Since I was going to make another trip to Mt. Cabot, I wanted something different. I’ve been up Bunnell Notch quite a few times this year, so in the name of peakbagging and redlining, Ethan and I decided to hike up Unknown Pond Trail across the Horn and the Bulge and over to Cabot. Considering how many times I’ve been to Cabot (we won’t talk about that!), I’d never done the loop.
We got up early on Labor Day and started the trek north. It is a long drive, but since the Berlin Fish Hatchery gate doesn’t open until 7:30 or there abouts, there wasn’t much reason to try to be at the trailhead at the crack of dawn. We parked at the start of the Unknown Pond Trail and headed up.
It was actually a very easy hike up, and only in the last half mile or so to the pond did the grade increase to moderate, but not quite steep. After checking out the pond and careful checking of the two junctions near the pond, we were on our way over to the Horn. The Kilkenney Ridge Trail in this section rolls along through spruce forest and is a pleasant walk. We found ourselves at the Horn spur junction and ready to head up to what we’d read was going to be a nice view. A rock scramble later, with Ethan making a giant leap and me poking around to find an easier way up, we were sitting on top of the Horn, enjoying what was a very nice 360 degree view and a snack. That is where we also had a discussion about an extra little bit of redlining.
The “extra little bit” of redlining was the .15 – .2 miles known as the “Cabot Spring Spur”. If you are redlining (hiking all the trails in the White Mountain Guide), then this one of those you have to do, as it is on the 29th edition spreadsheet. I’d known it was there and had been warned by Schorman that it was steep and brushy, so every time I passed by it, I’d find some reason not to go down there. Mostly things like, “It’s winter” or “It is cold and wet up here, need to get to lower elevations” or “I have a time limit, not today.” Well, Ethan decided today would be the day. Between us and that little bit of redlining was the Bulge and Mt. Cabot, so we packed up and off we went, with a few more ups and downs before arriving at Cabot.
We then headed toward the cabin and the turn off for the spur to the spring. There is a small cairn there, but if you didn’t know it was there for an actual purpose besides keeping people on trail, you wouldn’t think much about it. Down we went and while the footpath was pretty good, between the overgrown spruce, a few blowdowns and some overnight rain, we were picking our way down carefully. Since this trail is has been very lightly used in recent decades, the condition of it makes sense. It was and is the water source for the Cabot cabin, which used to be housing for those manning the old firetower. In reality, I’ve been on better and worse bushwhacks, so it was just a matter of pushing through the brush. We found one spring, but the path looked like it continued, so we went a little bit further and found another outlet for the same source. At this point the path dead ended into the woods, so I think we redlined that. It was much easier heading up hill and in no time, we were back on the Kilkenney Ridge Trail.
From there it was business as usual, passing the cabin and heading down and out through Bunnell Notch. We got in some new trail and new scenery which made another trip to Cabot feel exciting, but it wasn’t over yet.
Since we were in the area, Ethan suggested we check out the Devil’s Hopyard, which is on the far northern end of the Kilkenney Ridge Trail. He’d been there before, but I hadn’t. Since it was about 30 minute’s drive from the York Pond/Unknown Pond trail area and less than 3 miles of hiking, we headed up to the South Pond Recreation Area to start another hike. We got there and found out it was the last day that the recreation area was open for the season. Lucky us, no extra hiking from the gate. It was an easy hike in, with just about flat terrain. We got to Devil’s Hopyard Trail and headed in. It is one of those unusual places where there is a narrow gorge between two steep walls of rock. It was much like a very miniature version of the Mahoosuc Notch, complete with slippery footing but no tunnels to shove yourself and your pack through. The footing was bouldery and tricky, but it was worth getting in there and seeing the sheer walls of rock. The walls of rock at the end of the trail were pretty cool, as you come around the last corner, you realize what a gigantic chunk of rock is just sitting out there. We reached the end of trail sign and were tempted to go further to try to find a waterfall we could hear, but the rocks were so slick and moss covered, we thought better of it. Why ruin a fun day with sad ending?
We picked up more peaks, more trail and were blessed with a fun and safe day. What more could we ask for?