Monday, August 24, 2015

Cohos Trail

New Hampshire’s longest long-distance hiking trail, The Cohos Trail, had been on my radar for years, but I’d put it on the back burner because I wanted to wait for the Trail to be finished as opposed to walking many miles along Rt 3 at the last-to-be-finished northern end. The CT is now officially “complete” although improvements in routing are still a bit of a work in progress, I think.

The trail is advertised as 165 miles. My GPS measured at least 10 miles more, but I turned the tracker on for only a few segments in the far north. (More on that later.) The CT runs from Notchland on Rt. 302 all the way to tiny Fourth Connecticut Lake on the Canadian Border. Except for a short segment in the beginning, the entire trail is within Coos County. In the White Mountain National Forest, the CT utilizes long-established trails, including Davis Path, Isolation Trail West, Dry River, Mt. Eisenhower, Edmands Path, Cherry Mtn, Martha’s Mile, Owl’s Head, Starr King, and Kilkenny Ridge Trails. There is also a rather bizarre walk through the Mt. Washington Hotel golf course followed by road walks of Rt. 302 and Cherry Mtn. Road. Interesting and scenic Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, along with a 3-mile road walk on Rt 115A into Jefferson Village, connect Cherry Mtn with the Kilkenny. In Pondicherry the route utilizes some pleasant trails--Presidential Rail Trail and Rampart Path--as well as some NOT nice trails--Slide Brook and Colonel Whipple “Trails.” After traversing the delightful Kilkenny Ridge, next up is the awesome Nash Stream Forest section via Bald Mountain Notch, Rowell Link, Old Summer Club, Percy Loop, Nash Stream Road, West Side, Sugarloaf Arm, East Side, Headwaters, and Gadwah Notch Trails. For me, this is where the Cohos Trail REALLY starts since it was mostly through uncharted territory. Other than redlining the WMG trails and climbing the New Hampshire 100 Highest peaks in this area many years ago, my experience in northern Coos County was embarrassingly deficient.

En route to Dixville Notch, the CT traverses Baldhead, Kelsey Notch, Dixville Bypass, Dixville Peak, Table Rock, Three Brothers, and Huntington Cascade Trails. North of the Notch is the beautiful Sanguinary Ridge and Sanguinary Summit Trails, Spruce and Diamond Ponds Trails. The next section was my least favorite because it was about 20 miles of road walking--both car and ATV roads--connecting Coleman State Park to the far (east) side of Lake Francis. However, the views of abandoned farm country atop Stewartstown Plateau were spectacular! From the Connecticut Lakes to Canada, the CT traverses mostly new trail, including Lake Francis, Minnon-Young (ATV), Prospect Mtn, Covell Mtn, Round Pond Brook, Bog Bridge, Moose Alley, Falls in the River, Idlewilde Link, Chaput, Black Cat, Sophie’s Lane, a truly icky unmarked snowmobile trail abutting Third Connecticut Lake, and finally, the Fourth Connecticut Lake Trail. There are also small connector road walks of River, Danforth and Round Pond Roads in this section.

History: The Cohos Trail is the brainchild of Kim Robert Nilsen, who first proposed such a long trail through the North Woods in a 1978 editorial in the Coos County Democrat and who has worked tirelessly to see his idea take root and blossom. The Cohos Trail Association was formed in 1998 and maintains a very active “Friends of the Cohos Trail” Facebook page. The Cohos Trail has come a long way since 1978! Many, many, many volunteer hours have been spent to make the Trail what it is today. THANK YOU to all who have turned Kim‘s concept into reality!!

