Firescrew and Cardigan
JUNE 4, 2022
Maybe it is leftover Covid. Perhaps it has to do with the massive clouds of pollen creating an apocalyptic year for allergies...or both. Whatever it was, I couldn't manage an epic hike over 4,000 footers this weekend. Instead, we hit two 3,000 footers; Mount Cardigan and its neighbor, Mount Firescrew. Cardigan is a little higher and the views are wider, but Firescrew has views, too, along with fewer people and a cooler name. Our route (Manning Trail to Firescrew then Mowglis to Cardigan and finally Clark, Clark-Holt Cutoff, and Holt back to our car at the AMC Cardigan Lodge) Was about 6.2 miles round trip and the views were spectacular...at least once the coulds burned off.
The directions for our route were provided by an older gentleman who was working at the AMC lodge at the trailhead. I will always listen to people like this. Every trail in the country has a team of often-retirees who do the heavy lifting to keep a place safe and looking good. Their relationship with their territory is frequently intimate and long-standing. I always learn something in these conversations, even if I don't always take the advice. This time, though, the advice was sound and we took it.
I don't interrupt, either, when they tell me a thing I already know. In the aggregate, I am learning. They don't need to be aware of my limited areas of knowledge when they are trying to help me fill the gaps. I try to remind myself of the lesson from Epictetus, "Get rid of self-conceit...for it is impossible to anyone to begin to learn that which they think they already know."
Strangely, there is something in a human that makes us simultaneously ask a question and try to prove we didn't need the answer in the first place. I am not sure why we do this but it happens all the time. On this trip someone asked me about the conditions on Manning and then--after I answered--assured me that he was already aware. If that was indeed the case, what strange behavior to take the time for asking!
We started out in the fog and light rain. We saw little when we reached the first ridge area on the side of Firescrew. The trail was lovely, though, and lightly traveled with a group of three women somewhere ahead of us and--as far as we could tell--no one behind. We finally met up with the women as they were taking a lunch break on Firescrew with within sight of Cardigan and its fire tower ahead. We took a break as well and soaked in the emerging views as the overcast wore off.
From then on we were accompanied by fabulous puffy clouds seemingly fighting with each other, the Sun, and the mountains themselves. What had started as a depressing limitation lifted enough to add to a general drama in the climb that unfolded along the exposed rock that began before Firescrew, over Cardigan and on down the other side. There was a bit of rock climbing to do. Also, pools of rainwater, with their own ecosystems, dotted the ridge in various places. We could see an abundance of "crevice communities" like the ones I found hiking Welch-Dickey, as well. We were careful, of course, not to step on any of them and the trail made them relatively easy to avoid...as long as we were comfortable leaping over the pools.
The exposed rock, by the way, is part of the Cardigan Pluton; the remains of an ancient volcano or volcanic system. It is--according to Wikipedia--"approximately 20 km wide by 90 km long and on average about 2.5 km thick." That is a lot of now-cold magma! There were interesting white veins--the result of the dynamic cooling process long ago--hatching the rock in places. I am not a geologist (obviously) but the diversity of the stone beneath us made the journey that much more interesting.
Near the top of Cardigan we ended up talking to a young man and his two dogs. He had been climbing this mountain since he was a kid and had some good suggestions for other hikes. It looked like he planned to be up there for the day, having brought some beer and snacks. He was also packing heat, which was a bit of a surprise. I didn't ask about it. Maybe he always does or maybe he was worried about bears. A family of bears that we sighted on Shaw a few weeks ago have now become quite the challenge for hikers there. Either way, after a chat we declined his offer of a drink and headed down.
On the way down we met a lot of people heading up. Once again, it is best to go early and avoid the rush! We passed a few more spectacular views and a lovely little stream before meeting up with the old guy who gave us directions at the beginning. This time he was pushing his wheelbarrow toward a trail-maintenance site. I am not sure he recognized us from earlier, but it was great to see him and others working on an accessible nature trail for folks who can't handle the climb but want to be in nature.
In the end it was a great day out on a challenging and beautiful loop trail. I would totally do it again.
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I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.