It’s hard to find appropriate hikes this time of year as the higher elevation trails are still in winter mode and the lower elevation trails are turning into a muddy mess.  Conditions looked okay over in New Hampshire though, and we made plans to hike Mount Cardigan and Firescrew Mountain from AMC’s Cardigan Lodge.  I’d been to the lodge once before for a different hike in a different season.  Although it’s technically spring, it still looks like winter, and it was time for Chuckles and Spoon’s new puppy’s first hike.  Darby is half poodle/half shepherd and should make for an excellent trail dog.

I thought we’d be in snowshoes since it was already 60° as we got started and the snow would be soft, but the guy in the lodge said the trail was still packed down and we’d be fine with just spikes.  We actually started out in bare boots up the Manning Trail, which was almost totally still snow-covered.  A few short parts of it were more like a stream, but we were able to rock hop those parts.  As we got higher, we did encounter some large swaths of slick ice so we put our spikes on and kept motoring from there.

The trail opened up to views to the north as we approached the top of Firescrew Mountain.  According to AMC, Firescrew was “given its name during an 1855 forest fire that sent flames and smoke spiraling up from its summit. The same fire cleared the upper slopes of Cardigan of all soil and vegetation.”  As we got even higher, we took off our spikes and stuck to just rocks.

We had lunch at the summit at 3064′, Lily read some poetry, and then we packed back up to head over to Mount Cardigan, again in bare boots as we mostly stuck to rocks and some packed snow on Mowgli’s Trail.

There is a fire tower on the summit of Mount Cardigan at 3155′, and although you can’t go in it, there are still expansive views all around.  Cardigan is on the 52 with a View list, after all.  We ran into several large groups near/on the summit but once we started hiking again, we didn’t see many people.

We headed down the Clark Trail, but once below treeline we managed to get onto the Alexandria Ski Trail by accident.  No worries, it later connected with the Holt Trail and went right back to Cardigan Lodge after a 5.5 mile loop.

It was 70° back at the lodge.  What a gorgeous day!  We found some barbecue with outdoor seating on the way home to prolong the time in the sun.