Fri, Feb 03, 2023
Mt. Cabot and Mt. Waumbek
by Josh Cook
Hike Length: multiday, 24 miles
Trails: Kilkenny Ridge Trail, York Pond Trail
Date: July 22 - 24, 2005
July 22: South Pond trailhead to Rogerís Ledge, 4 miles
We left the Jeep at a trailhead on Cottage Road in Jefferson. Jose drove us in his car to a trailhead at South Pond USFS recreation area off Route 110 in Stark. Parking was free since we were not using the facilities. The caretaker reminded us that that gate to the lot is closed between 8:00 pm and 9:00 am.
Weather was light rain, humid, high 70ís.
We started hiking around 6:30 pm. There were tons of flies and mosquitoes on the first mile or so. We had no insect problems on remainder of hike. We skipped the spur trail to Devilís Hopyard.
As we started going up, we spotted a female moose on the trail. Tried to catch up with her when she took off, but we never saw her again.
Our headlamps came on around 8:00 pm due to shade and overcast skies. We found a confusing blue trail intersection marker that was not on the AMC map. Continued in same direction.
Reached Rogerís Ledge at about 9:30 pm and set up camp there. Nice campsite with fire ring. Good views off the ledge both day and night. Could see some lights from nearby towns and could hear a far away train.
Nighttime weather was windy and cool, probably in the upper 40ís.
This was the first night using my Hennessey Hammock. I found that any body part in contact with the hammock gets cold due to lack of insulation. Will try a full size foam mat on the next hike. Otherwise, it was pretty comfortable. No sore back in the morning!
July 23: Rogerís Ledge to Willard Notch, 10.5 miles
At breakfast, we used my homemade alcohol stoves for the first time in the field. They worked! The beer can stoves require the kettle to be a certain height above the burner to be effective Ė too high, water doesnít boil. Too low, flame goes out. Found the spam can stove to be easiest to use and fastest to boil. The setup is a little tipsy, though as the kettle stands directly on top of the little stove. Will use the spam can only on next trip.
Got a late start on the trail, probably around 10:00 am. Weather was sunny and dry.
We descended from Rogerís Ledge and filled water bottles at a stream crossing less than a mile from the ledge. Passed a small pond (not on AMC map). According to the USFS write up, it was probably Kilback Pond. Reportedly, this is a good spot to see more moose.
At Unknown Pond we filled up again, since there was no easy water until our planned destination for the night (Willard Notch Ė intersection of Kilkenny Ridge and York Pond Trails). Nice big pond, probably swim able / fishable. Good campsites there too. With an earlier start from South Pond, this might be a good place to camp for an overnight weekend trip.
We made the first big push of the day to The Horn. There was a spur trail to the peak. Nice 360 views on The Horn. Went over The Bulge, then on to Mount Cabot, which was the highest point on the trip (4,170 ft.). There was a marked spur trail to a spring near the summit of Cabot. Hindsight, we should have investigated and filled up there. Rumor has it that this spring can run dry in the summer. The Forest Service cabin was empty. It has 4 bunks with foam mats and a small kitchen and table. Pretty dirty looking, though. I wouldnít recommend staying there unless you had to. Nice views from the deck.
From Mount Cabot, we dropped down into Bunnell Notch. On the way, we saw what looked like a small burned area in the bushes off the trail. Turned out to be mold or something from a moose that died there. Bones were scattered everywhere in the bushes Ė big animal. The scattering was probably due to a combination of animals eating the carcass and body parts sliding down over snow. I looked for antlers, but only found jawbones.
From Bunnell Notch, we made another push up to North Terrace. At South Terrace, there was a spur trail ending with a nice view (possibly a good peak to camp on for a small group of 2 or 3 people). From here there are views of the Presidential and Mahoosuc Ranges.
Jose was Ďfriedí and it was getting late, so he set up an uncomfortable camp at the spur trail intersection. We planned to meet him in Willard Notch the next morning, where there was supposed to be water and good campsites. When Jose was situated and fed, Mark and I gave him the rest of our water, put on our headlamps and headed down the mountain.
In the dark, Mark and I didnít see the water or campsite near the York Pond and Kilkenny Trail intersection. We continued down York Pond Trail as there were several streams marked on the AMC map. We finally heard water and filled up around 11:00 pm! At this point (probably before) we were fried, so we ate and set up camp right on the trail. The hammock comes in handy at times like these! Mark was pretty uncomfortable and cold that night. He plans to bring a sleeping bag or blanket on the next summer hike.
Note: we took our time since Jose was hurting. I estimate that average backpackers could make the hike from Rogerís Ledge to Willard Notch in about 5-6 hours.
July 24: Willard Notch to Star King Trailhead, 9.8 miles
Mark woke me up early, around 6:30 am, since he was cold and wanted to get going (he slept in a bivy sac with an air mat Ė no sleeping bag). We backtracked to the trail intersection (Kilkenny and York Pond), as that was the area Jose was supposed to meet us. We had breakfast there and Jose showed up shortly after. Jose pointed out where the water and campsites were that we missed. Said he heard a moose walking near his camp that night.
Since Jose was still pretty beat up, we decided to split up. He headed out on York Pond Trail about 4 miles at a slight downhill grade to a dirt road. He later said that this section York Pond Trail was wide, but overgrown. Mark and I continued the planned hike up over Mount Waumbek and down to the trailhead where we left the Jeep.
We ascended North Weeks, which was a pretty rough climb given it was day 3 and there was no warm up. The trail goes up and down quickly between North, Middle and South Weeks. Then there was a long gradual climb to Mount Waumbek. Although it was the second highest point on the trip (4006 ft.), the peak was wooded (no view) and buggy. We paused there for about 10 seconds and moved on. Further down the trail, there was a lower peak with a small rock you could climb for a nice 360 view. From here, there was a long decent to the parking area on Cottage Road in Jefferson. We got in the Jeep and found Jose on the road about where we expected him to come out.
equipment: bug spray, boots
special equipment: extra water containers
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