The ride to Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Cardigan Lodge is an adventure in itself. As you proceed down the back roads of Alexandria, AMC sign leads the way. Trust them, not your instinct or GPS device and eventually you’ll arrive at your destination, Cardigan Lodge. One might consider it the “road less traveled” and more convenient for those coming from the south than driving all the way to the White Mountains. These back roads offer interesting sights, from the farm fresh egg stands to Cardigan Mountain Soap Works which introduced me to my first experience of scented organic soap made right there in Alexandria. Arriving just before sundown, I was relieved to find a cozy-looking three story cottage that I would spend a relaxing night in before my hike up Mount Cardigan and into Cardigan Mountain State Park. Upon entering to the dining area, I was greeted by a friendly AMC attendant who showed me to my room and let me know that in the off season meals are supposed to be provided by guests but that they would be happy to make a warm dinner for me.
Mostly occupied in the summer season, Cardigan Lodge was still energized on the weekend of Thanksgiving with a nearly full parking lot. Guests to the lodge were always friendly, striking up small conversations with me and just saying “hi” which made my stay here feel warm. The multipurpose lounge downstairs had comfy couches and warm heat radiating from electric heaters, providing a great place to catch up on some leisurely reading after dinner. After a great night’s sleep at the lodge, I was refreshed in the morning ready for Cardigan Mountain. For my overnight stay, they had all the amenities I could ask for. All I really needed for the night was my sleeping bag.
Waking up in the morning, I was reminded how glad I was to stay at Cardigan Lodge. Not only did my room provide a direct view of the mountain I was soon to conquer but the trail was easily accessible. After leaving the lodge and turning right, I was already on my way to the summit.
With many different trails that both go into the forests around Cardigan Lodge and lead toward the top of Mount Cardigan, I finally decided to ascend up the Clark-Holt Trail. It proved to be a good workout but not overly challenging.
Reaching the top of “Old Baldy”, the wind picked up tremendously but the views were too good for New England weather to spoil. The slightest shelter under some frail pine trees that stood out on the complete rock surface (hence giving it the nickname “Old Baldy”), allowed me to set up my camera to capture the 360 views that extended all the way toward New York and Vermont.
Passing by the High Cabin on my way back from South Peak, activity was in full swing as a group of hikers mingled inside and a man carried out a shovel of ashes from stoking the fire. Greeting me, he let me know I was on the correct way down the mountain mentioning “Beautiful day isn’t it” as I said back “Yeah, not bad at all”.
As I went down, hikers were still climbing the summit making me realize I still had plenty of time to explore other forests of Alexandria, all thanks to Cardigan Lodge letting me get an early start. Even though it wasn’t swimming weather, I headed for Welton State Forest which provided a leisurely walk along Fowler River, allowing me to see the impressive gorge which still had plenty of water flowing. I now know where I am overnight camping this summer.
Much thanks to Rob Burbank and the staff of AMC Lodge Mount Cardigan for setting up my stay over Thanksgiving weekend.