Monday, August 17, 2015

The Whites and Greens from Orange

From Cardigan looking north northwest. (All photos by author except where noted.)

When I reached the summit of Mount Cardigan, hiking it the first time with D two years ago, I recalled feeling as if I was on the top of the world. I experienced the same sensation atop Ben Nevis in Scotland, Great Britain’s highest peak with views to the clouds below. The similarities end there, however, as Ben Nevis was a July summer cable car ride to 4,409 feet and Cardigan was a well-earned 1.5 mile climb to 3,155 feet. Spectacular views, available only on foot, have special rewards.

Cardigan’s treeless granite top in Orange, New Hampshire, affords 360-degree views—towards the White Mountains in the north; the Green Mountains of Vermont to the west; Newfound, Squam, and Winnipesaukee Lakes to the east; and the Sunapee area (Lake and ski) to the south. Who could ask for anything more on a nearly clear summer day? The temperature and wind can surprise (similar to much-higher peaks) and even in summer a jacket and warm hat may be required.

Same place, two years earlier. 

On that June 16, 2013, hike, we were just becoming familiar with the Orange/Canaan area that we had chosen as the principal player in our New Jersey exit strategy. We had been scouting real estate remotely from Jersey, and in person on regular visits north, for more than a year. We had just made an offer to purchase land on Tug Mountain, opposite Cardigan, but were not certain that the deal, which involved an estate and multiple lawyers in two states, would come to fruition. When we gazed from Cardigan toward the few houses on Tug, we did not know that two years later we would be looking at our own swath of paradise—with a view of Cardigan.
The homestead, third clearing from left.

Fast forward to last week when we climbed Cardigan again. Early on an August Friday we left our car in the trailhead parking lot, one of only three, and started our climb up 1,200 feet on the well-maintained (with log staircases and wooden bridges) and popular trail. Hours later when we descended, the parking lot was jammed full with 35 cars.

From “Old Baldie’s” top we got to see what the homestead looks like from above (and two miles away). I imagined how, a year from now, people will be looking at our home from Cardigan. It is humbling to think of living among such raw, majestic beauty—the 5,655 acres of Cardigan Mountain State Park our prominent neighbor. We vow to be guardians of nature, minimally (and aesthetically) altering what the Maker has entrusted.

Ben Nevis panorama by Leo Hoogendijk; Creative Commons license. 

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