On Saturday, May 12th, I rolled out of bed early and headed on up to Franconia Notch for some peak bagging. I had decided I would depart from the Lafayette Place Campground because that would provide the most options for the day. I could bag Cannon and the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls. Or, I could bag the Kinsmans. Or, if I was feeling good, I could bag all four. I had read in the AMC White Mountain Guide, that the approach to Cannon was fairly steep, so I decided to head their with fresh legs first.
I departed from the campground around 8:30 am. It was a beautiful, cloudless morning and the temps were already in the 50’s. I hit the Lonesome Lake Trail behind a couple of guys who had said they were heading towards the Kinsmans. When I got to the turn-off for the Hi-Cannon Trail, they continued along the Lonesome Lake Trail. The Hi-Cannon Trail was pretty narrow trail that had a few blow downs on it, but they were easy to step-over or duck-under. The trail had several switchbacks, and before I knew it, I came to an unmarked trail junction. I paused to catch my breath, and review the map, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. According to the map, the Hi-Cannon Trail should have gone .8 miles before it reached a trail junction with the Dodge Cutoff. I had read a recent trail log that mentioned that the Dodge Cutoff wasn’t marked well. But, despite how hard I was sweating/breathing, I didn’t think I had gone .8 miles on that stretch.
As I was putting the map away, I saw the two guys hiking up the trail that were supposed to be going to the Kinsmans. At that point, I thought, “Hmph. I guess they changed their minds.” But, I didn’t say anything. I continued hiking ahead of them. After a few moments, I found myself at the shores of Lonesome Lake, looking towards North Kinsman. Somehow, I must have missed a trail junction while on the Hi-Cannon Trail, and ended up back on the Lonesome Lake Trail. Whatever trail it was, wasn’t marked on my map and the intersection certainly isn’t marked on the tail, either. It was a bit annoying as I knew it was going to add some unneeded mileage to my day. But, no harm no foul. I pressed on, deciding to continue up the Lonesome Lake Trail to Kinsman Ridge. Over the next mile, half of it was fairly steep.
Once onto the Kinsman Ridge Trail, I started my ascent of Cannon. Immediately, the conditions changed. In the shadow of Cannon, the air was much cooler. You could hear the wind whipping. But, thankfully, I was mostly protected by the trees. I saw my first evidence of left-over monorail patches, but they were very easily avoided. This .4 mile section was quite steep, and had some areas that were hugging a cliff on a narrow trail. Once past the junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail (grrr….), the trail eased up on it’s approach to the summit. I stopped to
pee check out the first outlook I saw just short of the summit, looking back over the Cannon Balls. It was beautiful for sure. But, I was blown away by the 360 degree views from the summit tower! Blown away, both in amazement and the high winds. I thought I was going to lose my hat! It was definitely intimidating standing on that tower looking down at 93 below. I’ve always looked up at the cliffs of Cannon (where Old Man on the Mountain used to be), and marvel at how steep it was. And now, for the first time, I had the exact opposite perspective. Crazy. The views were beautiful; still no clouds. But, there was a bit of a haze to the air as you were looking off into the distance.
I turned around and started heading back down the Kinsman Ridge Tail to work my way to the North East Peak of the Cannon Balls. I had remembered reading that it was an unassuming summit, but I thought there was some sort of marker. Apparently, there was not. I crossed the summit, barely acknowledging it’s existence without even slowing my pace. I knew the Kinsmans would be more impressive, and I was on the longest trail section of the day. At 2.4 miles from the NE Peak, to the Kinsman Junction, I had some work in front of me. And, I have to say that I was not all that impressed with those 2.4 miles. Very few views (I know. I’m greedy.) along those 2.4 miles, and no exciting nature sightings. Blah.
Finally, I got to the junction and had to make a decision. Do I continue on and bag the Kinsmans? Or do I start heading back now? I was definitely hungry. I had not eaten my PB&J wrap yet, and it was calling my name. I had been aiming to eat it on the summit of North Kinsman. Plus, I had just done that long stretch of the Kinsman Ridge. And to not summit the Kinsmans after that seemed like it would be a huge waste. So, on I went. (Sorry, Drea.)
