As with anything at this time of year, have a few plans in mind... Winter has grabbed a hold of the trails past Franconia Notch and I don't think she'll be letting go any time soon. I parked at the Highland Center and figured I'd take the Crawford Path to tree line and see what happens. I've packed my microspikes but left the snowshoes at home. A quick stumble up the stairs from the parking lot at the Highland Center and we're off...
The Crawford Path is pretty rocky on a dry day. Today, it's a little slick but temps are below freezing this morning so, it' solid. My boots are gripping good so, the spikes are for now in my side pocket. I've got my long underwear on (top and bottom), regular hiking pants, wool mid layer, puffy, and Santa Hat to be festive. I feel warm so, the gloves stay off. My boots have 400g insulation and are super waterproof. I am solid for todays hike in these conditions. Continuing on the Crawford Path, it's snowing lightly and my footing is good. Typical pre-winter conditions but I would say that some skill will need to come into play now, if anyone is hiking... It's not just a hike anymore. I try and keep an even pace over the rocks to avoid too much sweat so that I can stay warm. Hiking at this time of year is not a race amy more. Isis and I check out Gibbs Falls and enjoy the scene around us... We are both smiling. This is our season.
All water crossings on this section are either bridged or step overs. It's a little mushy where the seeps have not frozen yet but nothing that waterproof boots cannot handle. From Gibbs Falls to the junction of the Mizpah Hut, there is minimal new snow and what is there is already packed down. Still no need for spikes and I'm impressed since I have not slipped since the parking lot. Today is a good day! I stopped at the junction for water and a snack for Isis. From this point to tree line will not take very long at all. I noted a definite drop in temperature here and we got moving quickly. There is an open seep to start back up again which is rather large... Isis was not impressed that she had to balance on a log to avoid wet paws. It's a quiet day on the trails so far but we are joined by one other who came up behind us. I STILL have no voice so I am really trying not to talk to anyone. I really enjoy this section from the junction to tree line but I do note a significant increase in snow under foot. As we continue, my footing is still good so, the spikes are taking a ride today.
The trees are coated in snow as we continue climbing and eventually the trail evens out. From here it's a few 100 feet to the junction for turning to Eisenhower. I noted here a need for snowshoes and also decided to head to Pierce only. No visibility and gusts up to 20mph... We're good to call this a warm up hike today. All miles count and in this case, it's all training for other goals. So, the other guy who we let pass us is not too keen on getting to the summit from here at the junction so, we offer to lead the way, much to his surprise that I am hiking alone with my dog... Climbing up, we sink to our knees in snow but I am laughing! Isis well, she gets a little more than she bargained for. I really wanted my snow shoes here as well as a little better visibility to see the trail (vow to strap them on my pack when I get home and let them stay there for the season now). Lots of drifts and chances to get caught in the scrub. The good thing is that our path will blow in as we reach the summit. The bad thing is that our path will blow in as we reach the summit, and we are joined by three other guys too. Not much to hang around for. I got a few snaps and we trudged back through the snow... This time, we were careful to try and stay true to the path. Didn't sink in nearly as bad as some of those thigh deep steps coming up. The wind is gusting and we are solid in getting back below tree line. A day well spent in some pretty challenging conditions.
Heading back down, I'm a frosted mess and still smiling! The same goes for Isis. The trail up high passes quickly as it is still solid and snow covered. It's cold enough to keep in good shape and there is not much accumulation expected. I tried to warn a group heading up about the summit but they would find out soon enough. Ran into another group of girls coming up in nothing but leggings, thin sweatshirts, and I believe sneakers... Not the time of year for this any more but pretty standard for the Whites, I'm afraid. I just tried to keep moving without too much room on the trail. We pulled over in-spite of the "Come on down" call which was right on top of us. Sometimes you just have to let everyone else pass. I had dropped my camera (not my phone) and when I realized it, I had to go back about 400 feet. Thankfully, the snow depth did not swallow it. Isis was not keen on going back up but we were quick. Made it back to the junction for some water but were disturbed by an overly friendly dog... I'm going to just ignore the call of "He/She's friendly" from now on when it comes to my dog... If my dog gets charged, I will get defensive. She HATES being charged. This is not the time of year to not have control of you dog either or to passively say that the dog is friendly... This is the time of year when you need tight control. End rant... OK... enough on the soap box. Hike on.
The lower Crawford Path is a little less solid now and I notice that Isis is trying to avoid getting her paws wet by hiking in snow on the sides. It's a little sloppy but we manage to get back to the car in good time. It's just barely noon... Not that we were timing ourselves. An enjoyable day out there in some pre-winter conditions.
I'm now looking to get myself back in shape as November has served as a wake up call for myself. Essentially a month long case of laryngitis and feeling a lack of energy (building for a while) as well as some weight gain, and just being sicker than I ever have been, I am making some changes in my life. Less stress eating and drinking, less sitting around, less feeling sorry for me, and more action. Of course this means more walks and longer walks for Isis too. Time to get back into condition for winter and beyond as I love this season so much and love my adventuring all the more. It's hard sometimes to shake off "the blues" but I can't stay down forever and loose everything I've gained over the past 3 years. Time to get back to feeling good!
I've also set my final leg of the Long Trail for mid to late June to give myself a target to shoot for over the Winter. Even with the holidays, I believe I can do this. Thanks everyone for the support and for following along. It truly means a lot to me.