snow began to get a bit deeper as we climbed higher, but compared to an
average year, there really wasn't much on the ground. Never-the-less, the
sun was rising and beginning to filter through the branches of the
thickening conifer forest, the day was warming up, and the woods and trail
were bright and cheerful. I soon put the "Occurrence at Cascade Brook
Crossing" behind me, looking forward now to our arrival at Lonesome
The trail continued to hug the brook until we
reached the junction with the Kinsman Pond Trail, after which we veered
off to the north. The way was fairly easy, and we soon reached the shores
of Lonesome Lake, where the views across the notch to Franconia Ridge and
up to the nearby rounded dome of the Northeast Cannonball were clear and
spectacular. We paused at the small dock below the hut so I could take
some pictures and enjoy the views, and then continued the rest of the way
up to the hut. I tied Muffin up to the railing outside the dining room
door, and went in for a short rest.
Two girls were sharing the duties of
caretaker, and it turned out that I had met both of them before, as they
had been on the croo at Mizpah Spring Hut back in October when I was there
to work on the Mt Clinton Trail. They only had a couple of days left to
enjoy the mountains before being replaced by the winter caretaker. They
warned me that the Lonesome Lake Trail down to the notch was much icier
than the Cascade Brook Trail, mostly due to its heavier traffic. I bought
a new hat and refilled one of my water bottles at the hand pump out back,
wished them a merry Christmas, and then retrieved Muffin to continue our
I still wasn't sure whether I wanted to climb
all the way up to the Northeast Cannoball, but I wasn't ready to head back
yet either, so Muffin and I hiked around the far shore of the lake, and
then turned northwest onto the Lonesome Lake Trail toward the ridge.
Looking up, the intensely-blue sky contrasted sharply with the snowy white
branches of the balsam firs and subdued browns of the leafless birches.
The trail soon become rather steep, and the
going slow. It was a bit cumbersome to climb in snowshoes in a mixture of
snow, ice, and bare rock, but it was too slippery for bare boots alone,
and crampons would have been overkill and probably even dangerous. By the
time we reached the Kinsman Ridge Trail at Coppermine Col, I was totally
bushed, and had definitely decided against tackling the Northeast
Cannonball, even though it was only another 350 or so vertical feet
higher. I wasn't trying for the New England Hundred Highest list anyway.
Muffin and I shared a power bar and some
water, and then turned around and headed back down the trail. Returning to
Lonesome Lake again, I paused for a few minutes on the northern shore to
look back across the lake to the hut, while Muffin investigated the snowy
and barely-frozen shoreline.
As the caretakers had mentioned, the Lonesome
Lake Trail below the Cascade Brook Trail and Dodge Cutoff junction was
decidedly slick. Aside from having to sidestep the ever-present rocks
protruding through the thin snow cover, we made pretty good time back down
to Lafayette Place Campground.
Near the bottom, past most of the ice, I
removed my snowshoes, but soon found out how really slippery the trail
was. As gentle as the terrain was at that point, I slipped and slid my way
down to the bike path, managing to fall once or twice along the way.
Thanks to a thin strip of bare pavement, the bike path was much quicker
going, and we made it back to the Basin and our car in about a half-hour.
We hadn't set any speed or elevation records,
and didn't even climb to the summits of any peaks, but the nice weather
had made for a rather enjoyable pre-Christmas hike in the mountains.
Muffin on the
Cascade Brook Trail. The snow began to get a bit deeper as we
climbed higher, but compared to an average year, there really wasn't
much on the ground.