Tyson picked Mt Cardigan for our next hike. Specifically from the NH state park on the west side. We have never hiked it from that direction and it is much shorter than from the AMC lodge on the east side. For that matter, we have only hiked Cardigan once before. We almost always ski it.
We had a strict time limit for the hike. We needed to be home at 6pm for someone from Craigslist to pick up our old patio pavers. The West Ridge Trail from the state park to the summit is 1.5 miles and 1,250ft of elevation. Driving in, we found the state park gate at Cardigan Mountain Road still closed for the season. This added 0.6 miles each way. We weren’t sure if Isaac could make it all the way to the top and back down, and we definitely weren’t sure he could make it in time to be home by 6pm. There was room for 10 cars to park alongside the dirt road. There were already 15 cars parked on and off the road. We stuff our little Fit in a corner and hiked up.
The hike started out a little chilly. We were in the shadow of the mountain. Not much spring growth yet. In the few spots of sun, it was nice and warm. We took the popular West Ridge trail. Plenty of people passed us going up and down; a lot of them wearing Dartmouth paraphernalia.
Maybe a third of the way up in elevation, farther in distance, we ran into ice on the trail. I had considered bringing microspikes, but it seemed warm enough that I hadn’t bothered. In some places you could walk around the ice on the trail. In other places the ice flowed over everything. There were multiple use trails in the woods. In places the real trail had been rerouted to take a use trail. I stuck to the real trail, but there was no way Isaac would make any progress on the ice, so Tyson escorted him on the use trails. Overall, the trail looked like it needed to be rebuilt to support the amount of traffic it gets. The icy places looked like they would be muddy in the summer time. And plenty of the trail was washed out.
We stopped for lunch and various snacks, but overall we kept up the pace. All of us wanted to get to the top before our turn around time. We had brought Isaac’s kite. We needed to arrive even earlier at the top to fly it. Unfortunately, we had only climbed to the first small opening in the trees at the kite deadline. We continued up. For a while it was nice and warm and sunny. Then we broke out above treeline into a bitter wind. Flying the kite wouldn’t have been any fun anyways.
We hiked all the way to the fire tower. Isaac requested a celebratory ring-around-the-rosy on top. And then he slumped over ready for a long rest. He hadn’t realized we needed to hike back down just as fast as we hiked up. The air was nice and clear. Mt Washington shone bright white with snow up north. 6″ of new snow reported in the avalanche advisory I tried to pick out closer landmarks that Isaac might remember, but we haven’t hiked anywhere near Cardigan recently.
I let Isaac take a significant rest and snack stop once we were back down out of the wind. After that he hiked well even though he was visibly tired. We bribed him some with dried pineapple and granola bars. At the road again, he picked up steam. He even had enough energy to run the last hill down to the car.
4.3 miles on the GPS and 1,400′ elevation.