Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Cold Trek to Avalon

Crawford Notch. 8:30 am. Minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind chill somewhere near 20 below or colder. Our group of five (plus Kodi) hoisted our heavy winter packs and with the wind swirling through the Notch we hiked past the Crawford train depot and ducked into the woods and out of the wind. No escaping the cold, however.

A look back at the Crawford train depot before ducking into the woods


Our destination was 3,442-foot Mt. Avalon, and beyond if conditions allowed. Yesterday we debated back and forth whether to attempt a hike on such a cold day. The temperature was forecast to remain below zero. But the views on such a clear, cold day would be spectacular. We worried about Kodi's paws, but he's performed well before and seems to like the cold. However, sub-zero snow underfoot is another thing entirely.


The Avalon Trail was well-packed and we progressed easily in our bare boots. The beauty of winter hiking is that regardless of the temperature, when you start hiking uphill you warm up quickly. We were all pretty comfortable, except for Kodi.

The first 1.3 miles of the Avalon Trail is an easy grade. At the juncture with the A-Z Trail, Avalon Trail turns left and begins a steep climb for 0.5 miles to the short spur that leads to the top of Mt. Avalon. We moved slowly up the 1/2 mile pitch as we sucked in the cold mountain air with deep breaths. Kodi stopped often to lick his paws, his warm tongue soothing his cold feet and melting small ice balls that formed between his toes.

The 100 yard spur to the top of Mt. Avalon is beautiful in winter. The peaks in Crawford Notch were more socked in than we expected so distant views were non-existent. Views close in made up for some of the lack of sweeping views. Two gray jays entertained Kodi enough that he forgot about his cold paws for a bit. We were protected from the fierce winds atop Mt. Avalon so we lingered a little longer.





We descended back to the small col below the summit and decided that for Kodi we needed to turn back, rather than continue on and up to Mt. Field and over to Mt. Tom. I think our hiking companions have all grown fond of Kodi and readily agreed to shorten the trip. Secretly some of us didn't mind heading back down to a warmer place too. It was cold. We arrived back at the AMC Highland Center parking lot around noon. Temperature minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many hardy folk were on the trails today; we passed people going up and down on the Avalon Trail. Back at the Highland Center we spread out our lunch and snacks from our packs in the dining room and warmed our bodies with hot soup. It felt good to have hiked to Mt. Avalon and back and it felt good to have our lunch inside rather than trail side on the slopes of a frigid Mt. Field. Kodi was glad to be snuggling back in his crate in the car. He was fine, although we need to check out dog booties for future cold, winter hikes.

On the drive home we paused briefly at the Intervale to take in the spectacular view of Mt. Washington - clear and cold in the distance.

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