Trip Report: North and South Kinsman, Cannon Mountain

And then, there were none! 

North and South Kinsman Mountain (4,293 and 4,658 feet, respectively), Cannon Mountain (4,100 feet). Franconia, NH. With a crossing over the Cannonballs.

60 dF at trailhead, approx 70 dF at summits. Cloudy to start, giving way to mostly sunny skies and 20-30 miles visibility. Very windy at Cannon summit — approximately 25-30 MPH.

Via Lonesome Lake, Fishin’ Jimmy, Kinsman Ridge, and Hi-Cannon trails.

Trailhead: 0745. North Kinsman summit: 1145. South Kinsman summit: 1215. (Crossed North Kinsman again at 1245.) Cannon Mountain summit: 1545. Car: 1730.

I got to say the one thing that every hiker, who is working on the 48, longs to say. “I have one left. That one.” There was a celebratory atmosphere on the trail, and that’s what has made the magic for me all along. The mountains have been half of it. The people have been the other half. Oh, the people I’ve met.

I got out the door earlier than usual, and so had a bright and early start to the day. Heading out on the Lonesome Lake trail, the clouds were low. I was hopeful the forecast would become reality, and that the sun would come out, but it felt like it took forever. Philosophically, I’m OK with a view like the inside of a ping pong ball, but for my last peak, it would have been a bit of a downer.

I got to Fishin’ Jimmy trail, and things were a little weird. The trail itself was very wet — a lot of bogs, huge puddles, and basically, I was just following a stream bed. My shoes got muddy, and then a few minutes later, they got rinsed off. Hooray for Gore-Tex! Next thing I knew, I was at the Kinsman Pond campsite. The site manager popped into view, and we chatted for a bit. Our college backgrounds were similar, and so once again, a magical moment. We ended up chatting for a very long time, and I got yet another “need to come back to this” entry in my mind. If there’s been a constant in the Whites, this has been it. So much to come back to.

Turning back to the trail, I got to the top of North Kinsman, and sure enough, the view was all of about 200 yards — the clouds were thick and heavy. Worse, I just couldn’t warm up, and so I crossed the summit wearing a fleece vest and gloves. In June. Two days before the official start of summer. Wow. At least when I traversed the snow on Jefferson, I was pretty warm in shorts and a tee shirt.

I continued to South Kinsman. Along the way, I met some AT thru hikers who gave me the 411 on just how crazy the previous night’s storm really was. At home, I saw torrential rain and 40 MPH winds. Up where they were, it was much the same… except I was inside,  warm and dry. They were in a shelter. Wow.

At the summit, the sun was pushing hard to make an appearance, and there were long pauses in the cloud cover that restored my optimism. I had brief views! Stowing my fleece, I turned back north.

The tenor of the trail rapidly changed. The col between the two Kinsmans felt fairly shallow, and the way going wasn’t too bad. The rains from the previous night had left their mark, but that was about it. But heading toward the Cannonballs, the trail became soupy. Bog bridges were old and more peat than wood. Muddy stretches could have a solid foundation underneath, or they could swallow my shoe. And worse, the cols were deep and rocky, making for very slow going. But I would not be denied my prize.

After the northernmost Cannonball, the trail went well and truly up. As the crow flies, the mileage is short — about half what the book says. Trust the book. And when it says this is a trail better taken up and avoided down, trust the book. There were quite a few sections where I thought a fall would be particularly nasty. When I do Cannon again, it’ll be by a different, friendlier route.

Approaching the top, the trail began to relax a little, and more and more, it became apparent that the end of my quest was near: in mere minutes, I’d be standing on the top of my 48th peak. I’d been reflecting on past trips throughout the day, but now, it really started ramping up. Dinner with the Croo at Zealand hut. Sliding down the Old Bridle Path on Lafayette. A stellar day on the Scaur Ridge trail. Nearly being blown off the mountain on Bondcliff. Hiking up Moriah with a geology professor. The enchantment of seeing hoar frost on Garfield. A birch glade on Isolation. Wading across ice-cold water on Owl’s Head. And meeting a couple from Warwick, RI doing their 26th peak, while I was on my first, on Tecumseh, four short months ago.

At last, the summit building and its observation deck came into view. I climbed to the top, and was greeted by a howling wind and mostly blue skies. And the view! Franconia Notch was laid out in front of me in glorious tableau. The sky was a deep azure, with fluffy clouds floating past, painting their shadows over the landscape.

I turned back down, and walked a steep path back to the trailhead. Along the way, I was treated to views of Lonesome Lake, which was stellar. Before long, I was back at the campground. I met up with a couple hikers I saw earlier in the day, and they were very congratulatory; being themselves in the middle of their lists, the celebration was mutual. As happy as I am to be done, I kinda miss being in the middle of it.

But I am still in the middle of it — there’s the 67, the 100, and, y’know, you don’t really need a list to put your boots on and go tramping around in the woods.

To that end, there’s this AT thing that I’ve been hearing about…

…maybe one day.


Lonesome Lake hut.


Waterfall on Fishin’ Jimmy trail. The word of the day was “wet.”


Mossy bog on Fishin’ Jimmy.


More bog bridge…


Steps on an otherwise treacherous slab.


South Kinsman.


Benchmark that was fairly far removed from the summit of North Kinsman.


A very wet Kinsman Ridge trail.


Looking toward Cannon, with a view of Franconia Ridge.


Cannon getting closer, with the summit building more visible.


Stairs going up a trail have a universal meaning: the way going is steep!


Franconia Ridge from the observation deck.


Lonesome Lake, from Hi-Cannon trail


Ladder on Hi-Cannon trail.

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