“You got hikers coming? One of them is running!”

Cohos Trail, Day Six: Cabot Cabin to Percy Lodge

We woke at 6am but didn’t start moving around the cabin until our bunkmate left. It was gray, damp, cloudy, and cold. We went over the proper, forested summit of Mt. Cabot—the last 4,000+ foot peak on the Cohos. This is an important delineation for our guidebook’s editor/author, and the creator of the trail, K. R. Nilsen, or Kim: We’ve entered the large and mysterious Great North Woods.

Nilsen writes:

The summit of Mt. Cabot marks the demarcation between two distinctly different worlds. South of the summit, the air smells like city money, and the towns begin to bend to the forces of the great American Race de la Rat. North of Cabot, the air smells of money that grows on trees — forest products money.

…There is a hint of nobility about it, don’t you think? Great North Woods!

Here logging is king but the once common papermaking business has all but vanished. Moose are the guardians of the realm.

This guidebook entry certainly lent an air of gravitas to our progress that day. But while the moodiness of the weather felt appropriate to the Great North Woods!, it also led us to skip the spur trail to The Horn, which reportedly has spectacular vistas from the bald rock summit. Of course, the sun began slanting through the clouds just a little while later—maybe or 15 or 20 minutes further down the trail—and I began to doubt our decision…

We took a break to prepare coffee and hot cocoa at Unknown Pond, reportedly a favorite spot for moose, and dramatically veiled in mist that morning.

It rained softly, on and off, as we sipped the hot drink and ate Cheez-its, a truly phenomenal combination. We watched the pond change, minute by minute.

In spite of our vigilance, no moose appeared.

This section of trail reminded us of the Adirondacks, and especially the Northville-Placid Trail.

The terrain was easier, and we didn’t have as far to go as the day before—a huge relief. We made it to Roger’s Ledge by early afternoon. The sky had cleared enough for a decent view, so we lingered.

E stripped off his sodden shoes, socks, and pants.

We were completely absorbed in conversation when someone made us jump—another hiker, asking if this was the summit. She was just out for the night—would maybe camp here, or down on one of the Roger’s Ledge tent platforms.

It was then that I checked what time the general store at Percy Lodge closed and saw it was 5pm. We still had almost 7 miles of trail to go plus a mile-long roadwalk to the lodge, if we couldn’t get a hitch, and it was almost 2pm. At our recent pace, we would never make it.

But we would try. The other hiker said the route wasn’t too steep or challenging.

I took off, attacking that 3.3 mile gentle incline down from Roger’s Ledge with a vengeance. I moved quickly, relatively easily. There was none of the sharp pain from the day before. Sometimes I jogged. We made extraordinarily good time to the spur trail to Devil’s Hopyard, which regretfully we did not take.

South Pond was another temptation, with a sandy beach stretching out into the shallow water. It would have been a good day for a swim. But I wanted snacks! And maybe wine! Or beer!

We pressed on, up the paved entrance/exit to the deserted park, onto a snowmobile trail, finally popping out onto Route 110—leaving the White Mountain National Forest for the last time (on this trail, at least).

We were cutting it close. It was maybe half past 4pm, and my maps app said it was a 45 minute walk to Percy Lodge. I had thought we might be able to get a lift from a passing car or truck but Percy Road, when we turned onto it, was empty. There wasn’t even a painted line down the center. (When I went to fact-check this on Google Maps Street View, I couldn’t; it appears nobody with a Street View camera has ever driven on this road.)

I started jogging, again. So did E, pulling out ahead of me, even in his big external frame bag. A couple vehicles passed us going in the opposite direction and, for the hell of it, I stuck my thumb out. None of them stopped for us. It started drizzling again.

We made Percy Lodge before 5pm, with maybe 10 minutes to spare. Only then did we learn that we would have access to the general store all night, if we wanted it, because we were guests of the Lodge. Whoops.

While I was buying chips, salsa, and beer from the proprietor, she said she got a call from her partner: “You got hikers coming?” he asked, to which she replied “Well, yeah, I’ve got a box here.”

“Well,” he said, “one of them is running!”

“Now I know why!” she exclaimed.