Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hiking Tom-Field-Avalon in Fresh Powder

We hiked yesterday, opting for clouds, limited views, temps in the mid-20s, and no wind over conditions today: blue sky, expansive views, but bitter temps (low teens), blustery winds, and wind chills in the minus 20s and 30s. It was a good call.

The recent snowstorm dumped about two feet of snow on parts of the White Mountains, including Crawford Notch where we hiked. My nephew Reid and I hiked the Mt. Tom-Mt. Field-Mt. Avalon threesome, one of my favorite routes in the Whites. We got underway on the Avalon Trail at 9:20 am, and fortunately several other hiking parties had laid down a fresh snowshoe track ahead of us.
We typically hike this loop clockwise, but when we reached the Avalon-A-Z Trail junction we saw that no one had yet traversed up the Avalon Trail. We were not in shape to be the first to blaze that steep trail, so we followed those who had gone ahead on the A-Z Trail. Yesterday everyone was going in the same counter-clockwise direction.
The trail got steeper and snows deeper as we climbed into a winter wonderland. At one of the steeper pitches, a small band of boreal chickadees cheered us on.
We saw the first of many gray jays that we would see during the hike on top of 4,051-foot Mt. Tom. Although there were no distant views, the scenery up close was spectacular and with little wind we lingered for a bit.
More jays, deeper snow, a bit colder on the way to the 4,340-foot Mt. Field.
And great beauty atop Mt. Field.
The descent from Mt. Field down the Avalon Trail, with a quick side trip to Mt. Avalon, was fast, fun, and wild at times. At one point I was sliding down head first and another sliding fast on my bum. The snow was all powder with up to four feet deep in the woods, so stepping off the track resulted in falling into a deep, soft hole. The temperature remained in the mid-20s and winds were light all day. We finished the 7.5 mile hike by 2:40 pm with a bounce still in our step. Winter hiking is much easier on the body, especially when deep snows smooth out the trail, covering boulders and loose rock that slow progress and pound the knees in snow-free periods.

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