The mega-blizzard that coated New York up to Portland hit us in southern New Hampshire, too, but once everything was said and done, we weren’t so far from some great places to enjoy that snow. After a long day of shoveling and snow-blowing (and getting hooked on Downton Abbey) on Saturday, Yvonne and I took a pleasant, sunny drive to Ascutney, Vermont’s beautifully recognizable monadnock looming over Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River.
We weren’t sure the parking lot for the Windsor Trail would be plowed, but I had a hunch, this being Vermont and all. We were in luck– not only was the lot plowed, but someone had already been up the trail, probably yesterday afternoon, to break it out and save us a little bit of effort with the snowshoeing. The wind-blown snow had solidified into a styrofoam-like crust, obscuring the previous hiker’s tracks from time to time, but the trail was easy enough to follow. For the lower half, it follows what looks like an old logging road, and higher up it cuts through dense forest, making the route very obvious.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, much like the first time we’d been to Ascutney, on a calm, clear day after another destructive storm. This time, it was much colder, though the air temperature did just about break freezing. With so much sunlight, it even seemed much warmer whenever we stopped in a clearing. Of course, hiking uphill with snowshoes meant we had no trouble staying warm, even in the shade.
A short side trip to Blood Rock gave us even more of a workout, since that trail hadn’t been broken out. Even without the fine view from the cliff there, it would have been worth the side trip– trudging through fresh powder on snowshoes is a sublime experience. The silence of the winter forest, the scraping and whump of the snowshoes settling into the snow, the softness of the ground under your feet. I don’t often get to make fresh tracks in New Hampshire, so I relish the opportunity when it arises.
Up top, on the observation tower at the summit, we had some of the finest views we’ve had from Ascutney, even as far as Mount Washington, which stood glowing on the horizon. Monadnock was clearly silhouetted on the horizon, and much of the White Mountains up north. We also counted eight ski resorts, mostly in Vermont, all of which must be rejoicing for the bounty dumped on them in the past few days.
I’ll certainly hope this snow sticks around for a while– Yvonne and I spent some time the other day trying to remember what winters really looked like when we were younger. Looking back on snow storms from your youth, it always seems like two or three foot blizzards weren’t uncommon, but when you’re only six years old everything looks bigger. Also, living in central and western Maine, I probably did see a lot more snow than I do now, but when that area shuts down for a few days with a snow storm, it doesn’t make the news as much as when NYC gets hit.
The rest of this month would certainly be nice if the snow stays on the ground, so even with a forecast here of above freezing temperatures and clear skies, I’m looking forward to more cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the weeks ahead.