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Hiking Day Four: Applebrook B&B (Jefferson) to Cabot Cabin (Mt. Cabot)

Route 115A, Route 2, Starr King Trail, Kilkenny Ridge Trail

About 15.4 miles with about 6500 feet of elevation gain

This was a long and arduous day.  It started with an unfortunate Mom moment when I lost my temper right before we left at 4:45am over a piece of missing vital gear.  The gear was found but it was one of those negative family times when everyone's mad at each other...hey, it happens.  I do hope I didn't wake up Priscilla and Renny -- we had told them not to get up extra early for us (we were leaving a couple of hours before their usual breakfast serving time).  The nice couple didn't deserve to have to start their day by listening to some other family's argument.

The extremely important missing piece of gear was found right before we left, thank goodness, but we were all grumpy from our family drama as we walked up Route 115A to the intersection with Route 2.

We reached Route 2 and entered the corner store.  We know this store well since it sits near the trailhead for Waumbek -- we have hiked Waumbek ten times and we've always come here for pizza afterward.  Luckily for us, it opens at 5am. 

I went in and bought some treats and...don't judge me...caffeine.  The girls do not drink caffeine and I do not approve of 5 Hour Energy drinks as a general rule.  However, one of these after a full day of rest and tons of hydration is not going to kill my children, and the novelty and "badness" of it significantly boosted morale.

We ate, we drank, we made up, we moved on.

From here, it's a short road walk down Route 2 (turn right on Route 2 after you visit the store)...

...until we reached Starr King Road (there's a hiker sign)...

Walk up this road -- quietly, please, since there are private residences all around...

...and end up at the beginning of the Starr King Trail.

As I previously mentioned, we've hiked Waumbek many times before so the route up Starr King Trail was easy and trivial.  It's a well maintained path that never gets steep.  The hardest parts are in the first mile and a half or so, when the trail is moderate to almost-steep.  This is one of the easiest 4Ks, so we cruised up the first couple of miles in what felt like lightning speed.

There's a spring to the left of the trail at 2.1 miles (there's a sign)...we were depending on that spring since we only carried two liters of water up with us from the B&B.  Every time I have passed that spring it has been flowing (except in winter months).  On this day, however, the water was not flowing at all and I became seriously worried.  There was a slow seep of water coming up from out of the ground, so the area was not dry, but there was no way to fill even a narrow mouthed container without getting in there and digging/creating a steeper incline for the water to run down.  That, combined with our slow slow slow filter, meant our speedy ascent was ground to a temporary halt.  We spent 45 minutes at that spring, slowly managing to get water into all our containers and then filtering it.  It was frustrating, especially when I thought of the thunderstorms that were supposedly headed our way that afternoon and all the miles we had to cover between that spring and Mt. Cabot.

Photo courtesy of Sage Herr

Finally, when all our water bottles had been filled, we resumed our ascent, picked up our pace, and reached the summit of Starr King.

We stopped briefly for photos and continued on our way.  A tenth of a mile or so after Starr King's summit, a grouse flew across the trail and up to a tree branch.  We cautiously hiked past it, hoping it wouldn't suddenly fly at us like grouse are known to do.  Thankfully, it just stayed on the branch and eyed us.

My very bad photo of the grouse

We made quick work of the mile between Starr King and Waumbek.

Waumbek's remarkable summit

Over twenty miles to Stark!

It was shaping up to be a clear...and hot!...morning.  We had nice views at the outlook just past Waumbek's summit.

From here, Alex took the lead.  She did an excellent job all day leading, expertly rejecting moose trails (which were plentiful) and keeping to the slightly overgrown Kilkenny Ridge Trail.  There were a few moments of temporary confusion, but the yellow blazes abound so we were never unsure of the trail for more than a few seconds.

There were a few blowdowns between the summit of Waumbek and South Weeks, but I didn't feel it was anything out of the ordinary.  The White Mountains get a lot of storms, and sometimes even the most popular and well-maintained trails will have a few blowdowns on them if you hike them before the trail adopters can get to them.  For us, they were no biggie.

Photo courtesy of Sage Herr

Photo courtesy of Sage Herr

I enjoyed the ridge walk between Waumbek and South Weeks.  The day was not yet steamy and the bugs had not yet found us.

We descended the col and then up again a few hundred feet to South Weeks.  Right before you descend into that col, you can see South Weeks rising above you through the trees, but I did not get a clear photo of that view.

Somewhere around South Weeks, someone turned on the heat and humidity and let all the bugs out.  From this point on, all the way past North Terrace Mountain, we were swarmed with mosquitos and flies.  There was zero breeze so it was difficult to cool down.  All three of us donned bug repellant but it seemed to do no good; we resorted to hiking while waving our arms about our heads.  Poor Alex had the double duty of waving her arms about her head to ward off the constant buzzing and bites AND clearing the spiderwebs in front of path.

It's only a couple hundred feet down and up again from South Weeks to Middle Weeks.

Somewhere around what we thought was the summit of Middle Weeks (there was no cairn)

It's a bigger descent and ascent from Middle to North Weeks.  We were drenched in sweat, plastered with dead bugs, and drinking a lot of water.  I knew this section would probably be dry until we reached the col between North Weeks and Terrace Mountain (Willard Notch), so we began rationing the water we had left.

We arrived at North Weeks hot and definitely feeling the workout.  Heat is not our thing; we would much rather hike in 35 degree weather with a 20 mph wind above treeline than deal with anything over 75 degrees.  We drank everything but the last half of a liter and began the descent toward Willard Notch.

We arrived at Willard Notch and I was grateful for two important things: there had been no thunderstorms yet, even though the sky looked iffy far off in the general southwest direction, and the brook that flows through Willard Notch was not dry.  If it had been dry, then we would have been forced to take a detour northeast along York Pond Trail for a while until we reached one of the reliable water sources that feeds into the Upper Ammonoosuc River.

