Last week, while Keene and the rest of southern New Hampshire continued to feel like late autumn, Yvonne and I went north to find snow for a few days. My Christmas present to Yvonne was a two-night stay at a bed and breakfast in the White Mountains, which is something we can only afford thanks to deals from Groupon or LivingSocial. Lucky us, we planned way ahead and managed to get two glorious days of hiking.
|Ice melt running down boulders had formed into nifty little ice fins, about two inches deep.|
We had a moderately late start on Sunday, figuring we’d do a short and easy hike in the afternoon, and we were rewarded with what I thought was a pretty good omen. Just outside of Hillsborough on Route 9, a pair of moose walked onto the road, gawked at us for a second, then took off into the woods. I know there are plenty of moose throughout New Hampshire, but this is the furthest south I’ve seen them. That put me in a good mood, even with a three hour drive ahead of us.
|Looking out from the Nancy Pond Trail towards Stairs Mountain and Mount Resolution.|
After a few breaks, bagels in North Conway, and missing the trail head once, we finally hit the trail at the crack of noon. I’d been to the Nancy Pond Trail once before, six years ago, and I remembered the trail head parking being plowed, but not this time. I felt a little nervous about leaving my car on the side of the highway for the hike, especially with only one pair of old snowshoe tracks heading into the woods, but I was feeling too stubborn to pick anything else out. Yvonne and I booted up and started on the trail.
|Now we’re on Nancy Pond. Mountain ponds are best when you can walk on them.|
It only took a few seconds to realize that the winter up in the Whites had been pretty weak as well. The snow was more an icy crust than anything resembling flakes and powder, so we switched to Microspikes in no time. And we climbed.
Since it had been so long since my last climb to Nancy Pond, I’d forgotten that, despite not climbing any mountain peaks, the trail gets wicked steep toward the end. That makes sense when you look at the map and notice that Nancy Pond and Norcross Pond are both over three-thousand feet in elevation. So much for the easy and short hike. Happily, though, once the steep climbing began we got above the elevation where the freezing rain and thawing cycles that had turned the ground cover to crusty ice. Now we had nice, fluffy snow. We switched back to snowshoes and continued on.
|And now we’re on Norcross Pond.|
By the time we reached Nancy Pond, our surroundings were a perfect winter wonderland. We walked out onto the pond for views of Mounts Nancy and Anderson. We walked across the pond into blasting wind that soon obscured the one or two pairs of tracks we’d been following. We wandered into the woods on the far side to find where the trail continued to Norcross Pond, and found the trail totally untouched. Whoever had hiked up to Nancy Pond had stopped there, rather than continuing on the extra distance to Norcross.
|Looking into the Pemi from Norcross Pond. Bondcliff looks very snowy on the left.|
Just a half mile or so of breaking trail was enough to remind me how out of shape I was. Sitting on my duff for the entire winter certainly hadn’t helped my muscles, so by the time we arrived at Norcross I was ready to head down. The view from this pond, however, rivals any mountaintop in the Whites. From the outlet, where Norcross Brook falls out of the pond, is a panoramic view of the Pemigewassett Wilderness, with the Bond Mountains framing the backdrop. There might have been more of a view, too, but thick clouds and snow were headed our way. We stopped for snacks and pictures, then headed back to the car, much later than intended but worth the extra time.
|Showing off my GooseFeet jacket in front of Mount Anderson.|
The trip down went twice as fast as the trip up. In summer conditions, walking downhill is a bit easier than up, but in winter, with the extra work of walking on less-than-solid ground, uphill becomes incredibly difficult compared to going down. Regardless, we got back to the car just before dark. I was completely exhausted, but we had only a twenty minute drive to the Glen Oaks Inn. It wasn’t the polished and pristine kind of place you’d get at a motel, but it was warm, quiet, comfortable, and homey. I have a soft spot for little places like this. We took a quick trip into town for a massive dinner (my hiker appetite came back instantly after the hike), and I was out cold by 9 PM. I could get used to this.
Part two of this report will be up in a few days. For the second day of the trip, we would double our mileage and try Mount Carrigain, one of my favorite mountains in the Whites despite only being on it once, and that time without a view.