Guidebook and Maps: TCTA publishes The Cohos Trail Guidebook, updated most recently in 2014. For a “just the facts-data book” type person such as myself, the wordy-folksy-anecdotal style of the guidebook almost made my head explode at times. (It actually reminded me a lot of another guidebook, that of Arkansas’s Ouachita Trail.) But I realize they can write the guidebook however they want and any issue with it is my own. And some of the stories WERE rather entertaining! What I would recommend--and what I myself failed to do--is to take a highlighter to the book before embarking on the Trail, highlighting the most pertinent information. I would say emphatically that the CT cannot really be done without the guidebook because there are quite a few confusing sections and some which are not well marked (those are mostly road sections). Buy the guidebook! As well, the maps are an indispensable general guide--buy them, too! (Incidentally, there are supposed to be new maps coming out next year produced by none other than cartographer Larry Garland.) However, there is not a lot of detail to the current maps, so I found my iHike GPS app also indispensable. As with the Catamount Trail last winter, this app worked fabulously (buy it, too, if you have a smartphone!) and certainly allowed me to venture into the unknown with a bit more confidence than map and compass alone. It also allowed me to track mileage. I wish I had the tracker turned on for the entire trip, but alas I did not. I believe the guidebook mileage to be mostly accurate; however, there were a few spots that were pretty far off, namely the Presidential Rail Trail (1.9 miles instead of 0.6), Colonel Whipple “Trail” (2.1 miles instead of 1.1), Whipple Road to Jefferson Village (3.1 miles instead of 1.6), Coleman State Park to Lake Francis Trail (20 miles instead of 12!!), River Road to Young’s Store/Happy Corner (1.6 miles instead of 0.7), and Deer Mtn Campground to US Customs (5 miles instead of 3.8). I am not saying any of this to be a whiny complainer--Hey, I love a challenge! Bring it on!--but more to give a heads up to people out there who may be contemplating a thru hike on the CT so they know what to expect.

The Low Down: The Cohos is not the Appalachian Trail. It is a remote “postgraduate” trail where you will likely not encounter another hiker above the Kilkenny. Towns are far apart, and resupply options are limited. There are only a few shelters--Cabot Cabin, Old Hermit, Baldhead, and Panorama Shelters, a lean-to at Coleman State Park, and a cabin available at Deer Mtn Campground. (One could also splurge at the Mt Washington Hotel, but you might want to mail ahead proper dinner attire.) The footing is a mix of regular ‘ol gnarly White Mtn trail, old logging/skid road, grassy/wet/sloppy snowmobile trail, ATV trail, and newly constructed footpath that is very kind--soft and spongy!--to the feet. (There was actually more of the latter than I’d expected and less of the overgrown slop, e.g. South Pond Link.) I would NOT recommend this trail to anyone who requires manicured trails and blazes every 20 feet, to anyone whose feet must remain dry (haha, good luck with that: they will be wet almost constantly), nor to anyone who cannot disconnect: my phone had no signal north of Dixville Notch. I WOULD recommend this trail to those adventurous souls who can appreciate the challenge and spirit of the Cohos Trail, those who crave solitude and quiet ('cept for when ATVs are buzzing by), who thrive on a pathway that is utilized far more by moose and bear than by humans. An open mind and a good sense of humor--including the ability to laugh at oneself--are very helpful!

Plan/Execution: I actually did the CT in 6 full and 3 partial days over 3 separate trips. From June 18-21 I backpacked from Rt. 302 to Unknown Pond, bailing down Unknown Pond Trail in the pouring rain. On June 24 I went from Mill Brook Road/Unknown Pond Trail to Percy Loop Trailhead using a bike spot. I did not get out on the CT again until August 19 and finished up the northern half over the next 4 days, slackpacked by my husband Chris. (I do not EVER pass up the opportunity to slackpack!)