I always get a bit excited when I start walking on stretches of the Appalachian Trail. From the junction, the Kinsman Ridge Trail heading over the Kinsmans onto Moosilauke & beyond is part of the AT. The .5 miles from the junction to the summit of North Kinsman was rather steep and was kicking my ass. Lots of granite with few handholds. Once on the summit, however, I was awed by the view laid out before me. Looking down into the valley to Lonesome Lake, with the amazing presentation of Mr. Lafayette, Lincoln, and Haystack just beyond. It’s a truly gorgeous view. Plus, the haze from the morning had definitely burned off. It was warm at the summit, mid 60’s I’d estimate. Great spot for lunch – glad I waited!
After finishing up lunch, I definitely felt alot better on my approach to South Kinsman. Interestingly, just after leaving North Kinsman, I came upon those two guys that I started behind that morning. We had a quick conversation about how our hikes had been going, before we continued on our separate ways again. Of course, that span of trail is a pretty easy mile. I spent some time on the summit, but wasn’t as impressed with those views, in comparison to what I just had on North Kinsman. I had heard a couple of guys talk about nice views of Moosilauke further down the Kinsman Ridge Trail. But, I was less than interested in taking any steps more than I had to. I was definitely a bit tired. As I posted on Facebook (yes, I posted on facebook from the summit, shut it): “Pretty amazing day for peak bagging in the Whites. Four peaks down. But, I’m about 4 miles from my car. If someone could please have a helicopter meet me at the ledge on North Kinsman in about 20 mins, I’d really appreciate it.”
But, I underestimated. It was actually 5 miles from the car. And, they weren’t exactly the easiest five miles I’ve ever done. The mile back to North Kinsman was fine. But, the .5 mile back down to the junction, was that steep section on granite with few hand holds. I was certainly taking my time with my fatigued legs. Once at the junction, I jumped on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. This was also part of the AT and I don’t think I had actually read up on this trail, at all. The trail is in good condition, but it is steep and most of it is slippery granite. There are several sections where there are stairs bolted into the granite to help you out (again, no hand holds). Those were very handy. I did notice one was missing/broken. But, it’s the AT. It will be repaired soon, I am sure. Regardless, for a good mile or so, my pace was reduced to crawling.
For some reason, I had it in my head that the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was only 1.5 miles long. In actuality, it is two. That’s not much of a difference, but my legs were shot. That half mile was feeling much longer. Additionally, I drained my 3.0 litre reservoir for the first time ever. That was probably about a mile from the Lonesome Lake Hut. Of course, as soon as it was gone, all I wanted was more water. The hut was a welcome site! I refilled, grabbed a candy bar, and continued on down the trail. I didn’t get far before being presented with yet another amazing view over Lonesome Lake. What a beautiful spot!
The rest of the hike was uneventful. It was a long, but great day on the trails. There were tons of people out enjoying the day. And, many had their dogs with them. (It made me want one, even more than already do!) I was also slightly jealous of everyone that was backpacking; heading to various shelters/huts/camps for further communing with nature.
- Date: 5/12/12
- Elevation: Cannon – 4100′, Cannon Balls NE Peak – 3769′, North Kinsman – 4293′, South Kinsman – 4358′
- Elev Gain: So many gains and losses – but from the Laffayette Place Campground to South Kinsman: ~2558
- Mileage: 13
- Trails: Up: Lonesome Lake -> Hi-Cannon -> Unmarked Link -> Lonesome Lake -> Kinsman Ridge Trail -> Cannon -> back via Kinsman Ridge to Cannon Balls -> North Kinsman -> South Kinsman -> North Kinsman -> Fishin’ Jimmy Trail -> Around Lonesome Lake Trail -> Lonesome Lake Trail
- Time: 8 hours 25 mins.
- NH 48 – Peaks #3 (Cannon), #4 (N. Kinsman), & #5 (S. Kinsman)