The calendar may say the seasons have changed, but Nature follows a schedule of its own. I’ve talked before about how camping weather means different things to different people. Some only go when fair weather is forecast while others revel in the thought of heading out into a storm. I tend to go whenever I can and try to be prepared for whatever Nature has a mind to throw at me.
This weekend I’m taking another stab at a two night stay on the side of West Baldpate with a casual summit day in between. I tried this back in February and had to abort when the forecast changed mid-trip to include cold rain the third day for the hike back to the car. Rather than risk the traction issues or hypothermia it seemed a good idea to head home early though I did hate to be going down instead of up on such a pretty day.
This forecast actually looks more promising as it has shifted over the last few days from a sleet and freezing rain event on Friday to just snow. I’ll go prepared for both and hope it stays cold. Then after the front moves through and it gets cold I’ll start hoping it warms up.
Still debating what shelter to bring on this trip. Last time I went with the double walled winter tent which is huge, but great for camping in the snow. The mice at the Baldpate Shelter are quite active even in the cold so I opted not to sleep in there. Listening to them scamper over my tent during the night I was glad I’d closed the screens on the vents. This time I’m thinking about going with a lighter pack and setting up my 1P tent inside the shelter to keep the mice off. Pretty sure there won’t be anyone else camping there given the forecast and I can set up the Hubba in the snow if I needed to in an emergency.
This will probably be my last chance to get out before Mud Season is upon us. Hopefully the weather allows for some nice summit views on one or both Baldpates and it clears up enough to see across the notch to Speck and Sunday River Whitecap, but I will be happy with what I get. With the wind it won’t likely be as quiet up there as last time. Still if the mice give me some peace it should be a great chance to celebrate Spring in the snow. Hope you are getting a chance to get out and celebrate in whatever weather the season is bringing you. Go prepared for worse and enjoy what comes!
25 pictures and a bit of babbling about a quick and fabulous winter adventure. It was supposed to be a two night trip with a lot more climbing, but changing weather forecast turned it into a short and relaxing trip instead.
This was my first cold weather trip to the Grafton Notch area. I’ve come up here many times over the last few years, but never with snow on the ground. The state park lot was sort of plowed and I parked along the edge imitating how others had parked. It was chilly but not cold, upper 30s-lower 40s I’d guess, so I loaded up and moved out to the highway crossing quickly so I could hit the trail.Mercifully the trail was well broken out with only one set of postholes marring the way. I wasn’t sure what I’d find up there and wasn’t looking forward to wayfinding if I had to break trail. White blazes in the snow can pose a challenge and I know this section isn’t heavily blazed to begin with.Instead I was able to focus on enjoying the climb. It was a warm day for this time of year so I kept my pace leisurely to avoid getting too sweaty. That gave me plenty of time to take pics and marvel at the light on the snow filled birch stands.I did have to break out majority of the short trail up to the Baldpate Shelter as no one had made the effort recently. There was several feet of fluffy powder so it was good fun, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do the whole trail like that.While the Winter had been somewhat mild with rain and melting at times there had been a recent dump of snow a week or so prior to this trip. This campsite looked better to me covered in snow than it had on previous trips. It sees a lot of use during the other seasons but with a white blanket it looked pristine.There are other reasons they build latrines up on high platforms, but making them stick out of the deep snow is a benefit. I had my shovel along if I needed to dig it out but the door opened easily enough.The brook that acts as water source for the shelter was totally buried. No idea if there was flowing water or just ice down below but rather than dig to find out I opted to melt snow. Of course with the sunshine there was melt coming off the metal roof of the shelter so I collected what I could during the afternoon. I put my kettle in a spot catching two drips and my as yet clean garbage bag in a spot catching three. Managed to get over a liter this way which cut down on how much snow I had to melt.I had several hours of wonderful sunshine in the snow to enjoy with a dead calm the entire time. Weather like that made me wish my wife had been able to come along. I’d hate to put her through some of the stuff I endure, but this was pure pleasure.With the sun dipping low the melt on the roof slowed quite a bit. Time to start melting some snow! The shelter clearing had a nice blanket of clean snow from the big storm. Often what looks clean is really layers of debris once you dig into it, but as I peeled off layers with my shovel I found almost nothing but snow. With the warm weather I had a canister stove and kettle instead of the usual white gas Whisperlite and a bigger pot. It worked well enough and since the trip was cut short the next day I didn’t have to worry about running out of fuel. With the warm weather I opted to run the final product through my filter rather than do an extended boil to purify it.Still not a puff of wind as the sun dipped into the trees. The quiet was overwhelming whenever I stopped to notice it. As night fell I heard what sounded like a coyote sound off twice and then again a bit later. After dark as I lay reading in my tent I heard a tree crash somewhere. With the quiet it was hard to tell just how far off it was, but it was probably a lot louder up close!