Now, for the play-by-play:

Jun 18: Rt. 302/Davis Path TH to campsite at mile ~6.5

With Chris visiting family in California, Leg #1 of the CT was a 3-night backpack. My folks helped spot my car at Nash Stream Road, we stopped for a Dunky Donuts in Lancaster, and I hit the trail at 2:30 pm. M and D walked across Bemis Bridge w/me at the start. On the Saco River we saw a duck-like bird--I later looked it up and think it was a Common Golden Eye) with many babies, some riding on her back! Said goodbye to my parents and continued up the trail. Mosquitoes were pretty bad for a little while, so much so that I applied bug repellent. (I rarely use the toxic stuff.) There was one conglomeration of lady slippers--I counted 30--just beyond the Mt. Crawford Spur. I dropped to the old Resolution Shelter site to fill up on water, but this turned out to be unnecessary as there were probably a half dozen good water sources between here and Isolation Trail. I checked out the established campsite atop Giant Stairs (wow!), but with darkening skies opted to continue on the ridge to a more protected spot in the trees. About a mile after Giant Stairs I came to a confusing spot near a small stream. Foot traffic went down and to the right following the stream, but that path soon ended abruptly. I turned back and found the correct route (left und UP). Shortly thereafter was a large (space for 4-5 tents) campsite. I picked the flattest spot, set up my tent, made some tea, ate dinner and fell fast asleep.

Jun 19: to Mt. Martha, ~24.5 miles

Started raining in the wee hours of the morning. Found out the single-wall Black Diamond tent leaks in multiple spots. Aargh! After dabbing drips with my Pack Towel for a couple of hours, I finally made coffee, ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail by 5 am. Twas a wet stroll over Mts. Davis and Isolation, my umbrella helping keep my face dry at least. Fortunately it was not very cold below treeline but higher up the breeze was picking up. I opted for the original CT route: down the Isolation (west) Trail and up Mt. Eisenhower Trail. Having just done these trails less than 2 weeks ago, I knew what lay ahead:  marginal post-Irene trail conditions on the former followed by a potentially hairy crossing of Dry River. The roar sounded more treacherous that reality and it ended up not being too bad; this time I went upstream a bit to find a shallower crossing before commencing up Mt. Eisenhower Trail. I made quick work of the 3/10 mile or so above treeline--it was chilly!--and began heading down Edmands Path. After having not seen another soul all morning, within the next 3 miles I would meet 17 people, on a marginal weather Friday. The CT turns right on Mt. Clinton Road, then left onto Bretton Woods B and M Trail, a path I have skied quite a few times! The summertime view of Upper Falls is dramatic, and I showed up just as some crazy guy decided to dive straight into the main pool. OMG! Mosquitoes were bad in boggy sections, but shortly I was strolling across the grounds of the Mt. Washington Hotel golf course and feeling the stares. Quite the juxtaposition! I stopped by Fabyans for coffee, a burger, and to recharge my phone. They were very nice there. Some biker people (it’s being Bike Week in NH) screamed in excitement when a small black bear sauntered by the back window. Waitstaff said it gets into the dumpster! (So, why don’t they put a lock on the dumpster??) Long slog up Cherry Mtn. Road followed by an even longer slog up Cherry Mtn. but really enjoyed these last few miles and the ridge up there is just gorgeous. Decided to bivy atop Mt. Martha on a nice grassy spot. Arrived about an hour before a spectacular sunset. Views towards the Presidentials were stellar, those south to the Franconias and Twins, and west to Vermont were pretty darn tootin’ as well. Tried to dry tent out in last bits of sunlight with moderate success.

