My husband didn’t feel like driving all the way up to the Berlin Fish Hatchery to bag Cabot on Saturday, so he said I could have the day for hiking. I took the opportunity to go back to the Hancocks. The warm-up is long and easy and the steep sections are pretty short. I also had never been to the Hancocks without snow and ice, so that was an extra perk.
The weather was promised to be nice, but it sure didn’t look that way from the drive up or the beginning of the hike. It was cloudy, and by the time I got to the trailhead there was misty rain. The weather wasn’t a big problem I was happy to be out and enjoying the peaks. I put on a rain jacket, quickly scooted across the hairpin on the Kanc and headed up the trail. The trip in was quick, as the Hancock Notch Trail is flat and the footing is good, and I was at the junction of the Cedar Brook Trail in less than a hour.
In a little over an hour, I was turning off of the Cedar Brook Trail and on to the Hancock Loop Trail. This part of the hike is a little steeper, but soon enough the junction came up with the choice, South or North first? Either way has advantage and disadvantages but there is a steep ascent no matter the choice. The south summit was the first objective of the day. Steep is exactly what I remember, except that there were a lot of rocks and but that’s pretty much what I expected. By peeking around the trees at the summit outlook, the summit of Carrigain and its tower was visible. By this point, there was some sunshine and less clouds, although there was still quite a bit of undercast in the distant valleys. In the near valleys, the fall color was just starting to pop through all the greenery of summer.
After a quick snack, the ridge walk began. With the exception of a few mudpits, the ridge walk was really nice, through a dense mossy forest, my favorite kind. Closer to the North summit, a few views opened up back to South Hancock. After a short, but not too difficult climb, the summit of North Hancock appeared along with some really nice views to the Osceolas, the Tripyramids, Whiteface and Passaconaway. Over to the west, the large bulk of Moosilauke could be seen. In the east, Chocura struggled to get above the undercast with only a bit of the summit cone appearing and disappearing in the ever-moving clouds.
Satisfied with the views and with a bit of lunch, the descent began. This was much more difficult than I remember because the snow of previous trips hid the loose gravel and rocks. It required quite a bit of concentration to descend carefully and safely, and even so I slipped a few times. Keeping enough space between hikers and passing groups to make sure those above didn’t send an avalanche of loose gravel down on those below was important, too. Pretty soon, I could hear water and I knew that sometimes there is a stream at the bottom before little climb back to the junction and much easier hiking.
The rest of the walk out was pretty quick, and soon the adventure was over, with only one more dangerous part: walking across the top of the hairpin of the Kanc on a sunny fall day. After that, within a few more minutes, the car was in sight and another refreshing trip to the mountains was done.