The best part of the night were the times I needed to step out of the tent. The first time I stood up I almost fell over when I saw the star filled sky. At elevation in the cold the sky is beyond anything you can imagine if you’ve never seen it. I seem to recall the words “Holy $%^#% @#^^&!” coming out of my mouth unbidden. The other times I got up it was still amazing, but even now I can remember just how blown away I was that first time.Morning dawned mostly clear which might seem good, but worried me because that was not the forecast. I’d expected some clouds with rain late in the afternoon. Seemed like a good time to fire up the inReach and get a new forecast. Sure enough things had changed. Today was going to be nicer, but the following day they expected rain early and often. Part of me kept staring at the mountain wanting to hit the peaks, but the smarter part kept pointing out that would mean going down in the rain the next day.It really would have been a great morning to hit one or both summits and even when I left camp I wasn’t sure the less smart part of me would turn left instead of right when I got back to the AT.Since plans had changed I now was in no hurry to leave camp. It was still very calm where I was, but the clouds up above were flying past at a good clip. I spent some time making movie clips which went into the video I posted a few weeks back.The morning light up there was amazing. Another good excuse to take too many pics. The total for the two day trip was 101 shots 🙂 Having grown up on film cameras I love the ability in the digital age to shoot without worrying about expense. Now that memory has gotten so cheap I don’t worry about storage space either.It was a great morning for sunlight on trees. The pictures do little to capture what I could see. Perhaps more skilled photographers could bring it out better, but these are good enough to at least remind me of how beautiful these two days in the snow were.I did manage to turn left and started my descent back to the highway on the AT. On the way up I did my best to clean up the postholes of the guy I was following up. Now on the way down I worked on his descending postholes. Near the road I met a guy going up in just spikes and realized that my efforts were probably pointless. No time to be grumpy about postholes when you’ve got a sunny morning to enjoy. Sun on birches is always nice, but in the snow with good morning light you can’t help but feel happy to be there.Sun through the pines is pretty darn nice too! It was such a great day I was a bit bummed I wasn’t hitting the peaks, but it was too nice to be grumpy about it.When the leaves are on the trees this route has very few views until you get to the top. This time of year there were chances to glimpse peaks in various directions at times.Pretty certain I stop and take pictures of Hedgehog Hill every time I pass through this spot. I know I did in both directions this time. Just something about the perspective looking through the stand of dead birch trees.Bit of the Mahoosucs poking through the trees. Think that is Old Speck on the left side but hard to tell with those pretty birches in the way.I was totally overheating by this point even though I was going downhill. I was down to my lightest base layer, but should have been in a tank top heh. Warm weather in Winter is really hard to adjust to after you’ve gotten used to really cold stuff. Once I got back to the car I stripped down and put on dry stuff. Then I broke out the sausage and cheese for a lunch feast before heading home.
Hope you folks enjoyed the pics. Sadly there have not been many trips in the snow this year. With the little one starting kindergarten and my wife very busy with her work I’ve been needed at home a bit more. If you aren’t getting your Nature fix from my posts perhaps you’ll be more motivated to get out there and see it for yourself! Things should pick up for me once the snow melts and I can get the scoot back on the road. Also starting to hear rumbles from a buddy about tag teaming the LT this Fall so it will be time for me to start riding that merry-go-round again soon 🙂
A little something from an overnight visit to one of my favorite mountains. Comes with dripping snow melt and music so make sure your sound is on.
Snowshoeing with my sweetie is one of my favorite parts of Winter. Another sad year of most every snow being followed by rain and warm weather we had only been out once all year so far.
Thankfully a Nor’easter dropped close to two feet on us last week and then a follow up storm brought a few more inches. We’ve managed several trips around the golf course in the last few days and have a pretty good trail broken out now. Of course it is going to be warm all next week, but at least we had some fun out there.
Hope you’ve been getting out and enjoying whatever your world has been offering you. I’m working out plans for at least a few days in the mountains next week if real life doesn’t intrude. Enjoy the season while you can because it will be time for mud before you know. With the snow we’ve had in the mountains should be a real mud season this year. I hate being stuck on sidewalks for a few weeks so I hope it doesn’t stretch into a month heh. I have places to go!