Jun 20: to Cabot Cabin, 26.5 miles

Tent accumulated lots of condensation during the night on the grassy patch, so once again it was soaking wet. Lots of moose sign on Martha’s Mile. Owls Head had a great little scramble just below the summit and some nice views to the Presies again. Descent to Rt. 115 was nice at first but then got pretty muddy. Think this is the section that the RMC has had to relocate a couple of times in the past few years. Could use more bridging, rock steps, or something. CT takes a right on Rt. 115, then cuts left on the Slide Brook “Trail.” Ha ha ha! Waist high WET grass, barely a discernible footpath, ticks (3), skeeters (100s), then across a beaver dam--THAT is the “trail.” Fortunately that section lasted only only a half mile or so, then it was on to the pancake flat Presidential Rail Trail through Moorhen Marsh. This was a very beautiful section with lots of birds along with great views back to the Presies; however, the mosquitoes were of Biblical proportions!! Finally I resorted to bug repellent and a headnet which did wonders in preserving my sanity. Shore and Rampart Paths were nice, but Col Whipple was another “trail” trail. Har dee har har! It started off not too bad with some nice bog bridging covered in chicken wire so as to be more grippy, even though some of the bog bridges sank 6” into the water when stepped on, but THEN… the “trail” turned into an overgrown skidder track with hidden moose pock marks and other sinister ankle twisters. And still mosquitoes…! I was very happy to hit Whipple Road and then Rt. 115A. Since I had 3 miles of road walking, I wisely decided to switch into my Crocs. Heaven! Road walk wasn’t too bad although being midmorning on a Saturday, there was some Santa’s Village traffic. At the Corner Store I took a good long break of about an hour, dried out my tent for real, bought a few things (egg salad sandwich, Starbucks Frap, water), charged my phone, and talked with Chris. (We talked or texted regularly whenever I had phone service.)

Leaving Jefferson at noon, I had almost 15 miles to go before Cabot Cabin. Thunderstorms were predicted that night and the next day, so a real roof overhead would be much appreciated. Plus, I’d always wanted to spend a night there. TODAY was a beautiful day, however! The slog up Waumbek seemed never to have been that much of a slog before… OTOH I have never carried a full pack up it. The Saturday hiking hordes on a trail leading to a 4000 footer were out en masse, but it was a nice diversion having seen no other hikers today up to this point. (Apparently no one else was idiotic enough to traverse through Pondicherry Mosquito Refuge in mid June.) After 2 full freaking hours, I finally topped out on Waumbek and said adios to my last day hikers of the day. The ridge over to South Weeks is gorgeous, and at first the blowdown situation wasn’t too bad. The farther along I got, though, the worse the blowdowns. Ugh. It is sad that the Kilkenny Ridge Trail doesn’t see more love. It almost looks as if it’s being abandoned and is definitely in the worst shape I’ve seen it. (Aug 2015 edit: I hope the blowdowns have been cleared this summer. Anyone?) The Weekses seemed to have moved further apart since the last time I did the Kilkenny Ridge Traverse 4 years ago, but at least there was a nice stream just below North Weeks where I filled my water bottle. Many more blowdowns heading into Willard Notch, and much to my surprise I met 3 guys with their 3 sad looking dogs coming off Terrace. They said there were more blowdowns, but it wasn’t quite as bad on the Terraces. Plus the 3 Terrace peaks were closer together than the Weekses--yay. Finally I made it down to Bunnell Notch and began the final 1.5 miles to Cabot Cabin, arriving just before 8:30 pm. Good thing it was summer solstice with lots of daylight left! I was whipped. There were 4 people and a dog there, but only 2 of the people and the dog stayed the night--Hannah, John, and Josie a sweet border collie. Hannah and John live in Vermont too, have hiked the LT and AT, they offered me some wine (Bota box cab, baby!), AND they offered a ride back to my car if I decided to bail due to the impending rain… so we sort of connected.

Jun 21: to Mill Brook Road, 5.4 miles

Steady rain started to fall in the wee hours. We were all up and packed by 7 am and began the very wet slog down to Unknown Pond and then Unknown Pond Trail. (Yes, I bailed!) UPT to Mill Brook Road was mostly a streambed of a trail although John and Hannah reported a near bone dry surface just the day before! We made it to their Subaru in 2 hours and after a quick clothing change, we were off to Nash Stream Road.

