Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Four of us rendezvoused at the Unknown Pond trailhead at the Berlin Fish Hatchery on a crisp fall morning for the 25th annual White Mountain Cropwalk, a "hike for hunger" that benefits the programs of Church World Service. Since 1989 our walk has raised more than $62,000 for the anti-hunger programs of CWS, with more than $15,000 of that donated to local food pantries in the western White Mountains. Some 1,400 Cropwalks are held across the U.S. every year, including 140 in New England with 9,000 walkers. Ours is unique in that it’s the only one that takes place on mountain trails. We owe the continued success of our walk to the year-after-year generosity of our sponsors. This year’s Cropwalk route took us on a loop hike over three peaks - Mount Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn - through the beautiful Kilkenny area in the northern White Mountains.

Roger Doucette, Gary Tompkins and Candace Morrison pause for a photo at the start of the York Pond Trail. Roger and Candace are veterans of many Cropwalks through the years. This was Gary's first time joining us - welcome!

Two other White Mountain Cropwalkers - Mike Dickerman and Thom Davis - went out on the same day on hikes of their own in the Zealand area. Mike went out to Zealand Notch and Thoreau Falls, while Thom hiked to the summit of Zealand Mountain. Here they pose together in front of the AMC Zealand Falls Hut.


"In the weeds" approaching the Bunnell Notch Trail junction a short way in on the York Pond Trail.

Trail signs at the junction.

A glimpse of North Weeks and South Terrace through the branches.

Heading up the valley.

The nameless brook that drains eastward from Bunnell Notch.

A Kilkenny birch glade.

Gary spotted this wire beside the trail. We assumed it was part of a telephone line leading up to the former fire tower on Mt. Cabot.

The height-of-land in Bunnell Notch, the high pass between Terrace Mountain and Mount Cabot.

New sign where the Kilkenny Ridge Trail meets the abandoned lower section of the Mt. Cabot Trail. This trail has been closed near the trailhead since 2000 by a landowner.

A new sign points the way to the great ledge viewpoint known as Bunnell Rock.

Morning clouds had cleared beautifully, granting us crisp long-distance views and some welcome breaks of sunshine. The south-facing ledge was mostly protected from the cold NW wind.

The western Whites rise beyond Mt. Starr King and its spurs.

Zoom on Mts. Garfield, Lincoln and Lafayette. Tip of Mt. Liberty on far L.

Cropwalkers soaking up some sun.

After a great half-hour break, we headed up the long, steady climb to the crest of Mt. Cabot on the switchbacking old firewarden's route.

The remains of an old wood stove just before the cabin.

Inside the Cabot cabin, which is nicely maintained by the Jefferson Boy Scouts and White Mountains Regional HS Wilderness Program in cooperation with the Forest Service. Many years ago Roger and I and a friend spent a bitter 15 below night in this cabin in mid-December. We were expecting to use a wood stove, but it hadn't yet been set up for the winter. Twas a long and miserable night. Our boots were frozen ice chunks in the morning. It was the only time I've used a potholder to pull them on. The stove was removed for good a few years ago for safety reasons.

One of a group of hikers doing the loop in the opposite direction kindly took our traditional group photo in front of the cabin. So far we have raised about $2,800 for the anti-hunger programs of Church World Service. The online page for the walk is http://hunger.cwsglobal.org/site/TR/2013FallCROPHungerWalk/TR-Fall2013?pg=entry&fr_id=17824

The view east towards the Mahoosuc Range from the old fire tower site just above the cabin. This vista used to be more open, but is still pretty good. The western view has become even more restricted.

At the fire tower site, which is the south summit of the mountain. The first tower was built here in 1911, and was replaced by a 50-ft. steel tower in 1924. This was staffed until 1949. The tower was dynamited in 1965 as part of a U.S. Army Special Forces training operation.

Wonderful old fir trees on the way to the wooded true summit.

Clearing at the true summit (4170 ft.). The actual high point is on a side path leading 30 yards to the west. Sadly, it appears that someone has stolen the summit sign for a souvenir.

Weathered trail sign at the summit.

Nice fir woods as the trail descends rather steeply to the col with The Bulge.

Classic Kilkenny ridgecrest woods - open firs and shining clubmoss.

Meandering towards The Bulge, glimpsed in the distance.

Gary at the wooded 3950-ft. summit of The Bulge, one of New England's Hundred Highest.

After descending from The Bulge, we took the spur trail to The Horn (3905 ft.), also one of the Hundred Highest and the finest viewpoint in the Kilkenny region. Some scrambling is required to reach the actual summit rock, seen on the R here.

Long view south to the Carters, the Presidentials, and peaks in the Pliny and Pilot Ranges.

The Presidentials, North and South Weeks, the flat east ridge of Mt. Waumbek, and South Terrace.

Checking out the eastern views on The Horn.

Looking NW to the long, trailless Pilot Ridge, with the sharp peak of Hutchins Mtn. on the L.

Summit benchmark placed by Forest Service.

An unusual rock formation along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail heading towards Unknown Pond.

Late day sun at Unknown Pond, The Horn rising across the water.

An especially fine angle on this wild peak.

Descending along the upper Unknown Pond Trail, a birch glade opens a view towards the Presys and North Weeks.

Looking back towards The Horn.

Down on the floor of the beautiful valley of Unknown Pond Brook.

An interesting meadow beside the trail.

The upper of two crossings of Unknown Pond Brook, with dusk coming on. It had been a leisurely day, largely due to my dilly-dallying with views, and we did the last 1.5 mi. of the trail by headlamp. Thanks to Roger, Candace and Gary for a great day hiking for a good cause! 

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