through the clearings in the trees we could see the ridge where we wanted to be off in the distance. It was all starting to make sense again. We could also see the thousand feet we were about to get back.
We were now in the col between the Pliny and Pilot ranges. It was a beautiful area and peppered with moose tracks everywhere you looked. The snow was quite a bit deeper between the mountains and a great deal more had collected on all the tree branches. It was truly wonderful. We crossed several trail junctions in this col that seemed to go in every direction. Each trail was well marked with a sign and mileage markers making us feel much better about where we were. We noted that here were several familiar trails that we were sure would make good escape routes if we got into trouble and needed to get out quickly. We were constantly thinking of this; it really is disconcerting hiking without a map. This, we will never do again!
We climbed steadily out of the valley. It really was not that bad, we had good rest and were stronger than we felt and were starting to make real good time. Before we knew it we were cresting the summit of Mt. Terrance, 3540.’ This was an inconsequential summit as it was not on any lists and really hand no views to speak of; it was just a big flat top. We took the required picture of the summit sign anyway.
The area along this part of the ridge was a true winter wonderland; the snow was a deep powder and the branches were weighted down with snow. The sun was shinning bright and sparkling as it reflected off the ground. There were fresh tracks of all kinds- fresh moose tracks everywhere. They couldn’t have been more than an hour or so old and went in every direction. We came upon one clearing where it was evident from padded down snow that several moose had bed down to sleep in this area.
While we were standing around pondering all these wonderful sights, I saw a moose through the trees turn and quickly head away from us. I just caught a fleeting glimpse as I tried to point him out to Gordon. We attempted to follow it briefly but were too afraid of loosing our trail if we went too far. For a while we walked very slowly, pausing often to see if we could see another moose along the way, but to no avail.
We needed to get moving, daylight was fast fading and clouds had moved in. Things seemed to be going very well, when we went over the first hump after Terrance Mt. and assumed we had just summated the first Weeks Mountain. We were in hot pursuit of the next hump, which would be the South Weeks peak. Oh, if it could have been so easy.
All of a sudden we arrived at a small summit that dropped off steeply on all sides except the one we approached it on. From this summit we could no longer see where our trail went or if we were even still on the trial. Worst of all, we could see across a ravine several more peaks continuing in the distance. We quickly realized we had no idea where we were, yet again. Remember, a compass only helps you if you know where you are. Heading south from an unknown point will only bring you to another unknown point further south.
We decided to follow our footsteps back until we saw clear evidence of our trail again, and then begin looking for the turn we might have missed. Sure enough, about 100 yards back the trail turned left and began descending sharply down and around the Cone of the mountain we were just on. Much to our disappointment we could see the precious elevation melt away quickly as we descended into the valley below, knowing ever step down meant one more up the other side.
We paused for a late and rather quick lunch on the way down. Time was running short and we were surely not as far along as we needed to be.
As we descended the forest opened up considerably and the trees grew further and further apart. It became very difficult to spot the blazes on the trees, and very nerve-racking, as this is a situation ripe for getting lost. One blaze at a time, I would go ahead in one direction, Gordon in another until one of us saw our next blaze, constantly looking behind us for blazes that might mark the other direction. It became tediously show. I think the only thing that got us threw this situation was the very slight evidence of another hiker with many layers of snow over their footprints. Every now and again we could make out a slightly unnatural depression in the snow that would stretch along in a straight line.
After about an hour of this, we approached the base of the Valley between the two peaks and eventually came to the trail Junction we were expecting that bisected the Valley. Thankful the trails continued to be well marked and offered mileage to the various destinations. Unfortunately, we learned at this point that we had yet another 6.2 miles to our last and final summit, Waumbek, and 3.6 miles from there to get to the car from Waumbek for a total of 10 miles, a long hike on a good day. This was a quite discouraging for both of us. It was late and we were not going to get much, if any of this distance covered tonight, which meant our next day would be a long one. We did recognize the other trails in the area and again confirmed that we had an escape route if we got into trouble.