Jun 24: to Nash Stream Road at Percy Loop TH, 12.5 miles biking, 21.4 miles hiking

Left car at Percy Loop TH and mountain biked to Unknown Pond TH on Mill Brook Road. The bike ride was actually quite nice and took a little over an hour, most of MBR being uphill. Stashed my bike in the woods and proceeded back up Unknown Pond Trail. (Trail was a bit drier than 3 days previous!) Saw one other hiker head out on UPT just ahead of me; other than him, no other hikers encountered all day. Once up UPT I took a left on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. This segment of KRT is also in need of some love - lots of blowdowns, mud, and encroaching ferns obscured the trailbed. View from Rogers Ledge was awesome, and from there to South Pond trail was in great shape and had received recent maintenance, both blowdown removal and drainage work. A few families enjoyed the South Pond beach this beautiful day. I took a short break before proceeding down the road for just over a mile to the South Pond Connector. Having done this muddy, overgrown snowmobile trail last year, I was sorely tempted to just stick to the pavement. OTOH I am committed to the Cohos Trail proper, so into the mud I traipsed… It was pretty gloppy. A short road walk across Rt 110 and up North Road brought me to the (unsigned) Bald Mtn. Notch Trail. I liked this trail last year and liked it again on my second visit, especially where one approaches the actual notch. Next up was Rowell Link and the Old Summer Club Trail, another that I really like. The OSCT was littered with branches and a few blowdowns but was easily passable. I did climb the side trail up North Percy and was treated to far reaching 360 degree views. All that was left was the Percy Loop Trail with a brief stop at the tent site and privy, where there is a trail register. I was only the second party to sign in this year! A great day on the CT! Driving all the way back to Unknown Pond TH was a bit of a pain, but my bike was still there! Yay. Think I am about halfway done the CT at this point but will wait awhile, for both my feet and the trail to hopefully dry out a bit. Have been having lots of rain…

Aug 19: to Dixville Notch/Rt. 26, 23.2 miles

Two months later I am back at it. It has been raining a lot this summer. Thru-hiked the Long Trail last month, and I survived THAT episode of trench foot so think I’m good to go on the Cohos Trail. Chris offered/agreed to slackpack me the rest of the way, the idea being that I could git r done more efficiently and comfortably with a very light daypack in supported mode rather than both of us trying to slog through the remaining miles with full packs, dealing with transportation issues, etc. We were very happy with this choice when all was said and done!  We figured on 3 full days to finish the CT, but that estimate was based on the mileage in the guidebook being accurate…

The adventure began with an early morning jog along Nash Stream Road, the 2 miles from the Percy Loop trailhead to Pond Brook Falls (nice!) before heading up West Side Trail. This ATV route is followed for about a mile; the CT then diverges right onto the Sugarloaf Arm Trail, a nice stroll through hardwoods passing by the Old Hermit Shelter. I was perusing the register--as it turned out, of the 3 CT shelters, the ONLY one with a register--when Chris reached me having hiked up from Sugarloaf Mtn. Trail. Recrossing Nash Stream Road, next up was the East Side Trail, another trail I ranked in the “nice” category that paralleled Nash Bog. It even had a sort of neat geologic feature, Devil’s Jacuzzi, and the northern reaches of this trail had recently been mowed. Nash Stream Road was gated near 19 ½ Mile Road, and that is where Chris and I separated… he for the long drive south, west, north, and east(!) to Dixville Notch, me for the ~15 miles to the same point through uncharted-for-me territory. With the Cohos Trail’s reputation, I was a bit nervous!

