Dynamic Duo! Oh wow, yeah, dynamic.
Mt Cabot and Mt Waumbek. 2018-06-12 (Tuesday.) Via the York Pond trail, Bunnell Notch trail, Killkenny Ridge trail, also the Starr-King trail. Approx 17 miles.
Cabot, 4170; Waumbek, 4006 feet.
60 dF at Cabot trailhead, low 70s at the summits. Sunny, becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon. 25 MPH winds, mediated by consistent tree cover.
Cabot trailhead: 0900. Cabot Summit: 1135. Car: 1330. Waumbek trailhead: 1430. Starr King summit: 1555. Waumbek summit: 1620. Car: 1740.
It was an audacious plan: do the two north country summits in a day, with a traverse by car in between. It obviously worked. I wished I’d gotten out the door sooner, so I could have avoided rushing, but there it is. We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes, we get what we need.
I’d been putting these two off for the latter end of things. Mostly, this was borne out of a sense of “you can use them as filler.” And to a degree, that was true. In hindsight, do these mountains stand on their own? I can attest that, at least in the warmer months, an emphatic yes is in order.
Looking back, the chilly months do indeed tug at my heartstrings. There is something I find lyrically beautiful about the sky in winter — so deep blue that I have to dial it back, mainly because no-one will believe it was almost purple. And set against the pure white snow, it’s amazing. But the North Country in late spring, when all the flowers are in bloom made me feel like a kid again, tramping around in the woods where I grew up.
The trail to Cabot is overgrown. You’ll find it for sure, because it’s not that overgrown, but it certainly encroaches. (Pro tip: ferns can manipulate your fitness tracker screens!) For all that, the wildflowers were glorious. If I had only one peak on the agenda, I’d have taken hours to summit, examining each one. The bother was the wind, as it made taking pictures non-trivial. The flowers couldn’t stop dancing around. But who can blame them? It was a beautiful day, and I’d dance, too.
For those wondering, Cabot is “out of the way.” I remember talking with Steve Smith, and he sighed as he said “it’s more than an hour from my shop”. You get to Twin Mountain, and you’re still a long way from the trailhead. It’s there, and it’s worth it. Also, the Berlin Fish Hatchery folks are keeping the gate open 24/7, but check with them just in case.
I met a group of septuagenarians, who were having a fantastic day out. For at least one, this was her 9th time doing the 48. And proof that the mountains keep you young. They were lovely company and I’m glad to have met them.
The trail is fairly low-key for the first half, ascending quickly in the second. You make good time for all that, and before long, the Cabot Cabin is in view. Then, the summit. Look carefully, because there are outlooks, and their views are magnificent.
I raced down, and drove around to Starr-King’s trailhead. Due to outside commitments, I had to keep a schedule, so the traverse wasn’t in the cards this day. (But a 25 mile hike was cut down to 17.) At Starr-King trailhead, I set forth. The info from the septuagenarians did indeed come in helpful. The trails were in fine shape. Waumbek has a straightforward approach. It’s a grade all the way, with a minor, but distinct “pop” near the top. I raced up, with secure footing all the way. There was evidence of trail maintenance in the form of blow-down management, and that’s another “Thank-you!” to the trail crews.
At the top of Starr-King, I found a weird fireplace in the middle of a clearing. Turning down a RMC-signed “Path”, I made quick time to Waumbek. There’s an outlook off the summit, but the day was hazy, so the view was good, but not epic. (See my love for winter, above.) That said, I’m at peace on the trail, so view or not, the mountain was working its magic.
These two north country peaks are in stark contrast to the rest of the Whites. Instead of the usual “hardwood, fir, krummholtz” forests, I was thrown back to the time I was a kid, walking through forests that felt very familiar, very comforting. Yeah, they’re out of the way, and far less traveled than the “lower” mountains. But wow, what a treat they were, and a sight for sore eyes. I can’t wait to visit them in the colder months.
Sidenote: If a tree falls in the forest, can it land on a hiker? I came uncomfortably close to answering this question on Starr-King. The day was consistently windy, so the trees were certainly feeling it. And so it came to pass that, on my way down, a bough from a dead tree decided to fall as I passed by, landing at my feet. No kidding, if I had my arms outstretched, something nasty would have happened. So be careful out there.
Waumbek’s USGS benchmark. If you’re not looking for it, you could walk past it.
The bough that nearly hit me.
Cabot Hut. Very minimally maintained.
Either a well or a cistern, not sure which. Near the trailhead of Waumbek.
Starr-King’s fireplace. Come in, and set a spell.