The girls take a look at the contour lines for our upcoming ascent of Terrace Mountain

Water!  We dipped bandanas in the lovely cool liquid and squeezed the drops all over our heads.  We put our hands and wrists in the water and kept them there for a long time.  We stared at the brook deliciously, then we got busy, filled our containers, drank our fill, and filled our containers again.  This took a while because our filter is slow slow slow slow.  I'm now in the market for a new one because I think someone could die of thirst waiting for our filter to do its job...

Terrace Mountain was next.  That's about a 900 foot climb up from Willard Notch, and one would think we wouldn't have an issue with this since we had just drank our fill, but the heat of the day, the mileage we had already tackled, the never-ending swarm of bugs that kept trying to feast on our faces, and our previous thirst all began to affect our bodies.  By the time we reached the top of Terrace, we needed a lot more water and a good rest break.

There's a spur path to the actual summit of Terrace once you reach the top of the climb.  The girls stayed at the intersection, drank water, and rested as well as they could while simultaneously whacking bugs away.  I left my pack with them and did the 0.1 mile to the actual summit. 

The views from the summit are lovely, and -- there is excellent cell reception right there.  I checked out the clouds to the southwest, which looked like they could eventually produce a thunderstorm but did not look imminently threatening.  I then checked out the NOAA forecast for our exact area.  Chances of thunderstorms were 40% after 3pm.  It was currently 1pm, and I felt good about getting into Cabot Cabin by 3 or close to 3.

I returned to the girls and took a photo of the sign at the intersection...

...and the girls, who were feeling better with the rest and hydration...

Across the ridge we went, toward North Terrace.  There's only a hundred or two feet of elevation loss and then gain between each of the three "summits" of Terrace (the main summit, the unnamed bump in the middle, and North Terrace).

Here are the girls on what we think might be the "summit" of that middle bump between Terrace and North Terrace...

...or is it this spot...?

We arrived at the summit of North Terrace, where there is a sign and a small cairn, but my photo of that is blurry.  :(  I'll therefore post this photo instead, since it is close to the summit.

From here it was down into Bunnell Notch, the col between North Terrace and Cabot.

On our way down, we saw this --

Bunnell Notch and the intersection with Bunnell Notch Trail!  The trail widened here and took on the appearance of a normal 4K, well maintained hiking trail.  No more tall ferns nipping at our calves and thighs.  The bugs seemed to disappear too, for which we were very grateful!

There is no water in Bunnell Notch, so we looked at what we had left and decided that if we were going to spend the night at Cabot Cabin (assuming no one else had already claimed it) and not push on a few more miles to the Unknown Pond, then we would need to ration the rest of our water for the evening.  We agreed to do so and began the familiar-to-us climb up Cabot.

Something happened to me on that final ascent of Cabot that unnerved me.  Just a tenth of a mile after beginning the mile-ish, climb, I started to feel unbearably hot and in desperate need of tons of water.  We had just agreed to ration our remaining 64 ounces of water, so I took small sips, swept my bandana over every damp rock I could find and used the bandana on my forehead and wrists, and began taking baby steps.  The girls became understandably concerned.  I was concerned for them, but though they were naturally tired from the day and would have very much appreciated cheeseburgers and milkshakes, they were not feeling the same way I was.  I took the lead so they would not accidentally go too fast for me and I ascended cautiously, taking lots of rest breaks in shady spots.  I thought I was going super slow but we still arrived at the Cabin around 3pm, as we had originally planned.

I went straight to the barrel that is left out for rain collection, but it was bone dry.

I took one last photo of the cabin, which was empty and therefore ours for the evening, and went inside to sit down and cool off.

I lay on the cool, metal-covered bench, with my feet up against the wall.  The coolness of the metal felt wonderful through my sweat-drenched clothes, and after staying like that for ten minutes, I felt much, much better.  The girl and I ate some Gatorade gels, and that also helped tremendously.  We drank the amount of water we had agreed would be enough to keep us safe for the evening, and then I got up and took some photos of the cabin.

Our beds for the evening

There is a spring a tenth of a mile or so from the cabin, but I have read many reports of hikers having trouble finding it.  The spring is supposedly down a steep path, and I felt so tired and weak that I did not want to go through the effort of trying to find it only to not find it and then feel even more tired and weak.  We decided the liter and a half of water we now had should be enough to get us through the evening and the following morning's three-mile, mostly downhill hike to the Unknown Pond.  We therefore prepared our sleeping area, ate gummy-food (fruit, electrolyte power gels) for dinner so as not to exacerbate our thirst (no peanuts or crackers until we had plenty of water with us), and wrote in our journals.

We got wonderful cell reception at the cabin, so I again checked the forecast.  50% chance of thunderstorms for the evening.  I tied an empty Nalgene to a tree outside in the hopes it would rain and we would have a bit more water in the morning, and, when the sun went down, we turned in for the evening.


  1. Wow! Glad that whatever it was that affected you wasn't serious. As for the spring, it may have been hard to find but with the amount of redliners that have hiked it recently it no longer is. Really enjoying the writeup of your trip.

  2. I am loving my Katadin BeFree (sp?) filter for on the trail use, backed up with a SteriPen. The water sources here in the PNW are far less muddy than back in the Whites, though.

  3. Hi Jim and Pedergraham, I apologize for my tardy response -- I forgot to notify this blog to tell me when someone posted comments, so I just now saw what you wrote!

    Jim, I will look for that spring the next time I am up Cabot, which should be in a month or so! I am curious as to where it is, and I need it for redlining as well. :)

    Pedergraham, I will look into the Katadin BeFree filter!


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