Hiking Mt. Cabot is actually not too hard of a hike. There are no scrambles, no extended steep sections or troublesome stream crossings. The problem with Cabot is the drive to get to the trailhead. Well, unless you actually live in Berlin, and then it is practically in your backyard. I actually do like the hike to Cabot, but in some cases the drive time either equals or exceeds the hiking time.
In winter, not only do you have a nice long drive (great if you’re the passenger and can catch a nap!), but you have to drive down York Pond Rd. This road is maintained, but it can be icy. Very icy. Like, you’re not going to drive 40mph down it. Or 30. More like 20. There are a lot of twists and turns, plus shady areas which hold onto ice. It just is the way it is. I did see a truck out doing some road maintenance on my way out, so it isn’t like they never plow at all or just give up.
Getting the trailhead is part of the adventure, right? Although I was a few minutes late, soon we were geared up and heading up the trail to Bunnell Notch. We had beautiful sunshine and a start temperature of 10 degrees F. That’s not bad for February, and the bonus of the cold overnight temperatures was that the trail was nice and firm – no sloppy snow or postholing. Everyone chose the traction they were comfortable with, although all of us had both snowshoes and microspikes. I started with the spikes, and if the snow got sloppy, I was going straight to the snowshoes. Of course, that meant I had to carry them, but that was my choice.
It was a beautiful morning and in Bunnell Notch it was getting rather warm. The trail is situated on the side of the notch that gets direct morning sunlight and it warms up quickly. Again, not bad for February! We cruised on up to the junction with the Kilkenny Ridge Trail and took a break, so far so good. We then got to the junction with the old Mt. Cabot Trail and knew it was time for some elevation gain. We stopped off at Bunnell Rock to check the view and even before then we realized we were in for some good views. The snow pack was so deep that we were higher up that usual, allowing us to see out over the trees.
The theme of deep snowpack continued up the trail and closer to the Mt. Cabot Cabin, we had to go through quite a few bent over tree limbs and other tree tunnels. The few blazes we saw were almost at snow level. The higher we got, the more incredible the snow was. Arriving at the cabin, we found the stairs to the porch completely buried. They were not in good shape, so the higher snow pack might be a blessing or their eventual demise.
From the cabin, it was a quick trip up to the summit. That was where the snow really got to be amazing. Whoever broke the trail from the cabin to the summit was amazing, too. All the surrounding terrain looked the same, so finding the route had to have been an adventure. Sure enough, though the track led to the summit, where the signs were almost to the level of the snow. I haven’t seen snow this deep since my first visit to Cabot ever, in March 2011.
On the way back, Claudette started to see shapes in the snow formations. First she saw a puppy dog (see pictures below). Then at the old firetower clearing she saw a circus horse and a bird of prey. I saw them too, but Kevin didn’t. I’m sure he thought she was hallucinating or just really needed some lunch. When we weren’t looking at snow sculptures, the views were incredible. The snow pack was so high at the tower clearing that we could see Mt. Washington above the trees! We enjoyed some lunch in the sunshine and then took off to descend back through the winter wonderland.
It was a pretty quick trip down and out, as the snow was a bit softer, but not sloppy and nowhere near needing snowshoes. They got a free ride from me, which I was just fine with. We had sunshine all the way to the cars, but we could see the clouds thickening up and the sun starting to fade a bit. Perfect timing!
Special thanks to Claudette and Kevin for another fun trip to Cabot!