Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mt Cardigan with "Team Girl Power"

After such a wonderful weekend in the mountains last weekend it was really a bonus to have an opportunity for another mid-week hike this week.  Mt Cardigan has long been one of our favorite New Hampshire mountains. It isn't a 4000 footer and isn't actually even in the Whites, but that doesn't lessen the appeal at all.  For some reason we hadn't managed to make it there in nearly 2-1/2 years and a visit was way overdue.  This is a great hike in all seasons, but spring and fall are particularly nice.  With a forecast of sunny skies and temps in the mid 60s, this looked like a perfect spring day for it.

We've known Trish, Alex and Sage for a number of years, but for some reason have never gotten out on the trail with them.  The closest we'd come was a chance meeting on the summit of Mt Jackson in the fall of 2008 when Alex was near the beginning of her first round of the 4000 footers.  When we saw them at the AMC awards last month we agreed that we really needed to get out together soon.  With both of the girls having completed their current 4000 footer lists they have decided to focus on some new territory including 52 With a View and their own Terrifying 25.  With Cardigan on the 52WAV list and in our sights for a long overdue return trip, it was the perfect match.

We met at Cardigan Lodge on Thursday morning and were greeted by brilliant blue skies, bright sun and cool breezes.  It felt more like one of those beautiful late September days that we wish for every time we hike, rather than a day in the middle of "mud and bug" season.  We quickly packed up and headed out, happy to be stealing this great weekday opportunity.

We decided to do the "standard" loop over Cardigan and Firescrew.  When Nat and I have done this in the past we've always done in counterclockwise - going up the Manning Trail to Firescrew and then across to Cardigan and down Clark and Holt.  We decided to do it the opposite way today and it turned out to be a good choice.  More on that later.  The girls took the lead from the beginning and happily bounced up the trail with occasional stops to check out some of the fauna along the way.

Start of a beautiful day
(Photo courtesy of Trish Herr)

Red Eft Salamander

Heading across the Cathedral Forest Trail

It was simply a beautiful morning to be in the woods and soon we were at the first views at PJ's Ledge and took a short break to soak it all in.

Views north to the Whites

PJ's Ledge

Heading back out we were soon on the beginning of the ledges heading up to Cardigan.  It doesn't take long to get steep here and we were all enjoying scrambling up the rock and watching the ever increasing views open up in front of us.  As we walked we played word games and riddles, the laughter and silliness making the time pass very quickly.

Starting to head up the ledges

Alex and Sage lead the way

Sage is sure footed on the rock

Starting to get steep

Before long we were at the summit of Cardigan.  The girls zipped up over the last section to the windy summit.

Alex says "what's taking you all so long?"

Happy to be on a mountain


Hey Alex, wait for us!

Nat enjoys the beautiful views

This way...

It was windy and a bit chilly on top and we all layered up.  We sat in the shelter of the tower to get out of the wind and enjoyed a snack.  I had been aware that Trish carried portable sleeping quarters in her pack, but hadn't realized that it also contained a small grocery store. :)  We fortified ourselves for the rest of the journey and then spent some time wandering around, taking pictures and trying to avoid being picked up and blown back to Kansas.  There was a group of hikers that came up to the summit right after us (the only ones we saw all day) that were kind enough to take a group photo for us.  Thanks guys.

Heading up the tower - unfortunately it's locked :(

The happy crew

Trish, Alex and Sage on Cardigan

Sage got this picture of Nat and I being blown off the mountail

Alex took our summit portrait

Hold on to your hats!

Looking over Firescrew

We headed out and down into the col between Cardigan and Firescrew.  This is really one of the nicest parts of the hike and just a beautiful section of trail and ledge.

Heading down from Cardigan

Follow the arrows

Nat and Alex must be working on another riddle

Beautiful little tarns everywhere

Heading up to Firescrew

Trish and Alex in the lead

Looking back to Cardigan

It's a quick walk to Firescrew and we were soon on the summit.  It was still very windy but the sun was warm and we found a nice protected spot to sprawl on the ledges, have another snack and soak up some rays.  We also broke out the celebratory summit snack and the subject of one of our earlier riddles.

What has two syllables, sounds like a color and is a yummy food?  Brownies!

Miles of views

Nat and I on Firescrew

Cardigan over another tarn

It was now time to head down.  The last section of the walk had proved why the clockwise route was a good choice - the constant views north to mountains for as far as the eye can see.  Walking down the ledges from Firescrew and back into the forest was perhaps the nicest of all.

Time to head down

Still not tired of those views

Hey, what's Nat doing stealing those two little girls?

It's OK, Mom caught them

Heading back into the woods on the Manning trail we were treated to a new kind of view.  Walking along and through the stream running down the mountain and under an evergreen canopy, this is truly a beautiful section of trail.  The riddles continued and the laughter was contagious.  It seemed like the hike had barely begun, yet we found ourselves back at the lodge.  How time flies when you're having fun.

Dancing down the rocks

Duck Sage! (or is that goose?)

Heading home...

Sage takes her place on the forest throne

The ladies celebrate at the end of a great day!
(Photo courtesy of Trish Herr)

I'm not sure why it took us so long to get together and hike with Trish, Alex and Sage, but I'm very glad that we finally did.  We were reminded how wonderful it is to walk in the woods and be on mountains with kids that love to be out there.  We were constantly reminded of many happy days with Jamie when she was that age.  These two girls are just a joy to be around (and mom too) and we hope that we'll have the pleasure of their company on more trails in the future.  Thanks ladies - we had a blast!

Trish's album is here for a look at the day from another angle:


  1. Mark and Natalie,

    We had such a good time! Thanks for inviting us, and thanks for posting such wonderful photos. Hope to hike with you again very soon!


    1. Same here Trish! I'm really looking forward to your post this week and yes, we need to get together again soon!


  2. Hi MArk,

    Those girls are really cute. By the way, is it okay to bring tent there to sleep overnight?

    Mary J. Stiles

    1. There are tent sites at the bottom near Cardigan Lodge. You can also stay at the lodge or the High Cabin near the summit. The property is owned and maintained by the AMC. You can find info here: