I haven’t been out hiking since New Year’s Day, which was quite a while ago at this point! One of the main reasons is that I don’t have a winter hiking partner. My son is a bit young and I’m not as experienced as I’d like to be as I would be responsible for the both of us coming home safely. Although it is late in the season, I decided that I should try a group hike with the AMC and see how that worked out. The benefits being that you’ve got experienced leaders with you and you’re within a larger group.
I’d never hiked with a group before, I’ve only hiked solo or with one or two other people, so it was a new experience. I was a little nervous about that, but it turned out to be a nice experience. There was a variety of ages and fitness levels, but the leaders took care to see that everyone moved at a comfortable pace and that we reached the summit safely.
Once being accepted in the group hike, I got an email with a gear list and a place to meet. Saturday morning found me driving toward Gorham to meet the group at 7:15a. We carpooled over to the York Pond Fish Hatchery, where the trailhead is for the York Pond Trail which would lead us to the Bunnell Notch Trail and ultimately to the Kilkenny Ridge and Mt. Cabot Trails leading to the summit.
We were all geared up and on the trail around 8:45a, with snowshoes being the footwear of choice for the entire day. The weather reports were not the most promising with around 50% chance of rain or sleet or even snow, so we suited up appropriately in the waterproof wear department, too. We first passed through a fairly easy section where we encountered the only real bit of precipitation for the day, a little rain and then a little ice which lasted for a very short time, maybe 45 minutes, probably less. After turning onto the Bunnell Notch Trail, we then hiked over a rolling sort of section where we started to gain altitude. After turning onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, the hiking got steeper, ascending by switchbacks. At the end of the switch backs is Mt. Cabot Cabin, which is very close to the summit.
Thankfully, the cabin was open and we were all able to squeeze inside to eat a quick bite before going to back out and heading for the summit. The hike to the summit was a very quick little hike, which was made even easier by leaving our packs at the cabin, and soon we were at the summit, complete with sign and photos.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a view at the summit or even in the surrounding area due to the cloud we were in, partly because the summit is wooded and party because we entered a cloud during the hike to the cabin. On the way back down, we were still able to get a few views and photos as we dropped down below the cloud. We stopped at little side path marked, “View” which is Bunnell Rock and has a nice view over Bunnell Notch to the next ridge, which is part of Terrace Mtn.
We did a decent job moving along on the descent and the group ended up back at the parking lot at 4:30p. For such a large group (there were 10 or so altogether), with a variety of hiking speeds, I think that was a very reasonable pace.
As far as the entire hiking experience, I thought it was a good day. think that this was a good way to get some winter hiking in without the worry of going solo and not having enough experience and then getting into trouble. In the future, if I don’t have a hiking partner, I will try to take advantage of these trips. It was also a good day because I got one more peak bagged, which leaves me 15 to go!