No more doom and gloom here– Winter finally arrived in New England over the last week, and I’m determined to make up for how little snowshoeing I did last winter. Yvonne and I returned to Keene on the evening of January first, and gathered our equipment for the year’s first winter hike the next morning. Neither of us had ever been to Ludlow Mountain, home of the Okemo Ski Resort in Vermont, but it seemed like a good choice for our hike. Lots of snow (as Vermont mountains tend to have), new territory, not too far away. Good enough for me!
|This isn’t a road for cars, fool!|
Since neither of us had been to the trail before, there was some question as to whether the trail head would be accessible in winter. We turned onto the last road to access the trail, and just past the “Healdville Trail Parking 100 yards” sign, I got my car stuck in the snow. After half an hour or so of digging out underneath the car and showing off my car-extracting skills to Yvonne, I got the car unstuck, and backed up to near that sign. Apparently, the area just past the railroad tracks was plowed out as a parking area, but the actual parking lot and the road to it were a snowmobile trail. Sorry, snowmobilers. I tried not to damage the track too much.
|Down low, there’s more snow than we had all last winter.|
As soon as I parked, I looked back down the snowmobile trail in the opposite direction to see another car stuck in the snow. I think there was another access point to the trail head parking area in summer, but the road wasn’t plowed and became a snowmobile trail in winter. Whatever the case, the timing was just right. We spent the next hour helping a fellow hiker dig her car out of the rut she was in. Unfortunately, she was stuck much worse than we had been. She eventually decided to phone for help, just before a plow truck stopped to offer some assistance, so we bade her good luck and hit the trail a few hours later than intended. No foul, though. It was a fun adventure.
|Up high, more reasons to love cold weather.|
Once on the trail, I was excited just to have my snowshoes on again. There was a good trail broken out, but it wasn’t packed down to a solid highway. The sky was full of low clouds, and a biting wind chapped our faces. It’s been a while since I’ve been in sustained cold temperatures like that, and it was great!
|Getting lost in the winter forest.|
As we climbed higher up the 3300 foot mountain, the effects of the elevation were easy to see and hear. Trees, barely more than tall blobs of snow, creaked painfully in the wind. The trail became obscured in places where wind blew over previous snowshoe tracks, or where smaller trees had become weighed down by the snow. As we climbed into the clouds, the only way to tell when we were near the top was by the density of the snow clinging to the trees. There were no long views, even from the fire tower atop the mountain, but any good winter wonderland makes those views unnecessary.
|The fire tower on Ludlow Mountain had a bit more rime ice than usual.|
I later found that the high temperature for the day was a brisk 19 degrees, although I think that may have been at the base of the ski resort, which means it was probably closer to 10 on the mountain, minus wind chill. With that in mind, Yvonne and I didn’t stick around the summit for very long. We had our lunch, then rushed back down the mountain, gliding along on soft, powdery snow. It was a fine start to the real winter, although it also reminded me just how much more of this I need to do. By the time we arrived back home in Keene, my body was a bundle of soreness and aches– a hefty workout on the lower body, plus the unexpected one for the upper body, laid me out pretty well.
|A fine view just as far as the Okemo chair lift.|
Here’s hoping for a lot more playing in the snow over the next few months, and exploring many new places. See you on the trail.