Sometime after his death in 1793, 2 mountains were named in his honor. They sat for years between the notches of Franconia and Crawford in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, rather untouched until the completion of the Kancamagus Highway in 1959. A 26.5 mile road that runs through the White Mountains from Lincoln to Conway. This past Sunday, I decided to find these mountains, Hancock Mountain and South Hancock.
My journey started about 4:30 in the morning. I had set my alarm for 5:00 but for some reason, my body decided that I should wake up a half hour early. I tried to go back to sleep for that extra half hour, and I did, but for only about 10 minutes. Not by choice of course. I went back to sleep again to again wake up 10 minutes later. I hadn't the slightest idea as to what was going on, but it was getting a bit frustrated. So after the second time waking up, I just got up and started getting ready for the hike. It was my plan to arrive at the trail head at 7:00 and as it would turn out, waking up that extra 10 minutes allowed me to get to the trail head on time.
When I arrived at the trail head, there was already 1 vehicle in the lot. It was a bit chilly at this time. I had dressed a little light but not light enough for the chilly air to bother me. The first stretch of my trek was on the Hancock Notch Trail. It was 1.8 miles of mostly straight and relatively flat trail. Honestly, the only time the trail turned was when it crossed over the stream. And it did this several times. Honestly, this was the first time I ever had to find ways across streams while hiking. As many times as I have hiked, I have never had to find ways to cross river. These streams weren't all that wide, but sometimes they were deep. There were plenty of rocks to cross on, but remember, it was cold out so I was worried about ice. I found some at one crossing, but I noticed it before stepping on it and falling in. The next .7 miles was spent on the Cedar Brook Trail. More water crossings here, sometimes not making any sense at all, as you would need to cross back over minutes later. But anyhow.
Now even thought I had just hiked 2.5 miles, the real hike didn't start until I reached the Hancock Loop Trail. a 4.8 mile loop that runs up one mountain, along a ridge, and down another. The one thing I had done the night before was do some research as to which mountain to climb and which to descend. As noted in my findings, it was said that I should climb Hancock and descend South Hancock. Considering it had been three months since I last hiked anything, it really didn't matter which mountain I hiked up, until I actually found the base of the mountain. 1.1 miles on the Loop Trail and it finally split. I had chosen to climb Hancock.
Now for a bit of history for you. I had hiked mountains such as Mt. Chocorua, Mt. Major, Mt. Kearsarge, and Mt. Moosilauke. All these mountains are very rocky and steep at times. All of which I found to be fairly easy to handle. I could tell you right now, I had my butt handed to me on a platter. I think that taking 3 months off of hiking probably had most to do with it. Hancock was very rocky and very steep. I had to stop many times on the way up the 0.7 mile climb. The worst part about it was, when I rested, there wasn't a view to enjoy as with most mountains with such accent. Rocks turned into boulders, boulders turned into steps. Steps finally welcomed me to the top where the wasn't much of a view, but there was an outlook were the picture posted on top of this post. I really didn't spend much time at the top since the view provided didn't allow me to sit and enjoy it. I had to stand for it.
From Hancock, I continued on the loop to South Hancock. The trail was covered in snow, packed buy those that hiked before me. The trail was 1.4 miles and a welcome sight after what I had just experiences climbing Hancock, but the fun wasn't over yet. First, before I had even reached the summit of South Hancock, I found an area of water that was iced over. For the most part, the ice was thick enough, except for the spot I stepped on. My foot fell through the ice and into 6 inches of mud which I tried to avoid by pulling my foot back up. The suction was so bad, I felt the muscles in the back of my leg feel like it was being pulled a part. Good thing I was hiking because I had to walk that off. I felt it for quite some time as I continued along. I reached South Hancock and there was an outlook, but nothing to brag about. I am now realizing, not every mountain will have a view from the top. What every 4,000 foot mountain needs though, is a summit sign. I could tell that I was at the summit since there was a cairn, so I rested there. After 15 minutes of rest and a picture or 2 of me at the top, I decided it was time to head down South Hancock and head home. Easier said than done. This part of the loop was 0.5 miles, and it had to have been the worst 0.5 miles I had ever hiked. The descent was steep and glare ice! I had never been so scared in my life! But I was determined to finished this hike instead of turning around and climbing down the way I came. I would have taken a picture of this trail, but please do understand, I probably would have lost my life doing so!
Once I made it down alive, I crossed over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house. No, I did cross back over those streams I crossed over before and walked through the woods I hiked before. When I arrived back at my car, I hiked a total of 9.8 miles. This is the longest I have hiked in New Hampshire, only second to my 11 mile hike up San Jacinto in California. Thinking back, I was rather satisfied with the hike. Even though the climb was hell and the descent was hell, I regret nothing. My knee we tested and it passed with flying colors. So in closing, John Hancock was known for being a pain in the side of the British Government. Today, he was a pain in my side, but nothing I couldn't over come!