Sunday, March 10, 2013

Avalon-Field-Willey

By Friday noon another six and half inches of fresh snow had fallen, adding to the still deep snow in our yard. We decided to accept that winter is still with us, rather than lament the lack of an early spring. The high summits forecast for Saturday called for clear skies from dawn to dusk, light wind, and seasonally warm temperatures. So, yesterday we drove north to Crawford Notch for a snowshoe hike into the Willey Range under a brilliant blue sky.

Getting underway a few minutes past 9 am
I started out slow, to get my hiking legs, and to look at fisher tracks and snowshoe hare tracks and all the beautiful birches along the trail.

Fisher tracks head off in the direction of snowshoe hare
The temperature was above 30 degrees when we started and climbed steadily into the upper 40s. We warmed quickly as the climb is steady and steep in places, especially the half mile climb to the col just below the summit of Mt. Avalon. Here we paused to catch our breath and enjoy the snowy woods.

Snowy woods in the col below the summit of Mt. Avalon
The 100 yard hike to the top of Mt. Avalon (3,442') is steep, but worthy of the effort. A look behind on the way up offered a view over to Mt. Tom to the north and Mt. Field to the south.
Mt. Tom 
Mt. Field
A group of seven bare-booting 40-60+ year olds were ahead of us. They consumed a lot of the terrain on top, but eventually they headed off to Mt. Field, messing up the trail along their way going without snowshoes. The view from Mt. Avalon is just awesome and yesterday the High Presidentials looked to be brushed with a coat of white paint.

Mt. Washington and its brethren
Kodi takes in the awesome view
A great view of Mt. Jackson (left) and the cliffs of Mt.Webster (right) from Mt. Avalon
The 1+ mile climb from Mt. Avalon to Mt. Field
was slow, steady, snowy, and beautiful
Atop Mt. Field we fueled up on hot wild rice and chicken soup, before embarking on the 1.4-mile hike over to Mt. Willey (4,285). This was our first ever attempt and the trail was nicely tracked for us, so we pushed on. This is a lovely hike in winter, with downs and ups, and sweeping views south and west into the Pemigewasset wilderness area.

Along the trail from Field to Willey, looking west from left to right:
Bondcliff, Mt. Bond, Mt. Guyot, Zealand Mtn, and South and North Twin.
About in the middle, snow-covered Franconia Ridge peaks over the Bonds.
Mt. Willey - our destination
This route offers a spectacular view down into the Lincoln Woods Scenic Area
and south to Mt. Carrigain--an imposing mountain.
We had the Willey Range Trail from Mt. Field to Mt. Willey and back again all to ourselves. It was quiet, but for a couple curious boreal chickadees. We relished the solitude and the winter beauty. A well-laid snowshoe track and the blue trail blazes let us enjoy the walk and the scenery.
We've done the Avalon-Field-Tom (this time Avalon-Field-Willey) before in summer and winter. It is a favorite hiking route as it offers so many fabulous views all day long and in nearly ever direction.

Descending from Mt. Field,
another great view west to Franconia Ridge and the Twins.
The Willey Range Trail from Mt. Field to the junction with the A-Z Trail
was just too beautiful that I kept pausing to take photos.
At this point our legs were growing tired, so we decided to skip the extra 1-mile round trip to the top of Mt. Tom, and headed back down the A-Z trail and Avalon Trail to Crawford Notch. 
The afternoon sun bathed the woods in light, 
highlighting the emerging buds of hobblebush.
Winter is still at hand here at home and in the mountains.
Snow and ice are a long way from melting in the Willey Range.
By the time we finished the 9+ mile hike we were tired and sore,
but all smiles, and still enjoying winter. 

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