Third Time is the Charm: Mount Cabot

Mount Cabot. The one mountain that has eluded us this whole summer. We attempted to hike Mount Cabot two times before this past weekend. First time we were about a mile away from the trailhead when our car started to make a funny noise so we stopped and checked to see what it was. Turns out we had a broken water pump. Cue AAA and a trip to the local dealership. Second time we were 1.5 mile in on Bunnell Notch Trail when we decided to turn around because Chris’ asthma was acting up. After those two failed attempts, we swore off Cabot for the time being as we had other 4,000-footers to conquer. Well the time came around where we had to attempt it again. It was between Cabot or the Wildcats and we chose the former as we wanted to leave something a bit more challenging and rewarding to finish up our NH48 goal.

Mount Cabot, at an elevation of 4,170 feet, is located down the road from the Berlin Fish Hatchery in Berlin, NH. It’s WAY up there. It’s probably one of my least favorite hikes for the sole reason of it being so far away. It takes about 3.5 hours from Boston and including this trip, we’ve done the drive three times. It’s a route we have memorized and I don’t think it’s something to be proud of. It’s also a hike that’s easy. No steep elevation to contend with. Just gradual elevation for a (mostly) view-less summit.

It was a late start for the hike, around 9:30/10:00 a.m. Go figure because of how long the drive is. We decided to do an out-and-back hike via Bunnell Notch Trail as it is the shortest distance of the choices at 9.4 miles. We parked at the Unknown Pond park area and walked the short distance to the Bunnell Notch trail head. We were surprised at how many cars were at the trail head as the previous two attempts there were only a handful, if that. The beginning of the three miles on Bunnell Notch Trail is flat and overgrown with all sorts of plants. It just looked like a jungle to me where Chris and I had to lift our arms over our heads to avoid the heavy undergrowth and prickers at times. Milo had less difficulty as he’s only a foot tall and avoided most of the stalks. At 0.2 miles, we stayed right at the junction of York Pond Trail and Bunnell Notch Trail to continue on Bunnell Notch.

For the rest of Bunnell Notch Trail, it was your typical New England Trail with a mixture of rocks, tree roots, and mud. There is a brook that runs alongside much of the trail so there are a few minor stream crossings. We did take a lot of breaks as it was quite humid out. Milo was a bit sluggish, drinking water whenever he had a chance and not caring if he went into the water for stream crossings. At the junction of Bunnell Notch Trail and Kilkenny Ridge Trail, we continued straight as we had 1.7 miles on Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Cabot. Along the way we encountered an old sign for Mount Cabot Trail, a trail that is no longer maintained or open to the public as it is on private land. The path down is blocked by wood but others have written on the sign to point hikers in the right direction of the summit.

We knew Cabot Cabin was close as we could hear a loud group of women. We didn’t stop at the cabin but instead opted to head towards a viewing area beyond it. We were greeted by three Bernese Mountain dogs – a sight you don’t see often when hiking – and their owners. One of them was named Cabot, so Cabot on his namesake. With Cabot being his name, I wonder what the other two dogs were named…

We took a lunch break in this spot before heading off to Mount Cabot’s summit which gave the boisterous ladies a head start so we could have the summit to ourselves. Not wanting to bake in the sun any longer, we headed the 0.4 miles to the summit, encountering the ladies who were on their way back. Apparently they didn’t know where the summit was and turned back, even though they had a trail map. I also want to add that one of them had the 4,000-footer AMC patch on their packs. I think that patch was achieved by someone else if she couldn’t find Cabot’s summit? We kept trucking along and found the open area where the summit was. It was marked well with a sign and cairn. Not all that hard to miss?!


You certainly can’t miss these signs on Mount Cabot’s summit.


With obligatory photos taken, we headed back the way we came with a pit stop at Cabot Cabin to see what was inside. It was a good set up from the elements with great notes and drawings from previous adventurers. Overall, the hike itself was one of the fastest we’ve done and could’ve been much faster if we decided to put more effort into it. It helped that it was a pretty easy hike to contend with.


A panorama of Mount Cabot’s innards.


This means there are only two summits left on our NH48 list!


A Dog’s Walk:
Mount Cabot is an easy 9.4-mile hike consisting of typical New England trail conditions: rocks, tree roots, and this time mud. It’s a gradual elevation gain for half and pretty flat for the rest, making it easy on joints for both dogs and humans. Dogs of all sizes can hike this as we saw a Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, and three Bernese Mountain dogs on the trails. There is plenty of water as there is a stream that runs along side and often crossing the Bunnell Notch Trail. And, dogs are allowed in Cabot Cabin as it is not the usual staffed AMC hut or cabin. It’s more of a shelter with the bare necessities with no kitchen or stove so dogs could certainly sleep here with their human companions.

[BONUS: I brought my GoPro this time so enjoy a few clips from our hike.]



The Dreaded Hike: Owl’s Head

Owl’s Head. The one NH48 hike that almost no one wants to do. Why? It’s the longest hike for a summit that has no view – just woods, no sky. It’s also one of the only ones without a maintained trail to the summit.

Located in Franconia, NH at an elevation of 4,025 feet, Owl’s Head is an easy to moderate 18.2-mile hike in and out of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Chris, Milo and I are no strangers to this hike as we did a majority of it for the Bonds (Bondcliff, Mount Bond, and West Bond). Being as it was a holiday weekend, we decided to hike the least exciting of our last NH48 hikes as an overnight. This hike (like the Bonds) starts off at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center. It wasn’t even 8:30 a.m. when we arrived and found that the parking lot was already full with cars spilling onto the sides of the road. We snagged a spot on the road and made our way to the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center where we were stopped by a park ranger and his pop up tent. He gave us the basic rules of camping – no camping within 200 yards of water or trail, no fire rings, hang your food up at night because of bear country. We haven’t been stopped by a park ranger ever. We think it’s because we had our brand new (matching might I add) Osprey packs on and it made us look like newbies. Don’t be fooled though, we have plenty of overnight hikes under our belt!