Once I proceeded northward through beautiful Cathedral and Moran Meadows, Muise Bowl and Gadwah Notch, anxieties disappeared. The lower meadows section had been mowed to Bulldozer Flat so there was none of the nasty chest-high growth I’d read about, there was fresh moose sign everywhere, there were beautiful views that I’d never before seen, and there was utter silence save for the natural sounds of birds, wind and running water. Gadwah Notch to Baldhead Shelter stayed near 3000 feet in elevation and had a real feeling of remoteness. A couple of times the trail became lost in thick ferns, so constant vigilance was required in following the yellow blazes. Thankfully, this section was very well marked. I think the mileage was off to Baldhead Shelter because it took 2 ¾ hours to go “5 miles” and I was walking at a pretty good clip! Sad there was no register in the shelter, but the view was pretty nice. There were quite a few downed trees in the mile or so before and after the shelter, but within a couple of miles I’d hit the Kelsey Notch “Trail” which is actually a dirt road that is used by ATVs. Now I was in “Ride the Wilds” country of Coos County, with its 1000 miles of ATV trails. I was glad to be there midweek as opposed to the weekend! The CT next climbed a wide ugly access road toward the Dixville Peak wind towers (my, how this NH 100 highest peak has changed since I was last here in the early 1990s!), but before reaching the top, took a left on newly constructed Dixville Bypass Trail. Rain was not predicted this day, but rumblings in the sky soon progressed to a pretty good little soaking rain shower which actually felt refreshing at this point in the day. The good trail lasted only about a half mile before dumping out on a nasty, muddy ATV trail, one that is quickly eroding to bedrock. Fortunately the CT does not follow this ATV track for long. Unfortunately it turns onto a mucky, grassy service lane leading to the Wilderness ski area and eventually to Table Rock and more manicured trail. The CT was a bit confusing to follow at the top of the ski area but was pretty easy to figure out. Chris met me near Table Rock, where we took a nice break and gazed down into Dixville Notch and The Balsams. What a spectacular spot! We finished off the day’s hike by jumping into a pool near the foot of Huntington Falls. Heaven! The night was spent at Coleman State Park, a very nice little campground on Little Diamond Pond that had 3 particularly cool things: awesome showers (25 cents for 3 minutes), resident LOONS, and a bald eagle!!

Aug 20: to Cedar Stream Road, 25.5 miles

After a wonderful night’s sleep, we drove back to Dixville Notch and proceeded up misty Sanguinary Ridge. Chris walked a couple miles with me before heading back to the car. CT hikers have an option of taking either the “low route” or the “high route” in this section. Most, including me, opt for the high route because Panorama Shelter is there, plus it just sounds better. The evergreens could use some trimming in the mile or so leading to Panorama. Also, there was a very confusing turn off a dirt road that was unmarked. Basically I got lucky in finding it! As with Baldhead Shelter, there was no register in Panorama. After topping out on Mud Pond Ridge on good trail, the CT traverses very grassy cross country ski (?) trail toward Mud Pond, at which point it was back on ATV trail for a short distance. A pleasant surprise was newly constructed trail on the climb of Tumble Dick Notch. It was a very pretty stroll through the woods and even passed by a 6-8 foot waterfall! The Diamond Ponds Trail coming down the northwest side of the notch had been mowed recently--yay! Soon I was back at Coleman State Park for a lunch break.

The remaining miles for today (and into tomorrow) would all be mountain bike-able, all 20 of them! Somewhat annoyingly, the mileage for this section was way off, and even more annoyingly, I did not bring my mountain bike. I remembered someone mentioning this mileage discrepancy in their Trail Journal, so I decided to turn on my GPS tracker upon leaving Coleman State Park. I ran a bit of this section but walked most of it: down Diamond Ponds Road to Heath Road to Bear Rock Road to MacAlester Road to Creampoke to Dead Water and finally to Cedar Stream Road. What was supposed to be 9 miles turned out to be 14. Much of this section was ATV “trail” but again, I was fortunate to be here on a Thursday and not a Saturday or Sunday. I met maybe 10 or 12 ATVers. They were all friendly--two guys even stopped and asked if I was okay (which got me thinking, “Do I look that bad?!”)--but it’s not the kind of terrain/company a hiker usually seeks! A very cool spot was MacAlester Road, a pretty stiff climb leading to expansive views of farm country. This area looked more like my hometown in Vermont than “the Great North Woods” of New Hampshire. Upon reaching Cedar Stream Road and Lake Francis, I called it a day, and we drove up to Lake Francis State Park for the night. Again, the showers at this state park were wicked awesome! And I scored a free Snickers bar for correctly answering the question: “What mountain was once known as Mt. Agiochook?” Mt. Washington, duh! (The next day was Chris’s turn. He properly answered the question “How many New England States are bordered by the St. Lawrence River?” ZERO!)

