At the same time, there isn't a lot up there. Cabot and Waumbek see decent traffic, but only because they are on the 4000-footer list. The Appalachian Trail doesn't run anywhere near this ridge. Neither 4000-footer has a view from the summit (and only a few small views along the way), and these 2 are the furthest North peaks on the New Hampshire 4000-footer list. Aside from The Horn, ~1.4 miles from Cabot, there are no views from any of the summits, and as such the peaks between the 4000-footers see little traffic. This trip had the makings of not seeing anyone else on the trails for a solid day. In fact, once we left Waumbek, we saw only 5 people the rest of the weekend.
The hike was another hike run through the Random Hikers Meetup Group, a group I've done a lot of hiking with in July (all 4 Maine hikes in fact). This time we ended up with a group of 8 on this hike. After a loud, rough sleeping night in Selbourne, NH at a campground where we were about 200 feet from railroad tracks (2 LOUD freight trains came barrelling though at ~2AM and ~3AM, pretty sure they went right through our tents...), we got up, ate, and travelled up to Berlin, NH and to the Berlin Fish Hatchery, where we would be exiting the trail the following afternoon. We left a couple of cars here, piled everyone into the other cars, and drove over to Jefferson, NH to the Mount Starr King Trailhead.
The Starr King Trail ascends to Mount Starr King, a 3900' summit on the side of Waumbek (it does not have enough prominence from Waumbek to count on the NE 100-Highest), and then to Waumbek itself 3.6 miles from the road. This is the only way to access Waumbek really, but is a fairly moderately-graded trail. We saw a lot of people on the trail between the parking lot and Starr King's summit, which has a chimney from an old cabin of some sort (fire watch perhaps?) just past the summit. There used to be a very overgrown view here, it appears that it has been opened up some, but we had very cloudy weather (theme for the weekend) and so the view wasn't much. Still better than my first visit to Waumbek, where we hiked in off-and-on light rain all day.
|Potential for a nice view from Mount Starr King|
|End of the Starr King trail on Waumbek|
|Waumbek summit carin - NH4K #39 for 2012 for me!|
Soon we were on our way again. The trail from here is far less traveled as most people just do an out-and-back of Waumbek from where we started. It meanders along the ridge, not dropping much elevation, for quite a while, through some very nice evergreen forests with lots of ferns. Shortly before the start of the descent to the col between Waumbek and South Weeks, we stopped for lunch. Resuming a while later, it was more of the same, with a gentle descent into the col in more nice woods, and then a steady, but never steep, climb to South Weeks, one of the New England 100 Highest Peaks.
There were really no views from Starr King all the way to our camp for the night, but the woods were really beautiful. Too bad the hike was spoiled by an utterly INSANE amount of blowdowns along the Weeks ridge. They ran the whole gambit, from easy step-overs and duck-unders, to tricky step-overs/crawl-unders, to navigate-arounders. None of us counted, but there were probably somewhere on the order of 3-4 dozen major blowdowns that needed removal on this route. It's remoteness and fairly light traffic undoubtably means that maintenance is sparse on this segment. The other thing we noticed was a TON of moose droppings. Apparently the moose really like this trail! We never saw any, but were on the lookout just in case. Undoubtedly our group was a little too loud for them to hang around.
Nevertheless, the hike continued, descending and climbing gently again to Middle Weeks (New Hampshire 100 Highest Peak), and again to North Weeks, the longest climb of the day after Waumbek. Somewhere along the ridge (I believe between Middle and North Weeks) we passed a pair of moose bones crossed over each other on a stump by the trail. Obviously placed here by another hiker, they were cool to look at. These are probably leg bones, and they are simply huge, it gives you an idea of how large these animals are (granted the scale does not come through in the picture too well).
|Moose leg bones|
|Nice, open woods along the Weeks ridge|
|Spruce grouse, dead center in front of the tree|
|Fatter spruce grouse|
|He's getting ready to leave|
The next day was to see us hit Cabot for Rich's 48th summit, and the weather forecast was also a bit better (no major rain called for). But first we had to climb over Terrace Mountain, on the New Hampshire 100 Highest list, and according to our trip leader, the trail was historically even rougher than the Weeks ridge (in terms of blowdowns and overgrown-ness). Apparently someone had done some work on this section, because it really wasn't bad, and there were several blowdowns recently cleared out. We made decent time up and over the 3 little summits of Terrace (only the highest has enough prominence to count for any list) and dropped to Bunnell Notch.
Here the Bunnell Notch Trail comes in from York Pond, where the cars were waiting. But we had 4 peaks to bag yet!
|Arrow on sign for Cabot used to point right instead of forward it seems...|
|Can't take this trail|
|Cabot Cabin sleeps 8, 2 each per bunk (4 bunks)|
|A table with padded seats for lunch!|
|Only wall inside Cabot Cabin separates eating area from sleeping area|
|Probably a decent view off the porch on a clear day|
|Very weathered sign near Cabot's summit|
We still had a long way to go, with 3 more peaks scheduled on the day, cars to retrieve, and a long drive home. Off we went along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, dropping steeply at first before moderating and then climbing gently to the nondescript summit of The Bulge, a New England 100 Highest Peak (3950'). Just a small carin here. From here we dropped elevation to a spur trail which leads 0.3 miles to The Horn, the best view point on the entire Kilkenny Ridge. It is steep and bouldery at the top however, but there is a bypass to the left that avoids the worst of it, which most of us utilized as the rocks were still damp from the rain.
|Left path bypasses the boulders|
|These were damp, the herd path bypassed them all|
|Shoulder of The Bulge towards the Pilots|
|Several of these rings in the rock on the summit|
|Survey marker on the summit of The Horn|
|One hiker working her way between the boulders, the left one is a massive slab that is the summit. No funny camera angles here!|
|Heading down Unknown Pond Trail - pretty overgrown in places|
|Bridge over a stream was completely broken - the stream was a mere trickle...|
Peaks: Starr King (3900'), Waumbek (4006', NH4K), South Weeks (3885', NEHH), Middle Weeks (3684', NHHH), North Weeks (3901', NEHH), Terrace (3655', NHHH), Cabot (4170', NH4K), The Bulge (3950', NEHH), The Horn (3905', NEHH)
Distance: 9.8 miles (Day 1), 11.6 miles (Day 2), 21.4 miles total
Elevation Gain: 3900 feet (Day 1), 3200 feet (Day 2), 7100 feet total
|Elevation Profile - Camped at the first big dip (Willard Notch) at the 10mi mark|