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 Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16 
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 Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Thegibba and I headed to Mt. Cardigan on Thursday morning. He needed it for his 52 list and I had never been up Firescrew, so something for everyone. I arrived a few minutes early and talked with the very friendly caretaker at the empty AMC lodge, who offered me coffee or tea and chatted for a bit. He told me the road had just opened up because it had been really muddy so not many people had been up that side yet, but some of the ones who had did have to turn back because of a lot of ice on the Manning trail a few days prior. Well, guess which route we planned to use? The other trails were reported to be free of major ice, so we decided to see for ourselves how bad the ice was. After a look around the lodge we started up the trails around 9.

If you follow the roads long enough you'll know you're there when you see this
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And shortly this at the trailhead
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Nice view, and we had the place to ourselves
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Since it was empty we had a look around. Not bad, but I'll take my tent any day
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Solar powered
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And with a few choice words of advice we were off
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After a short wrong turn/tour of the camping area we headed up the Manning Trail. Pretty steep at first, but it moderated for a while before hitting the open ledges on the shoulder of Firescrew. A couple patches of ice we had to not slip on but no traction needed until the crossing of a little stream and the steep slope after it was covered in a good amount of ice. Spikes didn't seem like they'd get the job done so we put on the crampons and made quick work of it, taking them off for more wonderful ledges as views opened up. The whole of the Whites was laid out across the horizon at every turn. Darn nice views for only about 2500 feet in elevation.

Almost there!!
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Touring the Nature Trail first accidentally
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Headed up the Manning Trail
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With care you could work around the first few icy parts
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Crampons and shorts are a nice fashion statement
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Peter coming up the first of many spectacular view ledges
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After a bounty of ledgy goodness and we hit the waterfall of ice that doubles as a trail. It was short, maybe only 40 vertical feet or so, but it was steep and looked pretty nasty. One good think about crampons is they really dig into the frozen mud and moss in the woods as well as ice, and since we could use trees for the assist as well as a lifeline if we slipped that's the route we took, bushwhacking I guess you'd call it, around the icy trail. Still not easy, and if if the moss wasn't frozen it might have been more difficult and muddy/slippery than the trail, but it worked on Thursday for us because it was frozen after a cold night.

The one part that could still be a problem
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We chose to go around it rather than mess with it
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That was the only difficult part of the trail, and after that we made our way up more glorious open ledge to the top of Firescrew where the Mowglis Trail joins up and we had a snack and soaked in the view. And what a view it was. Pretty much all of Vermont to the west from Mansfield to Ascutney was laid out under cloudless skies. The entirety of the Whites as well as the Ossipees and Belknaps wrapped around the other side and the summit of Cardigan and Kearsarge beyond stood tall to the south. Pretty darn impressive for a 3000 foot high perch! Old Baldy as it is know was burnt to the bedrock in the middle 1800's, and much has never grown back, making for a pretty awesome "small" mountain with big mountain feel and scenery. Too bad all those other 4K's that burned in forest fires years ago managed to recover and be wooded to the top.

Headed up the ledges
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That's the Whites, from end to end
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Headed up to the summit of Firescrew
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Cardigan coming into view
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The Holt and Mowglis trails find there way up this side
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The Whites again from end to end
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Franc Ridge and George somewhere in the middle
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View ahead to Cardigan
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Tower on top
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The Mowglis trail up from there was almost entirely on open or semi-open ledge, with the final few hundred feet on steep, sloping, open ledge. Endless views continued as the tower guided us to the top, which we shared with a couple other guys who had come up he West Ridge, reportedly free of ice, or at least nine that wasn't able to be stepped around. The views again stretched to forever so another break and long look around was in order. Two more ladies arrived from the west side as we were leaving and that would be all the people we would see for the day.

Ancient signage
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So much ledgy goodness...
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A quick stop by Lake Cardigan for a pic
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Gibba wandering the ledges
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Getting a look back at Firescrew
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Did I mention yet the obscene amount of ledgy goodness??
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The final ledges below the summit were steeper but nice and open
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North VFTT with Firescrew backed by the Whites
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Modern day graffiti
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But I guess it's been going on for years
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Firetower on top was closed
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We took the Clark Trail down from the summit, again on steep, open ledges, to the old fire wardens cabin trail, where we joined the South Ridge trail and headed for the South Summit and Vistamont sub peaks, neither of which are major, but South offers up great views back at Cardigans main summit and Vistamont is pretty much overgrown except for its view to the south and out to our next summit of Orange Mountain. We took the Skyland trail from there down quite a ways it felt like, before beginning the climb back up to the not as ledgy but still nice summit of Orange Mountain. There was some moderate ice here and there but I got around it just fine. I think I heard Peter take a tumble but never looked back! :D The view ledge at the top was pretty nice, looking back at everywhere we had been as well as out to the Whites to the north. I soaked it all in and then laid down in the sun for a few minutes soaking it in like a reptile while I waited for Peter to go back a bit and grab his sunglasses.

Headed for Orange
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Looking back up the summit ledges...
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...and down
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Gibba headed for the nest three summits
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Clark Trail coming down to the ranger cabin
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Said cabin
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View back from South Peak
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Clark Trail goes from the tower to the cabin
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The Skyland Trail headed for Orange Mountain
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It was a pleasant wooded walk to get there
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A little ice to keep things interesting
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Nice lookback from the summit of Orange
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An even nicer view from a ledge just below the summit
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Life is good 8)
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Ledgapalooza on Cardigan and Firescrew
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Skies so clear you could see to the moon!
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After that it was down the Vistamont Trail, which had some ice in the higher evergreens that slowed us up, and eventually we gave in and put on spikes, not because we couldn't edge along the ice, but it was definitely slowing us down to do so. One short stretch and we hit the open hardwoods and the ice vanished for good of course and off came the traction. The next couple miles was mostly in said leafless hardwoods, so not the most attractive stretch of trail in stick season but an easy cruise out to the lodge using a few trails along the way, joining the lower Holt I think it was for the finishing mile.

