… good, that is. Last weekend’s stroll was the first where sight took a back seat to the other senses.
Some hikes aren’t about the views. The Hancocks, for example, are mostly wooded at the top, and if you’re looking for great summit photos there are plenty of better options on other 4,000-footers and even shorter peaks.
So why did I bother driving all the way down the Kanc last weekend in Bike Week traffic? Hiking, for me, has become more than just a snapshot from the summit. I’m trying to enjoy the journey at least as much as the destination, and the Hancocks offer some of the sweetest hiking around.
The rewards of this 9.8-mile hike come in the miles leading up to the summits. Except for one exceptionally steep .6-mile section, the Hancock Notch, Cedar Brook and Hancock Loop trails are gentle and well-maintained. There’s something for all the senses — the hike smells wonderful, like hiking through a massive Christmas tree farm. The trees loom over the trail almost the whole way, casting much of the day in shadows. By far, though, the defining characteristic of this hike is silence. As in complete, peaceful silence. Hikes in the Pemigewasset area tend to be less popular and thus quieter. This was something different, a complete, enveloping silence.
The quiet was a great antidote to 60-hour work week, the roar of dentist-driven Harleys on the Kanc, the lingering buzz of vuvuzelas. Even the thunderstorm that soaked the trails for the last three miles of the hike couldn’t bring me down — it just added to the fun. The entire day felt like a hike through a Grimm’s Fairy Tale.