Mt. Cabot via Unknown Pond (June 24, 2011)

11.4 miles, 6.5 hours
Mt. Cabot is a wild, wet place. It is the northernmost of the New Hampshire 4,000 footers and getting there takes some doing. Alex and I took the northern route, which starts from the nondescript Unknown Pond trailhead 5 miles down a logging road from the village of Stark. No parking area of any kind, just a sign for Unknown Pond. The trail was a gradual and muddy climb through a dense birch forest to Unknown Pond (3100'), which is truly beautiful (at left, with a view of the Horn across the water). We then joined the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to take us to the Horn, the Bulge, and finally to Cabot. The trail became rocky but not particularly difficult. The Horn is on a side trail and reputed for great views but by the time we got to the juncrion we were wrapped in fog so just pushed on. We got to the Bulge (right), which offers no view but at 3,900' is one of the New England top 100.
From the Bulge we dropped to a col at 3,600' and then up Cabot. The final climb to Cabot took us through a forest of pine trees dripping with spanish moss and with giant ferns (left). We finally got to the top of Cabot (4,180'), which has a heavily photographed sign (right) because there's really nothing else to photograph on the summit. It's just a clearing surrounded with pine trees, most of them pretty dead-looking. In any case that was Alex's 43rd 4,000 footer - just five to go!
A landmark of Mt. Cabot is a 'rustic cabin' available for shelter 0.4 mi. from the summit south on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. We figured that we had to see it so we pressed on, through a number of large blowdowns, and soon got to the cabin immersed in fog (left). We walked in to check it out and I wasn't too impressed - it's cramped, with some broken furniture and 4 bunks. In an emergency, I suppose, but not a destination.
We then headed back the way we came, By the time we got to the Horn junction it looked like the weather might be clearing so we did the side trip to the Horn, which is fun - some scrambling over ledges. But the fog was still there and one could barely see anything (left - there's a lake somewhere in the fog, can't see much of anything else). Back on the trail we ran into a guy who was doing Cabot for the "2nd time in June". Looks like he was one of those guys who've done all the 4,000 footers in every month of the year but then just can't stop and do it again. I'm told that there are two people who've "squared" the 4,000 footers (48 times each) - maybe time to do something else? Anyway, down we went to Unknown Pond and the dense birch forest of Unknown Pond Trail (right) back to the trailhead.

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