I was staying in Franconia with family and was looking for a mountain close by that would be a nice short hike time wise while still offering a good workout to see how my legs would hold up. Cannon Mountain fit this perfectly. I was a little nervous about setting off on a solo hike as I wasn’t sure if there would be any other hikers this early in the season, and was afraid I might be on my own if I twisted an ankle….or had a massive heart attack. And then there is the bear factor… I don’t know why but I have a very intense fear of bears. I decided to try and lower my bear anxiety before the hike by reading up a little, and was reassured with the fact that bears will not bother people unless they are hungry…and then they may try to eat you.
I started my 4,000 footer hiking adventure at 12:41pm on May 22, 2011. The trail leaves from the south end of the tramway parking lot and starts off pretty easily but that unfortunately did not last long. It did not give me a whole lot of time to get warmed up as it soon started climbing steadily and gaining elevation at a rapid pace, but I took it all in “stride” because I was born very limber and have never needed much time to stretch(knock on wood). Before long I was catching glimpses of Echo Lake(a personal favorite of mine) far below through the trees and was surprised at how high I had gotten so quickly. I also noticed my lungs seemed to be on fire and figured it was a good opportunity for my first of what ended up being about 100 breaks on the way up. I took a little sip of water and was on my way again before the bears could catch wind of me.
It was about this time that the trail started to zigzag over a mysterious clearing that runs up the mountain that was caused by either a landslide, an avalanche, a lightening strike, bears or some sort of water erosion(there was a stream in places so this probably makes more sense), but offered some nice views as I climbed. My legs were really starting to hate me by now and I was basically climbing for 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds but was actually making some good progress. I met a couple groups of hikers coming down(and one dog who appeared to be laughing at us) and they all seemed to look bewildered when I asked if I was getting close to the top.
I continued on for a while and finally got above the stream and started noticing small patches of ice which meant I was definitely gaining some elevation at least, lots of mud and bugs mixed in too which is to be expected in May hikes. I also started entering some thick pine which is one of the cooler parts of a trail in my opinion…… when you start getting into the smaller evergreens and know you are approaching the summit.
The trail continued for a while on fairly level ground with even a couple dips in places before I breached the trees and came out onto a wide clearing of rocks with an astounding view of thick fog. While I would have preferred a nice view, sometimes a hike into the clouds is strangely satisfying. I passed one more group of hikers coming down who assured me I was almost there and the next thing I knew I had reached the trail that rims the summit of cannon.
My goal was the observation tower to call the peak officially “bagged” and I was catching glimpses of it through the fog as I moved off to the left to circle around. This lasted for only a couple minutes and then I finally made the last surge to the top to find of all things…..stairs. This was probably the hardest part of the entire hike, trying to walk up a flight of stairs with jelly legs…but I finally made it to the top of the observation tower. I didn’t spend too much time on top since it was too cloudy to see anything but I took a few pictures to prove I was there, took a deep breath and set off for the return trip down. I realized I was the last person up there for the day which was kind of cool and eery at the same time. I retraced my steps down the mountain and arrived back in the parking lot about an hour later. Total hiking time was 4 hours with about 20 minutes spent at the top. 1 down, 47 to go!