We tried to get a little more distance behind us but quickly began ascending and did not want to risk not being able to find a level spot to pitch the tent and decided to spend the night among the moose in the valley. Having stopped a little early, we had plenty of time to make a nice camp and plan for an early departure in the morning, unlike the previous morning. We could not use the stove in the morning; we would just eat cold food, pack and hit the trial.
The tent went up quickly and easily. We unpacked and settled into the tent to cook and boil our water. Tonight we would eat freeze-dried Lasagna, a Christmas gift from Chelsie, my stepdaughter. It really hit the spot! It amazing how good it was, well, not that amazing after last night tuna surprise. The stove worked much better this evening and we were done cooking and settled into our bags before we knew it. On this evening, due to the warmer temperatures in the valley and the confined space of the tent, we were both quite warm all evening. It was even a little too warm; I had to remove my hat in the middle of the night to cool off.
It was a great night’s sleep, and good thing because we had a big day ahead of us. We woke at 7:00 and were all packed and ready to go by 8:00 a.m., wow! Straight out we started up the side of what we now knew was the true North Weeks mountain. It turned out all those humps we traversed the day before were all part of Terrance Mountain.
After about an hour of climbing straight up we summated North Weeks, and had a sign to prove it. At the summit sign were the rather fresh track of another hiker who had come from the other way and turned around at the North Weeks summit. This was good news, as it would give us a clear path to follow out. No more blaze-by-blaze trial finding. We took our summit pictures and headed on. Again loosing elevation on the other side of Weeks. It was another beautiful day and we were making good time. The whole trail was in among pretty thick trees so the whole day long we really had no idea where we were. Every now and then the trees would thin a bit and give us a little look, but never enough to get a good bearing.
After going up and down for several hours we finally arrived at what we thought was South Weeks but with no sign we could not be sure. We made a good effort looking for one but to no avail. Nothing to do but keep moving. Finally the trail ascended another hump and took an obvious turn to the west in the direction of a westerly running Ridge. For most of the rest of the day we had been heading south. Well, I knew from memory that the last part of the ridge before hitting Waumbek was an east west ridge. This was good news, it meant we had in fact done both Weeks and that we were almost to Waumbek. Great time for Lunch. The sun was out in force at this point and it seemed to be warming a bit as well.
After lunch we headed on with new vigor and before we knew it we had traveled the full 6.2 miles to Waumbek. We made it! It was a walk in the park from here. Yes, a few summit pictures and off we went. It was around 2:00. One thing Gordon had forgotten as we looked forward to descending off of Waumbek to the car - there was one more peak to climb before we were done, Star King Mountain. Granted, it was a small summit but nonetheless, a summit, and we were truly tired of going UP!
Starr King came up fast and was not as bad as it looked. We were treated to our first clearing all day with a spectacular view of the entire Presidential Range to the southeast. There was an old chimney on top of Starr King, which I quickly climbed looking for an even better view, and a goofy picture of me on a chimney. While we were admiring the view a couple Canadian Jays showed up on the scene. Canadian Jays are a very friendly bird that will eat right out of your hand if you feed them gorp. We spent the next few minutes feeding the birds and getting some great pictures of them. It was a beautiful moment.
All right, its time to go home. We packed up and started our final descent. Along the way we passed several other hikers who were heading for the summit of Waumbek, a very popular local summit and relatively easy to achieve.
I hiked on ahead of Gordon with a plan to leave my pack at the end of the trail and to fetch the truck while Gordon caught up. I flew down the mountain. We covered the last 2.6 miles in about 1.5 hours.
As planned, I dropped my pack and fetched the truck. As a surprise for Gordon, I went to the corner store on the way back to the trailhead and pickup some Long Trail Ale and coffee. As Gordon waked off the trail he was greeted with a cup a hot coffee and a cold beer, and obvious choice if you know Gordon. However, at this moment, both coffee and beer would be enjoyed. We had a lot to celebrate. This was one of our greatest adventures to date. We finished up by 4:00 loaded the truck and proceeded to pick up my truck at the start of our journey and head home. It would take 3.5 hours to get home.
And that concludes our Cabot Waumbek Trip.
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