It was to be a gorgeous, cloudless, summer day. No rain. No humidity. Clear blue skies for all that cared to notice. For that day in particular, I cared to notice, because I was about to embark on a day of strict solitude, with naught but the dirt at my feet, trees to my side, and the perfect blue skies above. Not to mention unparalleled views of a group of mountains I had conquered on several prior hikes. But as with every planned excursion, my preconceived notion of absolute solitude would cease to be true the moment I set forth on my 13 mile trek of North and South Kinsman, Northeast Cannonball, and Cannon Mountain, three official 4000 footers, and #100 on New England's 100 highest.
I began my hike on the Lonesome Lake Trail, and as the title suggests, was very much alone for the first mile or so—that is, until I reached the lake itself. By then, I could hear audible laughter deriving from a beach that resided at the foot of the Lonesome Lake hut, a treasure for all those willing to make the short hike there. But it seemed more like a public beach than an isolated swim spot in the middle of a mountain. It was a perfect day after all, and despite my plea for solitude, I was confronted with an ensemble of eager hikers and campers who wanted nothing but to experience their perfect day at a beautiful lake surrounded by towering mountains. I couldn't blame them. I wanted to do the same. But I had a quest to complete, and continued it on the Fishin' Jimmy Trail, a quaint, lush path where I saw but one group of hikers on. I proceeded from there on the Kinsman Ridge Trail, where I would hike both North and South Kinsman, in that order. The trail itself wasn't very ridge-like, as there was no shortage of trees, but there were some fun scrambling parts. When I arrived at the top of the North summit, a group of hikers had already taken refuge at the one lookout spot that allowed for a perfect view of the Franconia Ridge in all of its glory. I decided to proceed onward, whereupon I reached the South summit shortly thereafter, and met a group of hikers, whom I conversed with for a bit about their hiking plans. They were on their way back down after summitting the same two mountains I had just done. But I had two more to go, and they wished me luck, as I took a seat on the summit lookout and ate lunch. The views were somewhat shielded by trees, so I made my way back to the North summit, where I ran into a group of older women who were headed over to the South summit. I admired them for their determination, as they appeared to be in their mid-late seventies and obviously not as nimble as I at my young age. They made this fact well-known, and we joked around a bit before I bid them goodbye. I sat down on a rocky overlook with perfect views of the ridge, and whipped out my binoculars to get a closer look. I could see along the ridge leading up to Mount Lafayette from Mount Lincoln, but the binoculars did not zoom enough to see the hikers tackling the peak. After a little while, I decided to lay down for a few minutes and look at the sky. It proved to be a much needed rest, as I still had another 7 or so miles before my day would be over.
After soaking in the incredible views from North Kinsman, I proceeded toward my next destinations: Northeast Cannonball and Cannon Mountain. Expecting a cakewalk, I began my ascent of the former, believing that when I reached the top, I would be a short stroll from Cannon Mountain. I was wrong. The hike was grueling, especially after reaching two summits shortly before. When I reached the top, there were no signs marking the summit, and I often doublechecked the map to make sure that I was going the right way. As I descended further and further from my high elevation, I became worried. But upon reaching the bottom, I was confronted with a steep incline with rocks aplenty that I eventually learned would serve as my last trail to my last summit.
If you don't know a thing about Cannon Mountain, you're alone. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Whites, second among the 4000ers only to Mt. Washington. Why? Because there is a tramway that takes you straight to the summit. When I reached the summit of Cannon Mountain, I encountered more people in the first minute than I had on my entire hike prior. There were plenty of children and adults of all ethnicities, amongst them Hasidic Jews, Indian-Americans, and Asian-Americans. It was fascinating to see such a diverse population on a mountain, however, as an admirer of solitude in nature, I shrugged my shoulders in disbelief as I made my way to the lookout tower. The views were just as astounding as those I had seen on the Kinsmans, but of course, all I could hear was the constant chatter of people, severely deterring the 360* panoramic views. At this point in my hike, all I could think about was getting back to the car and eating. And so I made my way down, meeting a fellow hiker along the way who accompanied me for the downhill portion, a certain strain for a kid who had just hiked 10+ miles beforehand. But we made it, and I headed toward my car, calves and feet shaking due to the exhaustion. A long, but well-deserved car ride followed, and I made my way home, only to eat the entirety of my mother's pantry.