Once our impromptu park ranger lesson was over, we headed out on Lincoln Woods Trail – 2.9 miles of flat, old railroad beds. There are still old railroad planks from the old East Branch and Lincoln Railroad that are still there. Along the way we passed by Black Pond Trail and took a detour on Franconia Falls Trail for a short break. Retracing our steps, we veered left at the junction of Franconia Brook Trail and Wilderness Trail to stay on Franconia Brook Trail for 1.7 miles and veered left again to take the Lincoln Brook Trail. Once on Lincoln Brook Trail, we decided to start looking out for camping spots so that we could unload some of our weight before hitting Owl’s Head summit. We found a great one off the trail and down a hill but still near Lincoln Brook. It was flat and used plenty of times before us. It was illegal-ish but we did make an effort to find a legal camping spot. (The spot was well over 200 feet from the trail, but we couldn’t find one 200 feet from the water.) It’s a lot better than the ten campers we passed on our way back to camp who were parked right next to the trail (and water). Once settled, we enjoyed a short break. Sitting on the rocks in the middle of the brook, we couldn’t help but people watch. We were astounded as to how many hikers were passing through as we didn’t see many on the trail towards Owl’s Head. Guess they might’ve gone a different route or were a bit speedier than us. [Some of the hikers we encountered included the Good To-Go founders who wore matching company shirts – good marketing!]


The family who matches together, stays together.

After the break, we continued 3.4 miles on Lincoln Brook Trail towards Owl’s Head Path. As the trail isn’t maintained, hence not marked, we went past the junction for Owl’s Head Path for about 5 – 10 minutes. After realizing we were continuing on the loop that goes to the Bonds, we turned around and asked a fellow hiker where the path was. We knew we may have missed it as it is only marked with a large cairn and some hikers left their packs before embarking to the summit.

Once on the correct route, it’s 1.1 miles to the summit. The trail is very steep with very loose rocks so I recommend not hiking behind one another in case rocks get kicked your way. I almost had that happen where a female hiker was in front of me and knocked a loose rock my way. Good thing I chose to veer right on a different path. It took us some time to get up the rock slide. After what seems forever, you eventually get to flat terrain where it’s another 0.2 – 0.4 miles to the summit cairn. Like I said earlier, a long hike for a summit that has no view. We took a quick nap on top and made our way down. To our surprise, we encountered a hiker ascending – we thought we were the last ones. He told us he got a late start – 2:00 p.m. to be exact. We told him what to expect at the summit and made our way down, albeit slowly, on the rock slide. Not going to lie, we were slow back to camp – so slow that dusk crept up on us. (The fast hiker also crept up on us and scared the crap out of me.) We were a little lost back to camp as we couldn’t recall how many water crossings there were before camp. Chris had made a big cairn in the middle of the brook as well as a small one on the side of the trail and we were on the lookout for those but our headlamps could only shine so far down the brook. It got to a point where we had to stop and turn around to see if we missed our spot. Turns out we didn’t. We just camped a bit farther than we thought. Thank goodness we both remembered a few details other than where the cairns were (Someone had decided to knock down the small cairn on the trail). Tired and hungry, we immediately made water for dinner and rolled out our sleeping bags. We didn’t even attempt to pump drinking water. That would have to wait until morning. Milo immediately snuggled in for the night while Chris and I waited for our dehydrated meals to cook. It wasn’t long before we scarfed our food down and settled in for the night.


Poising with the cairn in Owl’s Head summit.


The next morning wasn’t all too exciting. Chris was the most exhausted and sore of us all so he ended up sleeping in – he usually does. I woke up early, pumped water into our Nalgene’s and slowly broke down our tent, waking Chris up in the process. Once back on the trail, it was an easy hike back – about 2 – 3 hours to get back to the car. We encountered so many people on the Lincoln Woods Trail – many who were going to the Franconia Falls for the day and some who were hiking/camping overnight for Owl’s Head, the Bonds, or both. Milo caused quite the spectacle with his pack. Apparently, not many people have seen a Shiba Inu with a hiking pack on. Overall, it was a good hike. 10/10 would not recommend hiking it just for Owl’s Head. I’d spice it up a little bit by making the excursion longer with the Bonds. However, with Owl’s Head knocked off, we only have three 4,000-footers left!

32px-Black_Paw.svgA Dog’s Walk:
Owl’s Head is a moderate 18.2-mile hike. Lincoln Woods Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, and Lincoln Brook Trail are relatively flat with rocks, tree roots, and old railroad planks here and there. The only difficult part is Owl’s Head Path which is very steep with very loose rocks – this will be difficult for smaller dogs. We saw quite a number of furry companions on the trail including a lab mix and poodle. Milo did a good job overall though he kind of slowed down towards the end – a mixture of long hike and being slightly out of shape. He toughed it out and we didn’t have to carry him once (Chris had to a water crossing here or there but I don’t think that counts for a dog that hates water). The hike is certainly do-able for dogs of all sizes, but smaller or older pooches you will need to watch or help up and down the rock slide portion of Owl’s Head. Just be wary of how long of a hike your dog can endure because it is a long one but does have plenty of water that runs along the majority of the trail for frequent breaks.


Milo enjoying a cold one at Pub 32 in Lincoln, NH.


And then he was pooped.



© Elizabeth Tran 2011-2017