Hi Cannon Trail - Cannon Mountain - November 18, 2018

Still acclimating to winter hiking I search for a hike that will be rewarding and also well within my hiking abilities. I decide on Cannon Mountain via the Hi Cannon trail. I check the conditions and it's far enough north that there is already a layer of snow so I won't be trudging through mud. Even though it's a short hike, about 5 miles round trip, I still get an early-ish start and hit the road at 5:45 am. By 7:45 I'm on the trail and there's a few other cars in the lot and one small group just heading off before me. I actually feel like crap, probably from drinking all my coffee on an empty stomach and I force down an egg before I start. Once I get moving I feel better and my legs are more limber.

I start the hike wearing snow pants a few long sleeve shirts, leaving my jacket and microspikes in the pack, hat and gloves off and accessible, and snow shoes attached to the pack. When I get home I realize that I have two mismatched sized snowshoes, good thing I don't need them. There is already a packed trail to follow and it slowly gets a bit steeper and steeper. I'm sliding around just a bit without the spikes on. After a half hour or so I encounter somebody coming down who asks me what mountain we're on and who says he turned back at an icy section that his dog couldn't go up. I think it must have been the wooden ladder which I later encounter. Now that I've gained some elevation I can see into the valley and for the rest of the way up until the ladder you have views the entire time. It's a great motivator to see how high you've gone even though I'm nowhere close to the summit yet. The whole way up is steep, but the trail stays packed and dry and the weather is also clear and dry. I was worried that snow pants would be too warm, with the vents open I'm not sweating too much. So far I still haven't reached for my hat, gloves, or jacket yet.

At some point just before this wood ladder I reach a steep section up some snow covered rocks. I try to go up and slip right back down, I decide it's time to put my spikes and also put my gloves on because I need to start using my hands to assist on some of these big steps up. With spikes on I easily clear this obstacle and immediately after this I encounter the wood ladder. I go up that and there's a great overlook across to Lafayette and Franconia Ridge. I keep pushing on and from here the trail goes inwards towards the summit and there are no more views into the valley the rest of the way to the summit. For this section there is still a packed trail to follow, but it's been less frequented, and I can tell from the fresh layer of snow that I'm the first one to venture out here today.

Hi Cannon View From Ladder Section

Lonesome Lake from Hi Cannon

The rest of the way to the summit is not that exciting. There are a lot of ups and downs and it doesn't feel like I'm making much progress, although I am moving fairly quick. The snow is almost deep enough that I consider snowshoes, they would just slow me down so I go without them. Just before the summit I encounter another person who is coming down via Kinsman Ridge Trail. I reach the summit and have it all to myself. I climb up the overlook platform and take in the views. The weather is still perfectly clear in all directions and there is almost no wind. It's a lot colder now that I'm exposed, but I still don't take out my jacket or hat, just gloves. I learned later that sometimes the tramway is running which ferries people up here, fortunately it's not running today.

Last View Before Cannon Summit

Mt Lafayette from Cannon

Cannon Observation Tower

I'm now about 2 hours in and start heading back down. I keep my spikes on and am able to do a shuffle and ski slide down. I do this the entire way down until the trail levels out at the bottom and it's not steep enough. It takes almost no energy and so I also put on my hat. When I reach the ladder again I stop to rest and eat a snickers bar. Looking at it I realize just how steep this section really is, a stumble here would be bad and you might fall 15 feet or so onto some rocks and trees. I carefully descend the ladder and continue on.

Hi Cannon Ladder

As I get closer to the parking lot I pass a few more groups of people who are climbing up. I make it back to the car at 11:15 and though I'm tired my legs don't feel to beaten like a high mileage hike across the rocky summits like I'm used to. By this time the parking lot has really filled up with cars and people.