Glorious Day for a Hike!
Saturday's hike of 10/17/09 couldn't have been a better day weather-wise no matter the time of year. Unlike the weather reports you hear of wind, fog, clouds, low temps, windchill, this particular day was sunny, blue skies, no clouds, no fog, absolutely no wind (yes, I said none), and mild temps in the 20's with some snow and ice; however we were prepared gear-wise so this was not an issue. I wore stabilizers and my friend wore yaktraks and we were both fine with any traction issues. We had plenty of layers to put on and peel off just in case so warmth wasn't an issue either.
We arrived at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead and started our hike at 8:00am. A bit surprising was the fact that we were the only car in the parking lot. (By the time we returned, there were 2 more cars there.) There were streams and ice to deal with on the steep sections, but again, we had appropriate gear for traction and it was not an issue. We arrived at the summit at 1pm, taking us 5 hours to hike 4.4 miles at a slow but steady pace.
Fortunately, the building at the top for restrooms, giftshop, and cafeteria wasn't closing until the next day. The road technically was still open for the season until Monday, but was closed this day because of snow and ice condtions on the road. The train was, however, still running. We timed our arrival just as the cog rail train passengers were lining up to get their pictures taken at the official summit marker. We, the hikers, had to stand in line with them (LOL), which was just a tad annoying but funny. Shouldn't we have been given some kind of free pass to the front of the line??? :-)
We only stayed at the top for 1/2 hour eating our hot chili and drinking our hot chocolate that we lugged to the top. Then we high-tailed it off the mountain as sunset was due at 6pm and now it was 1:30 (1/2 hour spent at the top).
We descended via the Jewell trail as it was a more gentle grade. The only trouble we had was near the beginning discerning where the trail was under the snow and rocks and following the cairns. Essentially, I believe we forged our own trail atop the rocks and atop the scrub brush, sometimes finding a hole in the snow when we weren't following someone else's tracks. We even became part of the show for the cog rail passengers as the trail at first follows the rail trail before veering off. Several passengers had their cameras pressed to the train windows taking photos of the crazy hikers in the snow! LOL. I've never felt like part of someone's entertainment before.
We pushed hard as neither of us had been on this trail before and didn't know what terrain might hold us up before nightfall. It ended up the trail's hard part was near the top and the rest was ok so we ended up back at the car at 5pm, well within the time allotted to text message our emergency contacts that we had, indeed, arrived back at the car safe and sound so there was no need to worry about us or call any authorities to search for us.
Total trip length roundtrip: 9.5 miles
Total time roundtrip 9 hours (including 1/2 hour at the top)