As we approach the end of February, my cabin fever temperature continues to rise! To lower my homebound temperature and raise my spirits, we embarked on two road trips this past week. The first adventure was a true road excursion (with a short snowshoe part way through) on some scenic byways in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Road Trip
We headed east on Vt Route 302 and crossed the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. Taking NH-112 east of Woodsville towards Lincoln, we left all traffic behind! The road winds through the beautiful White Mountain National Forest and parallel’s the Ammonoosuc River valley for a spell before starting to climb in elevation. When we reached the Beaver Brook Trailhead parking lot, we decided to park the truck and snowshoe part of the Appalachian Trail. The trail crosses the road here after its descent from the summit of Mt. Moosilauke. Mt. Moosilauke is one of my favorite mountains to hike in New Hampshire. I’ve always accessed the summit from the other side of the mountain via Ravine Road off of NH-118. This is the location of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge operated by the Dartmouth College Outing Club.
Judging by the contour lines on the map, the Beaver Brook Trail approach to the summit of Mt. Moosilauke looks to be a steeper climb than the trails ascending from Ravine Road. We had no illusions about reaching the summit the day we were here, or even the shelter that is located 1.5 miles up the trail. It was too late in the day and bitter, bitter cold. We just wanted to exercise our legs a tad from sitting in the truck, get some fresh air and enjoy some of the natural landscape.
We headed out along the trail and snowshoed until the trail started to narrow considerably and ascend rather steeply. At that point, the snow conditions were icy and the trail dropped off sharply on one side. Common sense told us to turn around before we were faced with a back country winter rescue situation!
We backtracked away from impending disaster, bushwhacked toward the nearby pond and then back to the parking lot. That was enough for Jim! He had not come prepared for the windy, brutal temperatures and was happy to get back in the truck and turn the heater on!!
We continued along NH-112 until we hit the junction with NH-118. Taking a right, we drove along NH-118 – which basically meant we were circumnavigating the greater Mt. Moosilauke area on our way back to Vermont. The road climbs steadily and at the top we were rewarded with a great view of the White Mountains to the east.
Just to the right of the photo above, in the far distance, we could just barely make out the towers on top of Mt. Washington. That’s the first photograph I posted at the top of this blog post.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
A few days later, on our second sunny day of the week, we headed down to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. We have been intending to get down there and snowshoe this winter and, somehow, had neglected this promise we made to ourselves back in the Fall. Some of the carriage roads in the park are groomed and tracks are set for cross-country skiing. Some trails are designated as multi-use and because they are groomed, there are many hikers walking the trails with just boots and – perhaps – slip-on grippers for better traction.
We veered off of the groomed trail quickly and onto the less maintained snowshoe trails and were rewarded with quiet, solitude and the beauty of the forest blanketed in snow.
The trails at the park are very nicely marked. The ski trail signs also have difficulty ratings. Below, the One Less Travelled trail is rated as intermediate level for skiers.
I am generally a faster hiker than Jim and often get far ahead and wait for him to catch up – which is the reason I have so many pictures of him approaching the camera! He was walking slower than usual this day due to issues he was having with his snowshoes. He swears that the boot strap area is twisted – therefore making it difficult to “walk” correctly. We stopped to enjoy the view and Jim examined his “defective” snowshoe.
Some of the groomed trails are strictly for use by skiers and snowshoers. These trails are a bit narrower than the multi-use trails and I think the idea is to keep the trails from getting messed up by heavy foot traffic. The trail below (Summer Pasture Road) is for use by skiers and snowshoers only. One side of the trail is set for traditional skiers and the rest of the trail groomed for ski skaters. We snowshoed this trail until it intersected with the Spring Lot trail and then veered off that onto the Pogue Brook Trail – which took us back to the Mountain Road.
As the name suggests, the Pogue Brook Trail follows the brook that flows out of The Pogue. We had the trail all to ourselves! Once we connected back to the Mountain Road, we headed back down to the parking lot. Along the way, we noticed the grooming machine parked by the Forest Center. Jim just had to take a closer look at this highly specialized piece of equipment. We speculated on how much this must have cost the park service! I was pretty sure that this was not a park service investment. Some quick research when I got home led me to the private company – the Woodstock Resort Corporation. They have an easement to operate and maintain the park trails for winter use. They groom over 12 miles of trails within the park boundary. I guess that explains the fancy equipment! The multi-use trails can be used free-of-charge but all other trails require a ski pass.
It was an absolutely perfect day for a hike – even with Jim’s unruly snowshoes! 🙂