Sunday, February 20, 2011

Into The Wind

The only time I wear high heels is when I am snowshoeing. Seriously. Our MSR snowshoes have these "televators" that you lift up under your heel when climbing steep sections of trail. This reduces fatigue on your calves. It is THE only time that I wear shoes with raised heels! The televators came in handy today as we headed north to Crawford Notch for a repeat hike of Mounts Avalon, Field, and Tom - a trio that we hiked in August.

Crawford Notch creates its own weather. We arrived at the Highland Center parking lot at 8:00 am; many other hikers were gathering there too with similar ideas. The winds whipped through the notch, making the 7 degree ambient temperature feel much colder -- well below zero. The surrounding mountains, including our trio, were in the clouds. We met up with our hiking party: the same group that hiked Mt. Moosilauke, plus one. Six of us in all plus Kodi.

Our route took us up the Avalon Trail to Mt Avalon (3,442') and then on to Mt. Field (4,340'). Then a descent on the Willey Range Trail to the A-Z Trail with a side trip up to Mt. Tom (4,051), before the descent back to Crawford Notch. The weather got better as the day progressed; the clouds dissolved and the bluest sky emerged. But the wind did not abate and temperatures remained in the teens, although on the summit of Mt. Tom we were sheltered from severe wind gusts. We wore snowshoes the entire way -- all 7.2 miles. The trails were fairly well-packed by previous hikers, except here and there where snow drifted over. Kodi hiked far more miles - running up and down many sections of trails several times. Gray jays visited us on Mt Field and Mt. Tom. Kodi chased the birds around the summit as best he could.

In the area of the A-Z Trail up to Mt. Tom we saw many fresh (pine) marten tracks. As we descended from Mt. Tom on the A-Z trail I was near the front with Kodi. At one point he wandered off trail, sniffed around the base of several trees, then sat quietly beneath a balsam fir looking up into the tree. I glanced up looking for whatever he smelled or saw. And there about 20 feet up in the fir tree was a marten!! This is the first marten that I have seen in the wild. He or she peered down at Kodi from its perch, watching his every move. All but one person in our group arrived in time to see this very cute member of the weasel family, with its golden-brown face, small, rounded ears, and dark tail. Marten are a threatened species in New Hampshire, although their population is expanding, so we hope to see more of them on future hikes. I did not get a photo, but here is a link to a picture of a marten on Wikipedia.

It was a fabulous day to be out, despite the wind. What follows are a series of photos from our hike today.

Kodi atop Mt. Avalon; the clouds linger into mid-morning

Srini gives Kodi a hug atop Mt. Avalon

The view from Mt. Avalon into Crawford Notch

The trail signs are nearly buried in the deep snow pack

The spruce and fir are coated in fresh snow

On the way from Mt. Avalon to Mt. Field, the intense blue sky emerges

And Mount Washington is visible in the distance

And a black ghost walks in the white forest

A rainbow of colors reflect off the fast-moving clouds overhead

Nearing the summit of Mt. Field

A view just below the summit of Mt. Field

Then from the top, another view to Mt. Washington

Mt. Field - a windy spot, but friendly to gray jays;
the birds capture our attention

And some people like to feed them

While Kodi likes to chase them around the spruce-fir thickets

A view of Mt. Field from near the summit of Mt. Tom 

We arrived back at the Highland Center parking lot by 3:20 pm;
the sky was now clear but the wind still whipped through the notch

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