Cannon was one of the summits my son specifically had wanted to hike this summer, so I suggested that we take two days, spend the night at Kinsman Pond and hike the Kinsman too. My son thought this was a great idea and we looked at a map to make a plan. The plan was to hike up to Cannon from Lafayette Place, then over the Cannon Balls and stay at Kinsman Pond on the first day. On the second day, we’d hike the Kinsmans and then back down to the car. We divided the gear and food between us, packed it up and were ready to go.
After checking the weather, we set off Wednesday morning for Franconia Notch. Along the way, we watched the weather and it wasn’t as sunny as predicted. In fact, it was cloudy and grey and the summits in Franconia Notch were socked in with clouds. We were prepared with rain gear and the temperatures weren’t cold, so we set off from Lafayette Place Campground for our first stop along the way, Lonesome Lake.
Not the best day for viewing the lake, so we continued on Lonesome Lake Trail up to the Kinsman Ridge Trail where we took a right hand turn and ascended the rest of Cannon by scrambling up the damp boulders. With heavier packs, we took our time to be careful and made it up the rocks with no problems. As we were ascending, we entered the clouds. This was exactly like my first hike to Cannon five years ago: foggy and no views. Maybe some day I’ll visit on a sunny day! We went to the observation tower to find out that although we could see what we thought was the summit marker, we couldn’t get to it. The whole area had been roped off so we couldn’t get to it. My son was frustrated a bit by this as he is a purist and likes to touch every marker, pin and highest rock on the carin. After explaining that it wasn’t our fault he couldn’t get to it and that the summit would still count, we headed to the tram station to eat some lunch.
After a nice rest and refilling our water, we started the next part of the journey, the 3.6 miles to the Kinsman Pond Shelter. Carefully we retraced our path back down all the large boulders to the junction of the Kinsman Ridge Trail and the Lonesome Lake Trail and continued over the Cannon Balls. While there were ups and downs over the Cannon Balls, there weren’t too many and in place the trail rolled along easily, unlike some other trails notorious for their ups and downs, such as the Garfield Ridge Trail. We eventually came to Kinsman Junction and could see the tent of the caretaker of Kinsman Pond Shelter from the junction.
We continued past the caretaker’s tent to check out the tent platforms and the shelter. There were already three people at the shelter when we got there, and despite how nice the shelter was, my son decided that he wanted to sleep in the tent instead of the shelter. We chose a platform and set up the tent and camp, with the weather not improving at all. We could only see about one third of North Kinsman across the pond due to being socked in with clouds. We chatted with the people at the shelter, ate dinner, played cards and then went to sleep. My son said the tent was a little scary at first, but soon we got used to the noises of the tent in the wind and the water dropping off the trees onto the rain fly of the tent.
We slept well, all warm and cozy inside our little green dome, and early the next morning I unzipped the tent doors and looked up to see a clear, blue sky! We quickly put on shoes, got the camera and water bottles and set off the for pond. The pond was glassy and perfectly reflected the Kinsmans in the brilliant morning sunshine. We spent quite a while taking pictures considering we took so few the day before due to the weather.
After breakfast, we packed enough in my pack for the trip to the Kinsmans, and left the rest of the gear to be picked up on our descent. We had a good time scrambling up the ledges and arrived quickly at the outlook ledge of North Kinsman. After taking pictures and a little break, we moved on to South Kinsman, almost a mile away. Although it looked like a long way away, it really wasn’t and after a descent and then a quick climb we were at the first knob and headed toward the summit cairn on the far knob.
We spent time taking pictures and enjoying the views and knew it was time for the final part of the journey: the long descent to the car in Fraconia Notch. We first descended back to Kinsman Pond to pick up the remainder of our gear, then we headed down the Fishin Jimmy trail to Lonesome Lake Hut, for a break and to eat lunch. That two miles seemed like a long way for some reason – the last time I hiked the Kinsmans it didn’t seem that long for some reason. We supplemented the remainder of our food with a bowl of soup and a cookie for lunch. After a little fun of skipping rocks and taking pictures at Lonesome Lake, was time for the last 1.5 miles to the car.
Right after we left Lonesome Lake, descending through the rocks, one of my son’s knees started to hurt. I wasn’t surprised – we had a long descent and hiked for almost two days with more gear than he’s used to carrying. With the use of my poles and a few extra breaks we made it back to the car in about an hour and today he seems fine.
Despite the weather the first day, we had a great trip. We both enjoyed the backpacking experience and had a lot of fun. I was happy to see that my son did well with all the elevation changes over the Cannon Balls and didn’t complain about his gear load. This trip was also a great way to see how we’d do on an overnight trip that wasn’t too far out before we take a trip out to Owl’s Head or Isolation next year.