This is one of the most beautiful trails of the White Mountains, with steep sections and flat, streams, a lake and a river.
The hike begins with a steep, strenous section up the lower slope south of Cannon Mountain. It eventually levels off at the approach to Lonesome Lake.
Lonesome Lake provides some of the best bog and lake habitat anywhere. Sundew and peat moss line the lakeshore and Cedar Waxwings sing from the trees. There are dragonflies and damselflies everywhere. Views of Mount Lafeyette, the west side of Cannon, and the Cannon Balls are spectacular and spacious.
Past the Lonesome Lake Hut, the trail crosses the west side of Lonesome Lake. This is the last chance to enjoy a view before plunging into the forest. The path parallels the stream that drains Lonesome Lake - at this time of year the stream is active but shallow. Then the trail turns east and descends the ravine above and paralleling the Cascade Brook.
What causes one thing to be a brook and another to be a river in the Whites is not terribly clear. Even without recent rains, this thirty to fifty foot wide rocky stream has a beautiful sound of running water.
On the day we traveled the trail, we had the opportunity to see trail maintenance in progress. The strength and determination of the workers was remarkable. Men and women in their late teens and early twenties carrying fifty to seventy pound logs, digging at the soil, moving rocks with levers and straps.
A brief pause while crossing the stream and then its time to switch to the Cascade Basin Trail. Down a complex interchange of paths and stream islands, across rocks and debris from floods. This switch fully pays off with the arrival at the Rocky Glen Falls. The waterfall is about fifty to eighty feet high and drains a perfect amber pool. A clamber to the top of a nearby rock lets you look down on the ravine where the water flows past you, and then you can move on down the stream.
Eventually, you recross the stream and continue downslope. The stream narrows and there are smooth slabs to either side. Here there are more people, too, as we approach the bottom.
The bottom brings you to the Basin, which is something of a tourist attraction. The rock formations are curious, but even more enjoyable is the icy water that you can use to bathe your tired feet.
From here, a side path takes you to the Pemi Trail, which parallels the Pemigewasset River - a "river" that is barely larger than the "brook". The flat trail is a welcome respite from the steepness, and you may need to make time. On our trip, sunset was closing in.
There are numerous mushrooms, fern and grass areas, fallen trees, and the omnipresent river glowing blue in the skylight beside the trail. But when you get to the end it will probably be with mixed feelings: joy at resting after a fine hike, and sadness at having to leave an excellent trail.
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