Kineo and Cushman are a couple of trail-less peaks in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in Woodstock. I called earlier in the week, and to my joy, the road was open. Also to my joy, Brian drove in his SUV, there were a number of rocks poking up that would make for a very slow drive in my car. We came to an empty lot at the Mt. Kineo Trail. No surprise there, those would come later.
It was apparent this was an experimental forest, as there were plenty of instruments to be found, and flagging was everywhere. The Mt. Kineo trail was quite pleasant, with only a couple of spots in some muddy areas where the trail wasn’t apparent, but only for half a minute or so. Along the way, we saw lots of open woods and moose sign. For jollies, I picked up some moose pellets and flung them at people much to their disgust. This delighted me greatly. For the record, it was old and very dry.
We took a break at the height of land, and were surprised to see someone coming up the other side, and at least Bob and I immediately recognized as Eric Rathbun, whose site has been quite helpful to me for whacking adventures. He was out with his dog, and was toying with going to Kineo, but seeing us clinched it. The ridge to Kineo is at the edge of the Hubbard, with a herd trail and more flagging, so we naturally followed that for some time, but eventually just meandered along the ridge in good woods, avoiding any questionable woods and slabbing PUDs. Bob, who doesn’t particularly enjoy whacking like we do, was pleased, and we were happy we weren’t putting him through hell.
We only saw small patches of snow, which made me very happy to know summer is coming. Near the end, there was a small stand of thick stuff and then we popped out at a small summit cone. Sweet!
We took a break, Eric took a picture of us and made his way out, undoubtedly off for a some other hikes on this day. We then made our way out, following the ridge back out, and then came the biggest shock of the day, we ran into another hiker coming up. OK, this is a first. I’ve run into people on Nancy, but that’s not exactly a whack, it’s a herd path nearly approaching a trail, and that’s a NEHH peak. This was a gentleman from Mass., who recently bought some local property, and decided to “go for a walk.” I like this guy’s style. We started dropping off the ridge. Joe shot off like a bullet heading more towards the car than the trail, and was soon out of earshot. Next, Greg decided he’d drop a little lower, and Bob, Brian and I made our way a little more towards the high end of the trail, avoiding some steep spots down lower. We came to some amazingly open areas, again loaded with moose sign. What a gorgeous region, it must be especially pretty when it greens up.
We came to the trail and made our way out, with Joe waiting at the car. He had good woods and his route had him making excellent time, but had to climb a ravine out of the brook bed. Greg showed up just behind and regaled us with his moose encounter tale. He also had good woods.
Easy! Now on to Cushman. We drove up further and told Bob it was only ¾ mile from the road, so he was in. In the back of my mind was the nagging memory of seeing this route was tough, but a search this week couldn’t find the supporting data. It started out moderately steep, and we were quickly avoiding ledge after ledge without too much trouble. The woods started getting scrappier, sprucier, and tighter. After what seemed like forever, we came to the ridge top west of the summit. This highly anticipated event went from bad to worse. The woods were now horrible
and progressed to horrid. This is a pretty flat summit, so every bump had to be examined for its height. Brian and I agreed this was the thickest woods we’ve ever seen. It was 15-20 foot spruce that were packed together, and there was much hard pushing through dead branches and trunks. The woods then changed to young 8’ spruce and blowdown, which is worse, because you can’t see anything, ahead or below. One spot looked promising, but to be safe we continued along the ridge where at the end, it was apparent we had finally found the highest spot seen yet, and everything ahead and beside us was down.
The only bright side was a small ledgey area to actually have a seat.
There was much cursing of this peak. It got some re-naming with some choice terms. Bob was at least relieved to know we all were pretty miserable with this part of the trip. Poor guy, we teased him in with Kineo and dumped him in this hell. Lucky for us, he’s a hell of a trooper. Now, how to get out of this mess. 200 feet away was better woods, but this was slow going getting to it. Even then, it still was ugly, just less so. It was steep, and stand upon stand of thick woods showed up in front of us, which we sometimes had to push right through. Some eerily dark woods were actually better than expected, but this was through the perspective of the ridge. It was a long, unhappy trek. At last we came to hardwoods, which I’ve never been happier to see. We popped out on the road just below the car. We had at least lucked out with the forecast showers, as it only started misting near the end. Now all we could think about was food. The Common Man in Plymouth provided, although this one was more upscale than the one in Concord. Brian was happy, they had a version of poutine (wicked yummy), and no one went hungry.
Bob, great seeing you again, and I hope we didn’t traumatize you too much. I keep using the term “character building” to describe the day, which is putting a positive spin on the Cushman end of things. It really was an interesting experience, and makes me appreciate good whacks all the more. I’ve always claimed this is a game of mental stamina, and at least can say I’ve proven to myself it’s now where I want it.