It took over a month but I finally got a chance to get back to New Hampshire for some more winter fun. Weather and other obligations had conspired against me, but now I could finally get out to enjoy all that snow instead of just shoveling it at home.
It was only about 20°f on Friday afternoon’s hike in but hauling a full winter pack a few miles on snowshoes was enough to get me plenty warmed up. The sun was noticeably brighter than on my last trip here in January though.
I didn’t really need snowshoes on the way in as I was only breaking a few inches of fresh snow on a hard packed trail, but they really came in handy making a nice path in to my camp site.
The sun was low but bright on the snow. You really could feel that spring was approaching despite the fact that it was still a bit chilly at the moment.
I managed to dig out my unused pile of firewood from my last visit here. Bringing a shovel along worked out great for digging out the fire pit as well. If I felt the need I was ready for making a fire in the morning.
Even before the sun fully set the air began to turn a bit sharper edged making it clear it wasn’t going to be a springtime evening by any stretch. I made a point of starting the dinner process early since it was my first time in the field melting snow with the new stove.
Also new on this trip was a large thermos bottle so I could be sure to have some liquid water in the morning. Last time even the bottle with warm water turned slushy overnight. With the thermos the water was actually still warm over twelve hours later in very cold temps.
I also brought along an insulated cup so my hot beverages would actually be hot. Tea was served after dinner to get the body charged up with heat to bring into the tent. Getting all that insulation warmed up is hard work.
I read for a few hours in my bed and then fell asleep just as the moon was rising over the ridge to my south. My tent was facing away from the moon because I knew it was going to be bright. The times I woke up throughout the night were amazing with the trees throwing shadows on the snow like it was day.
As the night wore on I could tell that it had gotten what I refer to as “pretty gosh darn cold”, one of the lower temperature levels on my scale. In my cocoon of insulation my indicators were the way a direct breath of air felt in the lungs and the crunchy feeling at the corner of the eyes as they try to freeze over heh. I slept the last part of the night with the rabbit fur bill of my bomber hat flipped down over my eyes.
By the time it started to get light out I was looking forward to getting out of bed. That many hours of laying down gives a man the incentive he needs to get up and stay out there in the cold.
First time I have lit a sport fire that wasn’t needed for fish roasting or marshmallow toasting in quite a few years. The effort was good for taking my mind off of the cold by giving me something to think about. Starting a fire in the snow is a good time for a top down fire and this one did the trick.
Not sure what the weather had in mind, there had been talk of snow squalls, I decided to hang around camp rather than head out into the wilderness for the day like I’d planned. Up to this point I’d had the place all to myself with the exception of a few skiers who had passed by on their way out. It was amazing to enjoy the quiet and just relax.
Then people started to appear. First this group of three guys set up next to me. Then a few other groups of folks came in to camp for the night as well. I was quite surprised, but between the full moon and the warm weather moving in perhaps I shouldn’t have been.
One of my new neighbors hung a hammock while the other two set up in big bivvy bags under and on top of a tarp.
The afternoon sun through the trees made for great shadows. The light this time of year just seems to hint at the promise of the season change to come.
The thick slabs of river ice from the last trip now had heavy snow blankets and the sun had polished any exposed edges. They clearly said that winter was still in charge around here for now, even on the nicer days.
Even with all the campers and day hikers on both sides of the river no one attempted to test the snow bridges on the river all weekend. No one tried to access the flowing water either. As much as I didn’t enjoy spending time melting snow I wasn’t about to risk falling into that water. My old heart would give out I’m sure or at least I’d probably wish it would.
Not as quiet as the first day, but definitely another beautiful afternoon in the snow. The squalls never appeared and the winds were reasonable throughout.
One of my winter gear additions was a pair of ECWCS mitts which I have found many uses for including as a cozy for freeze dried meals. They came out of the mitt piping hot after soaking for 15 minutes. I’ll be talking about these mitts and more in the future. I’d like to do a post or two on the winter kit I’ve put together now that I have things pretty well figured out and winter is over 🙂
The walk out on Sunday was beautiful. The day hikers were not out yet and I did the three miles mostly alone until just before the parking lot. That was of course a zoo even at this time of year.
I did stop to get a rare shot of myself without a hat. You can see the weekend sun has left my exposed skin a bit red, but thankfully most of my surfaces are protected by my thick, winter pelt. Much like the snow, the days of that bushy beard are numbered. Warmer temps will melt them both away soon enough I’m sure, but this winter has been so much fun out there I’ll miss them when they are gone.
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