This was my fifth ascent of this very beautiful NH mountain. This time I went up the Manning Trail, crossed over Firescrew Mtn and on to Cardigan, then descended by the Clark trail. The whole trip is about 6 miles. The weather was sunny and 82 degrees.
When I arrived at the parking lot at 10:22 AM there were already 45 cars there. Apparently the AMC lodge was full and had some programs scheduled this weekend. On the way up the trail I met a man from Bristol NH and his daughter coming down. They had a friendly dog named Cosmo. When they were on the summit there was no breeze but I predicted correctly that there would be one by the time I got there.
There were some trilliums out but no other wildflowers. The cotton grass on the ledges had not grown up yet. On the trails I saw a red squirrel, chipmunk, garter snake, and flicker. I reached the lower ledge on Firescrew Mtn at 11:38 AM. I had lunch on a higher ledge with great views of the White Mtns at 12:05 PM. There were some gnats out but they didn't get so bad that I had to spray bug repellent to banish them. From my lunch spot I could see Lafayette, Lincoln, and Liberty Mtns, as well as Mt Washington, all of which I've climbed. A flock of turkey vultures flew by and I took some photos of them. Once I was up on the ledges a pleasant light breeze came up. Usually Cardigan is much windier than that.
On the way to Cardigan a large troop of boy scouts from Bedford NH came by on the way down, all carrying heavy backpacks. They even had a 79 year old scout leader carrying a heavy pack.
Finally at 2:12 I reached the summit and resting, soaking up the sun and the great views in all directions. I could see boats out on Newfound Lake. Off to the west I could see Pico and Killington.
The Clark trail back down was more gradual than my route up. There were some pretty waterfalls near the end. I was back out at 5:01 PM. I recommend this loop in the direction that I took it, because the ledges tend to break up the ascent and make it more pleasant than just one solid uninterrupted climb.