Orange Cove Camp Out/ Mt. Cardigan Hike
November 22, 2008
Ari, Galen, Robin, Derk, Seth, Jack, Matt
Frank Roberts, Yorke Brown, Tim Smith

The original plan for Orange Cove was that we would divide the troop into two temporary patrols, the "Cardigan Patrol" and the "Orange Cove Patrol". The older, more experienced scouts would be the Cardigan Patrol and they would take the longer, harder hike up over the summit. The younger scouts would take the simpler route straight to Orange Cove. Orange Cove itself is a pond on the north side of Mount Cardigan. This way we could meet the introduction to winter camping and an introduction to mountaineering for both group.

As it was, the temperature started plunging and the overnight forecast was in the single digits. So it was decided that this might not be a good first cold weather camp-out and the "Orange Cove Patrol" event was canceled. But still, seven hardy scouts and three adults headed for the summit.

It is hunting season, something which always gives me pause. But this year I have a solution. I bought five yards of fleece, in a bright "Hunter Orange", and cut them into scarves, five feet long and one foot wide. At about a dollar a piece, it was a simple and inexpensive item I could just hand out to everyone who signed up. In the end it was a brilliant idea which served multiple purposes. First, not one of us was shot! We didn't try wearing antlers on our heads at the same time - but I think, even then, we were sufficiently orange (and since it is a scouts - also sufficiently loud) that we were hunter safe. Secondly the scouts soon saw that the color of the scarfs and the name of our destination coincided. What else could you wear on a trek to Orange Cove. Third, it is use to spot members of our crew. Finally, it was warm. I think we all thought we knew what 10-15 degrees feels like. But it was really windy up on top. I also was told that a number of scouts wore their scarves to bed that night.

We meet at the Community Center at 8:30 and were soon on our way east through Enfield and Canaan on route 4, then into the Town on Orange and Cardigan State Park and the trail head. We did a bit of a car shuffle so tomorrow we will be able to go home, and then we shouldered up. I was delighted to be able to look around at the ten of us and see ten scarves in use. I never really lost sight of anyone, because the hunter orange is so florescent that you can see it through a good tangle of brush.

We headed up the West Ridge Trail. All of us have done this hike at least once, and many of us multiple times - but generally in milder weather. It is only about two and a half kilometers to the summit and the first three quarters of that is just an uphill trudge in the snow. We had expected more autumn, and less wintry, conditions. So we are without crampons or snowshoes. There are a number of patches of ice, rock ledges encased in frozen water - but still pitched like a roof. These are tricky to negotiate.

Just before tree-line we stop to learn how to "rope-up". We each tie on a harness - like we do for rock climbing. Then we learn a new knot - the "Butterfly Knot", which is tied into the rope about every three or four meters. "Roping-up" is not just tyeing a new fancy knots - it is about learning how to walk again. You need to learn to not trip up on your own rope, to not get your rope tangled in the brush or on the rocks, and finally to get use to the idea that the rope might be blown horizontal - and if not horizontal, it will certainly not be in the direction which you had hoped for.

As we moved out onto the open top of the mountain the wind took us by surprise. One of us lost a mitten - blown a hundred meters across the bare rocks and over a cliff face before we could catch it. We did rescue a hat, and now better understand the need for carrying extra hats and mittens.

At the top we huddled downwind of the fire-tower, a slightly sheltered refuge from the wintry blast. But we did not tarry long, and soon headed toward Firescrew, a peak about a kilometer north of Cardigan. Between the two peaks, in a col with some trees and shelter, we stopped for lunch - but it is still to cold to spend much time here.

We followed the Mowglis trail from Cardigan, over Firescrew, down past Crag Camp - a three sided cabin which looked tempting, and past the Cilley's Cave turn off. This is the same trail three of us hiked this summer for our Long Trek. But there is a world of difference between a hot day in August and a wintry day in November.

Finally we turn down the "Orange Cove Trail", now a logging road, and in an easy kilometer we are at the pond. Our camp site is on the far shore. We end up crossing the "Number Seven Brook" by walking across the beaver dam which makes the pond, and set up our camp.

It is a cold night and after pitching tents we get a fire going, make our dinners and hunker down for the evening. I walked along the shore of the pond that night. The sky is brilliant, dazzling with starlight. Is it the cold or the stars which take my breath away?

It gets down to about 10-degrees that night. A few of the boys contended that they only survived because of hand-warmers. Other pointed out that hand-warmers are a sign that you need better mittens. A cold night, and a welcome dawn.

In the morning we have breakfast. It seems to me that even if I start with boiling water for my oatmeal and tea, breakfast is already well cooled before I can get it to my lips.

On our way out of the camp site Ari crawls out onto the ice and thinks it is thick enough. I also crawled out and realized that I could see air bubbles frozen into the ice at least eight centimeters below the surface - which means that the ice is safe to walk across. It is also much simpler to walk across the pond to the road, then to pick our way across the Beaver Dam.

From here it is just a short hike downhill to trails end.

Getting Ready


West Ridge Trail

Galen, Derk & Ari

Roped-up at tree-line

Ropes can tangle

Looking back west

Crew goes to the top

In the shelter of the fire-tower

Headed north across the summit

Headed north across the summit

Derk on Firescrew (Cardigan back)

Finding the trail on Firescrew


Pond at camp in the evening

Scoutmaster in the evening

Camp in the morning

Camp in the morning

Orange Cove Pond

Jack on trail out

Scoutmasters - Frank & Yorke