Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
My objective for this day's hike was to find a good view, looking from across the valley, of the new slide that fell on the north side of the Cannon Balls last summer. A perusal of Google Earth revealed a large patch of open ledge on the flank of Mittersill Peak, the NW spur of Cannon Mountain. These ledges are almost directly across the Coppermine Brook valley from the slide, suggesting that they would offer an excellent perspective on the barren swath of the slide.
To approach the ledges, I hiked up the Tucker Brook Trail, a backcountry ski route that leads from Tucker Brook Road in Franconia to the Taft Trail on Cannon Mountain near the summit of Mittersill Peak. Parts of this historic route were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It is a locally legendary backwoods ski descent that is described in David Goodman's Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast. Unlike many backcountry ski trails, it is mainly dry, with less mucky going than many a hiking trail. Its first half mile follows an old road on private land, intersecting several X-C ski trails of the Franconia Inn network. Shortly after it enters the WMNF, it passes through a gorgeous little valley lined with an open, mature hardwood forest
A steep slope with some interesting ledges rises to the right. The forest here is wonderfully open, reminiscent of the Catskills.
The trail then gets down to business with some serious climbing.
The width on this section of the trail allows skiers to make wide, sweeping turns.
Birches and fallen ferns higher up on the trail. There is a defined treadway, suggesting that the trail receives some foot and mountain bike traffic outside of the skiing season.
A park-like corridor up around 2700 ft.
At 2800 ft. the trail makes a narrow, rocky sidehill traverse, becoming more like a typical Cannon hiking trail. Good snow cover is needed in here to make it skiable.
I chose a spot with friendly woods to launch the quarter-mile bushwhack across the slope to the ledges.
The woods soon turned scrappy and prickly, and remained that way for the balance of the traverse.
Along the way I crossed not one, but two hacked-out bootleg ski trails shooting up the slope. With many cut stubs sticking up, neither looked like it would offer very good skiing.
The terrain became rough and rocky as I approached the ledges. Slow going.
Long, bony spruce branches presented more obstacles.
After an hour of whacking I found the expansive granite ledges.
They offered a nice perspective on Coppermine Col, between Cannon Mountain and the Northeast Cannon Ball.
Looking NW, with Vermont's Mount Mansfield visible in the distance.
Long view to the west beyond the Coppermine Brook valley and Cooley and Cole Hills. The other four Vermont 4000-footers were clearly visible. Black Mountain in Benton is seen on the far left.
The view I came here for did not disappoint. There is the new, wide slide, under the Middle Cannon Ball. The Northeast Cannon Ball is to the left, the West Cannon Ball to the right, with the top of North Kinsman peering over. Snowy South Kinsman lurks in the back.
A closer look at the new slide, which merges with the older, narrow slide on its left. The older slide, which is occasionally skied by backcountry adventurers when the cover is good, looked like one long ice flow this day. The new slide was triggered sometime this past summer or fall, possibly during one of the big rainfalls in July. Despite a chilly wind, I was able to savor the unique view from these ledges for 50 minutes.
Weaving through an area of blowdowns on the way back to the Tucker Brook Trail.
Descending the park-like corridor along the Tucker Brook Trail. This will soon be the exclusive domain of backcountry skiers.