Called to Mont Cardigan | Hiking news
Favorite mountains are plentiful in New Hampshire. They come in all shapes and sizes like Mount Monadnock in the south, South Baldface in the east, Mount Adams in the presidential elections. All of them have a treeline, with endless views above.
Then there is Mount Cardigan (3,149 feet) to the west. It is part of the exclusive club of modest low treeline peaks due to historic fires, in this case a fire in 1855.
For many hikers, Mount Cardigan is their favorite peak or one of them. It has easy to difficult trails. For those who live nearby, a quick hike on the 1.5 mile West Ridge Trail to the World Above the Trees can fit any time of day, even in the middle of the aftermath. noon during the darkest time of the year. In fact, it is ideal because of the quality of the light.
For those traveling on Route 4 east / west for other reasons, Mount Cardigan can be a heady respite halfway through. This Thursday, I had an appointment in Lebanon in the middle of the morning.
On my way in the morning, as I approached the village of Canaan, I looked to the right and saw that Mount Cardigan was in the clouds. It didn’t seem likely that I would climb it on the way home.
But as Canaan approached from the west around 2 p.m., the top was visible and the clouds were slowly rising.
I could easily have continued, but in the village, I watched my hands turn the wheel. I took route 118 and after half a mile I made a right onto Cardigan Mountain Road. It eventually turned to dirt. In 3.4 miles I made a right into the winter hikers parking lot, which is across from the 0.7 mile access road to the West Ridge Trail summer parking lot.
On the way up the access road there was ice under a few inches of snow and I was glad I provided good foot traction for the trail ahead.
I started the trail and a local hiker walked past me. He said he was from Lebanon and climbed the mountain a few times a week. After half a mile I passed the junction of the South Ridge Trail and saw its tracks heading in that direction. Maybe I would meet him later at the top of the fire tower.
The afternoon light was shining between the trees. The path turned left. Open ledges indicated that I was approaching treeline. The stunted spruces were lightly covered in snow and lit by the late afternoon sun. Later in the winter, snow would accumulate on them and they would look like gargoyles, but not yet.
I left the trees and stepped out onto the silky dome of the summit. A cold wind blew through her. A distance farther on was the old fire tower. Activated in 1924, it has been closed and barricaded for years.
I walked over to her. There was the wind, the rock and I, none of them stood out in any significant way.
A couple stood under the tower, waiting for me to approach and with pleasant smiles. I was another pilgrim, I guess. I approached them. They had come across the AMC Cardigan Lodge and were doing a loop over the mountain. – You have a lot more to do than me, I commented. Later, on the way down, I wondered if they had headlamps.
They headed south down the dome from the summit. I did not linger long. The leeward side of the tower gave the wind some respite. Looking north, the wind farm above Plymouth stands out. Distant mountains were obscured.
The local guy I had met at the foot of the trail approached the fire tower from the south. He wasn’t a talker and, without a word, turned and walked quickly to the West Ridge Trail. I followed.