Cannon Mountain, 04-29-14

My slowest work month is April, so it’s a good time to spring ski. I’ve always thought that music goes especially well with spring skiing, I like skiing and listening to music being blasted through speakers up and down the hill while I blast through the big, soft moguls of late spring. Last night, April 28, we watched a really good documentary about the Eagles; the iconic American band. It was about 2 ½ hours long, everything about the band, from their beginning, their rapid rise to stardom, their music, relationships, break up and their comeback. The next morning I left for my one and only appointment, in Franconia. It’s a long way to go for just one appointment but I still had to make it. Besides, it’s a nice day and at least I’ll get to drive through the notch, there’s still a ton of snow on Cannon Mountain. As I left I grabbed the Eagles Greatest Hits and their Hotel California CD’s. I cranked it up loud on the 100 mile drive up to Franconia, the loudest I’ve listened to music in a long time. I have my skis and poles in the car, but no ski boots. I’m wearing dress pants, a dress shirt and a Northface vest. I listen to the Greatest Hits CD first; Take It Easy is the first song.

As I approach the Notch, I think that I should have brought my ski boots. Even though Cannon is closed for the season, I could have hiked and skied, earned my turns. I was pretty upset I didn’t think to have my ski boots in the car and some ski clothing. Upon arriving in the Notch, I pulled over into the parking lot for the Basin and called to verify my appointment. The client asked me to meet him at a coffee shop called MoJo’s right in Franconia Village. I was about 20 minutes early for the appointment and when I pulled into MoJo’s parking lot I see Franconia Sports ski shop about 25 yards away. I get out of my car, walk into the ski shop and rent a pair of ski boots for ten bucks. I had a little chat with the employee (Andy) and told him that I had skis and poles in my car, but no boots and that I was going to go hike and ski Cannon. He adjusted the boots to my bindings for free! He mentioned that Cannon got a couple of inches of snow just two nights ago and that a lot of people have been earning their turns. We talked about how much snow was up on the summit, that it must be 4 to 5 feet deep in places. We both complained that Cannon doesn’t stay open long enough in the spring. I mention that given all the snow making capability on both sides of Cannonball, they could blow a ton more snow up there then they do and keep Cannonball open till July Fourth. Such is not the case though. After my short appointment with the client, I headed south, back to Cannon Mountain. On the way down I93 to the notch, I said to myself; don’t forget to bring the boots back to the ski shop when I’m done. I cranked up the Eagles, now listening to the Hotel California CD. The summit of Cannon comes into view; it is absolutely covered in snow. It’s a shame they don’t run that summit quad till June and download on the high speed quad, people would pay to ski it.

I arrive at the mountain and park at the bottom of the front five, it’s 45 degrees, mostly sunny and very little wind. I look up and see 3 other skiers, skinning their way up Avalanche. I put the rental boots on, duct tape together the ski tips and throw them over my right shoulder; put both ski poles in my left hand and start to hike up Avalanche in my dress cloths. There’s been more than one skier that has hiked up this slope before me. There’s a nice set of foot steps in the soft snow making it easier to hike up the steep slope, thanks to whoever broke trail. I make it up to the top of Avalanche in about a ½ hour and take a rest. This is the trail junction with Paulie’s Extension. I look up Paulie’s, the snow ends about 500 yards up the slope. That is where I will begin my decent. I make it up to that point in about 20 minutes; I was taking my time as I went, nice and steady, taking it easy. Yes, take it easy. I think to myself of that first Eagles song I listened to in the morning, and one of the greatest stanzas in music: “Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see, It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me”…..take it easy, take it easy. What a song.

I make it up to my starting point, about half way up the mountain and find a nice flat rock to sit on. I look to my right, this is about the one and only place on Cannon Mountain where you can see the Presidential Range to the left of Mount Lafayette and Mount Pierce, over Twin Mountain and the forested valleys. I can see at least one peak of the snow covered Presidentials, the others are shrouded in the clouds. I gaze to the left, to the horizon and start counting peaks from right to left. These are the lower mountains of the Great North Woods and are not nearly as tall as the Presidential or Franconia peaks None the less, they are just as remote, probably even more remote. I wish I knew the names of everyone of them, but I don’t even know the name of one. I count 50 summits, more or less, and come upon the view of Willoughby Gap in Vermont, I have got to get back to that gem soon, back to that spectacular lake at the bottom of that Gap. I continue looking to the left, to Jay Peak and other mountains in Vermont, some of them are probably in Quebec, but the horizon is somewhat shrouded and I can’t make out any specific mountains of our neighbor to the north. Finally, the trees on the slopes of Cannon block the view further to the west, I can not see Mount Mansfield. I look down below me, the north end of Echo Lake and the State Beach are in view. The lake temperature is in the forty’s, the trout must be near the top and hungry as the water is finally starting to warm up. No time to fish today though, skiing is on the agenda. Suddenly, a fox is making its way across the ski slope about 150 yards below me. It’s huge, healthy and beautiful and I reach for my camara to zoom in on it but it disappears into the woods before I can take a picture. A hiker comes down the mountain with a well behaved white lab hiking buddy. We have a nice talk, he hiked up the Franconia Ridge trail and came down the ski slopes. I advise him to keep that lab close by, there’s a fox down below.

I feel rested after the climb so I click into my skis and begin the decent. The snow is soft and smooth, my skis sink in about an inch or two, it’s perfect snow as far as I’m concerned. There are some easy moguls to ski in places, other places it’s just smooth and creamy. I take three short stops on the way down and look around. I make every turn count, because I have earned them.

I make it to the bottom in no time, turn around and look up at my tracks and feel satisfied. I’m glad I rented the boots, it was worth the ten bucks. I take them off and put my dress shoes back on and drive 100 yards down to the Tram Station and park. I go visit the New England Skiing Musuem for about 20 minutes. They are in the process of making a new display about ski history in Vermont. I look at the huge photo of Tuckerman’s Ravine from back in the 60’s that takes up an entire wall. Damn, I have got to get back up to that ravine; there must be ten feet of snow up on that glacier. I leave the musuem and get back in my car and crank up the Eagles. I hit the parkway and make it down to Tripoli Road and take the exit. I call Andy at Franconia Sports, I forgot to return the ski boots. He laughed and told me not to worry, just drop them off the next time I’m up that way.

I arrive home and do some work. I received seven new assignments so I’ll be busy the next day or two. The last assignment received will take me to Meredith, NH. That’s not too far from Cannon, kind of, maybe I’ll have to schedule my appointments in a way that will get me back up on that mountain to hike and ski. Besides, I have to take those rental boots back. Even more, I have got to get up to the very top.

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