Aug 21: to Moose Alley, 25 miles

The day began with “3 miles” on Cedar Stream Road that was actually 5.7, but my attitude today was more of “BRING IT ON, M’F’ER!” so I found this all rather humorous. Less humorous (but still quite funny really) was the 4 miles of waist-high wet weeds along the Lake Francis Trail. I met a dude training his bear dogs on this section, he (packin’ heat!) dressed appropriately in jeans and knee-high rubber boots as opposed to me in shorts and trail runners. There was a short spur to “6 Mile View” on Lake Francis. It was pretty cool. The rest of this trail was something to just get through. After 4 miles I popped out on Carr Ridge Road and a bridge across the CT River. Next up was more road and ATV trail to Happy Corner and Young’s Store, where Chris got me a sandwich just as it began to rain.

The rest of this day was thankfully mostly real trail over Prospect Mtn, Covell Mtn and around Round Pond. Chris joined me for Prospect Mtn which had a nice view of First Connecticut Lake. Probably my most confusing moment on the CT was upon reaching the Ramblewood network of trails, where there were two intersections that would’ve benefited from either double blazes or arrows. I missed both a 90 degree righthand turn, then a 130 degree hard left. My stars were apparently aligned because Mr. Ramblewood himself was out mowing trail and helped direct me toward the correct route. It rained on and off all afternoon, but with my umbrella I didn’t mind at all. Plus rain always brings out the brilliant colors of the forest floor and it wasn’t cold, so I was happy. The trail circumnavigates Round Pond, though you never actually see the pond until way later when you hit the dirt access road. There was tricky route finding here and there in this section due to diverging moose paths. The section was very well blazed, however, so I had no problems. A half mile road walk and soon I was on the new Round Pond Brook Trail which earns 2 thumbs up! The new section of trail leads directly across Rt. 3 to another new link, the “800 Foot Bog Bridge Trail.” Chris joined me for this piece. The boggy section was cool. Chris counted 87 bog bridges. Again, much sign of moose but no actual moose sightings! My final trail section for the day was Moose Alley Trail. Did I see a moose? No. But I did see two deer. I also saw my first two actual hikers on the Cohos Trail since, what… Mt. Cabot? It was none other than the Krobi’s!! We had a fun chat on the trail and actually ran across them, Damselfly and Steve later at the Happy Corner CafĂ©. Since it had been rainy all afternoon, we decided to splurge on a little cabin at Happy Corner. Fun!

Aug 22: to Fourth CT Lake/Finish, 14.5 miles 

My final day on the Cohos Trail was the usual combo of nice trail, easy road walk and icky snowmobile trail. Falls in the River Trail is gorgeous as was Second Connecticut Lake. Next up was Idlewilde Trail, Chaput Trail, and Black Cat Trail. All were in pretty good shape, and Middle Black Cat had recently been weed whacked (thank you, thank you!). Chris joined me in the early miles and then met me at the Deer Mtn Campground access, regaling me with CT, err, “adventure stories” told by the ranger there. Sophie’s Lane was 1 ½ miles longer than advertised, but I enjoyed these last miles of easy walking. There was one final mushy ¾ mile length of snowmobile trail abutting Third Connecticut Lake before reaching the US Customs Station and the final 2-mile section up to and around Fourth Connecticut Lake. After having met only 2 hikers in the past 4 days, we met 5 hikers on this section. It seemed very crowded--hah! We drove down to Third Lake and dipped our feet in the water before showering at Lake Francis State Park (and Chris winning his free candy bar) and the long drive home.

In the end I LOVE the Cohos Trail! Upon finishing two days ago, I said I’d never do it again, but it certainly did have its charms. Hmm… Maybe I’ll bring my mountain bike for that 20+ mile road next time…

Huge thanks to Kim Robert Nilsen and all the folks of TCTA!!!