September 13, 2016.
Spent the night up near the trailhead on Mill Brook Road and just needed to drive down the road a short ways to the trail. Today the target is the the northern end of Unknown Pond Trail and the Kilkenny Ridge Trail between the Unknown Pond Trail and the summit of Mt Cabot. Two side trips also, one to The Horn and the other to a spring down the eastern side of Mt Cabot. I had checked off the latter trail back when I originally did Cabot but I know for a fact that I have not been to the spring.
The weather looks promising for the day with a little chill in the early morning air. Just beyond where I spent the night is an open field where some logging recently occurred. There is a great view to the Pilots and Hutchins Mt from this vantage point with the early morning sun lighting up the ridgeline. Down the road I head to Unknown Pond Trail where there is still a car at the trailhead from last night.
The trail meanders through the woods at a gentle grade for a ways. Slowly it begins the climb up riding the backbone of a small ridge.
I remember reading about a town line marker along the trail and constantly keep an eye out for it. Problem was the hobblebush and maple saplings where hogging the edges of the trail. But as luck would have it I came across the old marker on my left as I was heading up. Beyond the trail becomes a steady and moderate climb through some great birch woods.
It doesn't take long as I pass by my intended right turn with Kilkenny Ridge Trail where I will head up but first I need to make it to the second junction which is just up the trail a bit. This is where I came last December on a loop hike doing the bottom portion of Unknown Pond Trail. The Unknown Pond Trail is officially done. A short side trip to the shore of Unknown Pond and just like last year another beautiful day to be out in the woods.
I head back to the other junction and this time turn onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to continue on to The Horn. But first I find a log to sit down for a morning break. It is peaceful and quiet here as I eventually resign to the fact that I have to move on. This section of Kilkenny Ridge Trail has it's minor ups and downs as it winds around Unknown Pond.
The climbing begins heading up the shoulder of The Horn breaking out into a birch glade for a short ways. Below the spur path that leads to The Horn the trail turns rocky and slows the pace.
Thankfully it does not last long and I reach the spur trail for The Horn. The trail is not that long at only three tenths of a mile. The spur trail heads through some pretty good woods as it climbs. Then reaches some interesting boulders that one must travel over and through.
There is one good size scramble that isn't too bad for the long legged people and then I see what I thought was the summit.
I have purposely put off this trek for some time as I have read the last "step" onto The Horn is a bit challenging. Reaching the ledge and I find it odd as it was easy and the views to the south are fantastic. Beyond South Terrace Mt are the Northern Presi's on this clear blue day. As I am turning around looking at the views I see a higher spot directly behind me. Crap! I knew this too easy as I make my way over to the nasty spot I have read so much about. It might not look so imposing in the picture but that crack between the two is quite deep and enough of a obstacle when trying to step up onto the other rock. You can also see the angle of that upper rock and their is no way I feel comfortable putting a foot on it and then pushing off with the other. I stand there looking at the insurmountable rock thinking of ways I might be able to get up but each time think of the consequences if I don't succeed. There are rings embedded in the rock but they are far out of reach. If I had my rope maybe I could have made use of them. I turn to put my back to the rock and try pushing up using my butt and feet but that first step is quite high. Finally I give up on this route and circle around looking for another way.
Almost on the opposite side and I find a steep but safer way up. There is a steep crack that goes up the length of this daunting summit and this looks way better than the first option. A first big step to get on it and then an easier scramble to the top.
The risk was well worth the reward as there is 360° views up here and the skies are clear. I start snapping pictures and then the camera gives me the low battery warning and shuts off. Damn! To top it off I brought both packs this week but my spare batteries are in my other pack back in the car. Out comes the backup camera which does not take very good zoom shots but it is better than nothing. It's one of those things I always have buried in my summer pack. The top of The Horn with the next destinations, The Bulge on the right and Cabot, in the background. Looking to the east are the Mahoosucs where I hope to be heading in a few days.
Disappointed that I can't zoom in more I retreat back down very slowly sliding down the crack section and then quickly down the spur trail back to the junction. As I start climbing Kilkenny Ridge Trail towards The Bulge I try the camera again and it works all of sudden. I remember having this problem back a few winters ago and always not long into the hike. Maybe I have a bad battery out of the bunch but doesn't make sense because I have been using this same battery for quite some time. Hopefully it holds up for the duration of the trip. The climb up to the Bulge doesn't go too bad and less than thirty minutes I reach the wooded summit.
A drop down to the col between Cabot and The Bulge before the next climb of the day. A bit steeper as the trail makes it through the woods. About halfway up and I meet up with two guys (the first people of the day) who were backpacking yesterday and today. That explains the car that was at the trailhead last night and this morning. We chat for a few minutes and then head our separate ways.
The final push to the summit area is fairly easy and then I am on top of Cabot for only the second time since I started hiking. The actual highpoint is not where the sign is but just beyond where a sign that marked this spot is now gone. Cabot is wooded with no views to be had. A jumble of herd paths lead off the trail that but go nowhere. I remember back in April of 2012 there was enough snowpack that I found some views towards Washington. Today it is futile trying to find those same views. As I am poking around another couple has come up the trail and heading down towards the cabin and beyond.
I fall in behind them and make my way down to the last trail to check off for the day, the spur trail down to the spring. I've read that it is sometimes marked and if you are not looking for it very easy to miss. I keep heading down the trail always looking to my left for the trail. It's one of those things that is not on a map and you have no idea where it is or if you walked by it. Another oddity in the redlining spreadsheet, not on the map but a mention in the guide means it needs to be done. Luckily I finally come across it and there is no mistaking it is the trail. Down I go and very quickly the trail closes in and it is more of a bushwhack now.
The spreadsheet lists it as one tenth down but I really don't think this is accurate. The trail pretty much disappears with the overgrowth and is vaguely visible when I push my way through the trees and keep a sharp eye on the ground. Another issue is it is listed as unreliable so who knows where it might be with the dry summer we have been having. There is still a treadway under my feet so at least I am still on the right path. But it keeps going down the eastern side of Cabot and I am losing elevation rapidly. The path doesn't seem to end and I wonder if I passed it and this is now a game path I am following. Not to be deterred I continue down and then I finally see some water trickling out of a spot. Could this be it? Unsure since the path still heads down I follow it until finally I am convinced I have reached the eternal spring. Amazingly it is not dried up from the lack of snow and rain this past year. Whoever walked this out and determined it is a tenth of a mile is a little bit off. Kind of like the one on Magalloway yesterday.
Satisfied I start the climb back up and it goes surprisingly quicker. When I rereach Kilkenny Ridge Trail I turn left to revisit the cabin. There are some slight views at the ledge where the old fire tower once stood. A zoomed look at the Baldplates and Old Speck in Maine. On the opposite side a look at Garfield and Franconia Ridge.
Just beyond is the cabin where I stop for a much needed break. After resting and refueling it is time to head back the way I came in. It is only 5.2 miles back to Mill Brook Road so hopefully it goes by fairly quick. Back up and over Cabot then down into the col before The Bulge. One more climb then I meet up with one other couple at the spur for The Horn. A short chat as we discuss some common adventures. They have done the Cohos Trail from end to end and I tell them of the last two days traversing the northern part of the state for my redlining. I continue the descent down to Unknown Pond. Making good time I turn left onto Unknown Pond Trail for the final two plus miles out to the road. A great day out and the weather held up nicely. Now to go find a place to stay for the night and try to squeeze in one more hike tomorrow before the rains come in.
Final numbers: 13.3 miles, 10 hours and 40 minutes.
Redline Miles: 3.1, Total to Date: 1164.7