Headed down Vistamont
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Some color
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And some more ice
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You could work around it, but it was quicker to just pull these out again
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Which all but guaranteed in 30 seconds the ice would end for good
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A waterfall along the Holt Trail I think it was
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No expense was spared on this sign
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The lower Holt Trail was too reminiscent of the Lincoln Woods for my taste, but it was short enough
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Ahhh. 7.7 miles and 2350 feet later we're back at the shack
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Back at the lodge we filed our report with the man inside, as they were curious about the trail conditions on the loop because of a large group with inexperienced hikers arriving for the weekend and hoping to use the route we did. We told them if they could get past the one ice flow it was easy enough, but that one part wasn't easy. Otherwise it's a mighty fine hike. Endless views, very little ice or mud, and more ledgy goodness than you'll know what to do with. If fun, ledgy trails with views to forever aren't your thing best to avoid this one, after all, Waumbek is almost an identically sized hike. But if you like ledges and views, and haven't been here yet, add it to the short list. On the 52 WAV it's definitely one of the finer V's out there, and one of the best little hikes in NH. Give me this one over Waumbek any day of the week, especially on a Thursday, when you might only see four other people like we did.


Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:16 pm
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Granite Guy wrote:
Thegibba and I headed to Mt. Cardigan on Thursday morning. He needed it for his 52 list
What? Peter???? How can that be?? Even I have been to Cardigan - dozens of times.
Life is good 8)
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Indeed

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Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:43 pm
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Granite Guy wrote:
Thegibba and I headed to Mt. Cardigan on Thursday morning. He needed it for his 52 list
What? Peter???? How can that be?? Even I have been to Cardigan - dozens of times.


It's also on the NH3K's. Just say'in. 8)

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Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:25 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
JustJoe wrote:
It's also on the NH3K's. Just say'in. 8)


That's why I went :wink:

Nice loop. That "biodegradable" sign is cool. Hmm, crampons and shorts, that could've been a good TPBM picture.


Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:16 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Kathy wrote:
Granite Guy wrote:
Thegibba and I headed to Mt. Cardigan on Thursday morning. He needed it for his 52 list
What? Peter???? How can that be?? Even I have been to Cardigan - dozens of times.
Life is good 8)
Image

Indeed



Guilty as charged. I've only been hiking these bigger peaks for 5 years now. There are also so many darned hills to go to! It has been on my radar to do for a while now. Sometimes it just doesn't work out ya know. I'm glad i saved it for a beautiful day with views that stretched from Camels hump/Mansfield to the belknaps and beyond. The mountains on Western NH seem to have an oddity from times past. Here and on Mt. Cube I've noticed the olde tyme tradition of engraving ones name in rock. One was even cursive! I wonder what that's all about. Derek missed me slipping on my rear right after i mentioned that i didn't need the traction for that section. (also another good TPBM) He asked me if i was going to put them on while I was down there. I found it funny how fast 197lbs falls to ground. I'll file this in the list of views with bang for the buck department. Here are some pics from my angle.

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Fashion statement of the year
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"lake" Cardigan
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Some of the nicest forest to walk through over towards Orange. Much less used than the rest of the park.
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Derek sunning himself on the ledges.
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View of the top from the lodge through the telescope they have a nice sign on to not touch.
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Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:05 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
It's all good Peter. I was equally surprised when Kathy said she hadn't been to South Moat yet...ok, maybe not quite as surprised. :wink:

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Lake Cardigan is an under appreciated gem. Right up there with Lonesome Lake, maybe because there's no lifeguard on duty. Be careful if you dive in! :D

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Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:40 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
This whole ice thing is weird. You had it on that hike. Yet I didn't run into it and need traction until 3400' on a north facing trail. And an hour further north with presumably colder temps. :roll: There must be some factor here I'm missing.

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Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:29 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
I would think the biggest factors are north facing slopes, elevation and tree types myself. Evergreens keep the sunlight away pretty effectively. It obviously melts much faster in hardwoods. Maybe ground type? Soil can absorb water, on rock it has nowhere to go and just builds up as it runs and freezes creating ice dams and bulges? Steepness of the slope for how quick it runs off as it melts? Hiker traffic and how compacted the snow gets, which turns to ice with the freeze/thaw cycles? How many springs are in the area? I do always try and guess how icy trails will be based on the first three things I listed, but there's still plenty of surprises no matter how much I look at it. Unless I know for sure a trail is iced out I bring my traction just in case.


Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:31 am
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Cardigan was my first hike ever. Must have been about 10 years old. Don't think I ever made the summit that time though. It did not exactly instill in me the greatest desire to take up hiking....but again, I was an overweight 10 year old. :D But when I took up hiking for good I realized it's charm. I enjoy going back once and a while, though our PM conversation reminded me how pathetically long it has been. I have been wanting to go back and do the Holt trail (but clearly not now, and not until a nice dry spell hits in the summer :D ).

Anyway, lovely photo journal as usual. I really need to suck it up and start carrying my Canon again. :roll:


Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:46 pm
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 Re: Firescrew/Cardigan/Orange Loop - 4/14/16
Ah, I have to go back to Firescrew- it's such a nice piece of real estate. I did Firescrew and Cardigan as a loop about this time last year, and there was still 2-3 feet of snow in a lot of places! Amazing what a difference a year can make...

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Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:04 pm
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