Such a pretty little gumdrop!Since we have only been hiking since May of 08, we hadn't yet experienced winter hiking. We were all outfitted (microspikes, warm cloths, snowshoes, etc...Eastern Mountain Sports LOVES us). Now, it was time to actually put these new items to use. After much discussion, we decided to tackle Mt. Blue. At approximately 3000 feet and only 1.6 miles of trail, we figured it couldn't be that difficult. We had hiked much longer and taller. This would be a good place to start.
As we have had problems in the past with wasting time finding the trailhead and we knew that we would have to snowshoe 2.0 mi up the Mt. Blue Rd (not maintained in the winter) to get there, we decided to take a Saturday "quick" trip to cross-country ski the Mt. Blue Rd and find the trailhead. This way, we would know exactly where we were going in the dark for our hike. What a great trip this was. We skied for about 4 hours...up this road, down that side trail, up this trail. Several times, we had a peek of our quest through the trees. Yes, it does look like a gumdrop as stated in our guidebook...how pretty. However...we never did find that trailhead...we just didn't go far enough...it's difficult to judge 2 miles...especially without a map. Once back to the car (and our map), we figured we had just hadn't gone far enough but that it would be easy to find next Friday.
Beautiful Virgin Snow...how lovely
We went on this way, switching back and forth between who would blaze the trail, for about two hours. For a while, we really didn't notice much...it was simply put one foot in front of the other and keep going; 15 minutes and a break, 30 minutes and a break, sometimes 10 minutes and a break. It was brutal. I guess I'm not in the shape I thought I was in. Oh BOY!
Eventually, we came upon an abandoned warden's cabin.
We took advantage of this to stop and have a Cliff bar (I love these...they don't freeze solid in cold weather) and to drop the packs for about a 15 minute break. We have discovered several issues with this winter hiking thing: eating and drinking take on another fascet when you have to remove those toasty gloves; you really can get down right CHILLY when you stop; going potty in the winter is NOT fun! We consulted our trail guide only to discover that this cabin is about 1.0 miles from the trailhead. One mile in 2 hours? What had we gotten ourselves into? At this point, we seriously considered our options. Our feet were quite cold (fears of frostbite arose) and we were SPENT! We were just a little over half way up...and the steepest part was still ahead of us. We contemplated and talked about it. After a short meal and some warmers in our mittens and our boots...we decided to push on and up.
Push to the topWe trudged on and on and on...taking turns as we had before. Our respite at the cabin had given us some energy and we spent more time enjoying (ok...maybe not enjoying. Maybe noticing is more like it) our surroundings. We noticed lots of deer and moose prints and plenty of bunny rabbits. Here and there...they seemed to be mocking us and our difficulties. We passed the time discussing how each would look in snowshoes and if they were watching us right this moment wondering what the heck those silly humans were doing now. We noted at several points along this treck our "gumdrop" (no longer so pretty...more evil then anything) off to the right.
After what seemed like an eternity, the trail finally dog-legged to the right. We knew that at this point, the trail was to get very steep in the final push. As our feet were getting warmer and, amazingly, the summit did appear to be getting close...we began to feel like we would be able to get there.
By this point...we had really gotten into a rhythm and were able to take briefer breaks. I figured I had this snowshoeing thing figured out. Again, I was to be proven wrong. After this right turn, the trail got quite steep. Not class three (thank GAWD) but definitely close. I offered to take the lead for this. HA HA HA...one step up...slide all the way back down. Another step up...another slide down. Ok...so...how the heck? I could just imagine the rabbits, deer, and moose having quite a laugh at this. Finally, I remembered that the snowshoes had crampons...and for crampons you needed to set them and use the balls of your foot to take the step. This seemed to work quite well. However, being of short stature, it was quite difficult to get my stubby little legs up high enough over the mound of snow to take the next step. My hips were protesting quite loudly before very long. And then it happened, the light showing through the trees changed...it seemed more, there and more all around us. We noted that the trees were a bit shorter and we could see sky ahead of us...not just above us. I think we're just about there!
The summit and viewsI pushed ahead. I always seem to gain speed when the summit is within reach. All of a sudden, Bobby yells, "hey, you missed this!" Backtracking (a very depressing thing to do with such hard-won ground), I noticed a small side trail leading to a scenic view. GEORGEOUS. THIS is why we do this.
Unfortunately, after about 30 minutes of resting...we began to get cold. Up to this point, the weather had cooperated wonderfully but now the wind began to blow. We hadn't checked out the other scenic views yet so we reassembled our gear, strapped on our snowshoes, and shouldered our packs. Yes, it was very worth the struggle getting here. We were refreshed and feeling very proud that we had endured and achieved. We felt very rewarded and began planning to return with the kids in the summer. After some joking and readjusting the gear (cold weather hiking really is a different beast!) we descended.
Descending...or is that sliding?
We merrily went on our way down the mountain...feeling very good about ourselves. I had figured out snowshoes! Um..so I thought. At the first very steep down section, I just stared...so, how does one get DOWN? After several attempts...it became apparent to me that it was slide down on my butt by accident...or on purpose. Guess which I chose? Actually, Bobby ended up following me (not sure if it was on purpose or not). I knew I should have taken a picture but...didn't. I guess I didn't want the kids getting a hold of it and using it as ammunition against me in my oder years.
After about 1 1/2 hour, we made it to the trailhead. Imagine, 4 hrs up and 1 1/2 down. That really does say something. It was now time to hike the 2.0 miles back to the car. I must say, this was truly the hardest part of the trip. We were wet (remember, sliding on backsides...oh...and my snowshoes kick up wicked snow as I walk), cold, very tired, and ready for a warm car and some real food. Finally, the glorious car was in front of us.
Despite the butt whooping we both got at the hands of this "evil gumdrop", we spent most of the drive home discussing where we would be going next. Baldpate in Grafton Notch...here we come!