This was a day for a nice solo dayhike. Some friends are planning on finishing up their 4000'ers on Carrigain, and all I had left on my second round was the Hancocks and Isolation, having done Owls Head earlier this summer. Plus, having only done the Hancocks once many years ago, my memory of them was pretty vague. I was looking forward to seeing this "new" area and appreciate it all over again. As it turns out, the day was perfect weather in this summer of continual rain.
I could tell it was going to be a good day when I got to the trailhead at the hairpin turn on the Kanc by the view of the Osceola's from the parking lot. I quickly packed up and headed out not really expecting to see to many people on the trail based on the parking lot. The first stretch of this hike is on the Hancock Notch trail, which is an old logging road so the grade was pretty level. It passes through some wonderful spruce and fir woods, and with the sunlight streaming through it put me a good mood for the rest of the day. I reached the junction with the Cedar Brook trail before I knew it.
After this junction, the trail crosses a number of stream crossings, several within a very short stretch. Still, the grade remains mostly gentle, if occasionally wet. Then you hit the junction with the Hancock Loop trail which is where the climbing really begins. From here you climb up past and across some rocky streams, higher and higher. Eventually, the trail hits a fork and you have to choose whether to take the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. The climb up both sides of the loop are steep, but I chose to go up South Peak first. It's a bit steeper, but has better footing and more rock steps than the other side, which probably makes it a better choice for the descent. I wanted to end up on the North Peak which has a better view.
So, up I went. The climb is indeed steep but not a bad journey. I only saw about 4 people on the way up. There are a few views of North Peak through the trees as you approach the top, but the summit is just a sign in the woods. Just below the summit is a view to the east that is a welcome rest point. From there the loop starts around to North Hancock. It's a wonderful trail, it starts with a few nice views towards Carrigain and Signal Ridge, and my next stop North Hancock. The loop does a bit of up and down and passes through some gorgeous terrain along the way. There was an especially neat fir wave as the trail climbs towards the North summit. I began seeing more and more people, all headed the opposite direction. I guess I chose the less popular direction or just got on the trail after everyone else.
Finally, I popped out at the summit and dropped down to the ledges to grab lunch and soak up the sun. The Osceolas looked a little different from my new vantage point. It's also about the only place along the loop where you get a nice view of South Hancock. With my borrowed digital camera I took a panoramic movie of the view. There were several people hanging out there enjoying the sun and view up there, and we spend a good deal of time picking out all the summits we could see. The drop off the summit is pretty steep, and the footing is less firm than the other side of the loop. At the very bottom loop you cross a streambed before climbing up to the junction with the other side of the loop. Just above the crossing, the stream goes undergrown and disappears for 25 yards or so; pretty amazing. The trip out from there went quickly, I hike out with two guys from Berlin NH and their wonderful dogs. I finished the day by driving up to Franconia Notch to take some new shots of the Cannon Cliffs and some recent rockfall.
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