24 Pictures plus tales of adventure from a four day winter weather trip I managed to squeeze in during the holidays. Snow had been hard to come by near the coast in Maine, but watching the weather to the West I knew I’d find some in the New Hampshire mountains.Even there in the Whites the days had been warm at times so I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d find. Rather than risk running into bare rocks I left the sled at home and hoisted a hefty, 60lb winter pack. Arriving just after a light rain ended the snow was mushy and wet with the temperature well above freezing. This little guy was taking in the warm weather with a smile on his face all the same.There was definitely more water in the river than on my last visit here. I was glad to see it wasn’t frozen over leaving me to melt snow for drinking water. Also glad I’d pretty much decided that I’d be staying on this side of the river for the entire trip so no worries about crossing.With little breeze and a temp close to 40°F I got a bit steamy after only a few miles. Despite my best efforts to keep my pace really slow it was just too warm to be slogging through wet, squishy snow with a full winter pack. Rather than risk being caught out in damp clothes when it cooled off later I opted to set up camp early and get into some dry stuff. Of course it is important to dry out the pelt before putting on fresh layers.I squished down a bit of snow to make a spot for my tent. The extra room a two person tent provides is worth the weight on cold weather trips I find. Nice to set up the bed in back so any snow that sneaks in the door is far away.Certainly was warm enough that I could have used a canister stove, but I brought the full winter kit including the Whisperlite. I used to push the limits before I bought this stove. Now I like to know I’ll be good to go no matter how cold it gets.Being just a week past the Winter Solstice there was a pretty big chunk of dark to be dealt with. I ate dinner early, but lingered in camp watching the light fade slowly in the snow filled woods. Then it was time to settle in for a few hours of reading before pulling the quilts up to my chin to sleep.Morning showed that a light dusting had fallen during the night. I wasn’t planning on going far this day, so was in no hurry to break camp. Hot cereal and coffee were enjoyed. Around 10am I realized my wife was probably wondering why my GPS location wasn’t updating so I decided to send her a message explaining I hadn’t left yet. Great minds thinking alike she was sending me a message asking me to check in at right about the same time.Eventually it was time to break down camp. Organization is always helpful when it comes to getting everything back in your pack, but in the snow it is doubly important. Anything that gets away may not be seen again until Spring. At this point I’ve gotten everything ready to be stowed except for the stove and my coffee cup, as both were still hot.Almost ready to put on the pack until I realized I was still wearing this warm camp jacket. No way I was going to unpack enough to get it stuffed where it belonged so it ended up crammed into an outside pouch. Should have noticed how cozy I was while packing heh.There was a lovely bit of snow falling by the time I headed off along the river. The trail was relatively unbroken with only faint signs of old traffic so I wore my snowshoes though I was only sinking in a few inches.There was no wind and the flakes settled slowly in the still air. The sound of the water from the river seemed a bit muffled by the snow even though it was close by.Reaching the Cedar Brook crossing I found broad sections of ice on either side with open water in the middle. Knowing this crossing well I was pretty sure the water was low enough to allow me to walk on the rocks just below the surface of the open water. Mostly it was just a question of if the ice would break under me and how deep the water would be if it did. All went mostly to plan except that I discovered one of my waterproof boots had failed to live up to its name. I pushed on another five miles or so until reaching a spot high above the river where I could set up in the open to see some sky. The clouds moved out late in the afternoon and I was looking forward to a starry night. The wet boot and its dry partner had some time to recover while I stomped around in another pair of boots I’d brought for camp.With the clouds gone the temp started dropping fast. I brought up a pot of water from the river while I still had daylight. Sticking it in the snow kept it sort of insulated so it wouldn’t freeze before dinner. My thermometer had it down to roughly 20°F before sunset and in the low teens by morning.You can see that reaching open water required navigating a seriously treacherous ice field. That is why I made a point of doing it in daylight rather than relying on my headlamp. My foot broke through at one point, falling through a good six inches of air before hitting water below. Luckily I was going slow enough that my leg didn’t snap off or anything, but it did underscore the dangers involved in something as simple as getting a pot of water.There is just something about the site of the Whisperlite set up in the snow that makes me feel happy. Winter camping is usually devoid of people and filled with quiet time to appreciate being in such a magical place. Even mundane chores like making dinner take on a different feeling. Waking up to a bright, cold morning I found breaking camp a much faster process. Already the routines were easy to follow with one step leading to the next until it was time for breakfast. Boiling water to purify it is different that the usual, three season, dinner boil. You need to keep a rolling boil going for at least a few minutes, more like ten if you want to be safe. Melting snow is even more work so I’m happy if I can find open water to draw from.There was a snow storm of some size expected to hit later in the day so I decided to start moving back closer towards the road. Starting out I had the advantage of following my own steps from the previous day. With a heavy snowfall expected I didn’t bother with evening out the trail. The next person through would be breaking a new trail of their own with no sign of my steps left.As forecast, the storm delivered some snow! It was amazingly quiet with no wind here in the valley. Just lots of snow and it began to pile up rapidly. My footprints from the day before began to fill in more and more as I went showing just how much snow was actually falling.So neat to be in this place as the weather closed in and feeling no sense of urgency to leave. Everything I needed was in my pack and where ever I chose to ride out the storm would be home for the night. I stopped and took off my pack to have a snack, crunching on peanuts and semi-frozen raisins until the snow started to pile up on me too much. Then I headed a bit more down the trail and found a spot to get set up before the storm really hit. I knew the snow was the start, but that there would be some wind behind it and I wanted to be ready when it showed up.
This video sort of captures the difference between the first part of the storm and the second. If you turn up the volume you’ll start out hearing gently falling snow and then hear roaring wind, though this doesn’t begin to compare to what it sounds like in person.
By morning about 18″ of snow had fallen and while I probably should have gotten up to shovel off some snow during the night the tent held up pretty well. I’d punched the roof a few times to keep the roof vents open, but eventually there was no where for the snow to go. Digging out and packing up was interesting in this much snow. It was good that I’d be heading home because the tent would need to dry out after being buried like this.What a great way to end the first cold weather trip of the season. It is fun to camp in the snow, but always much more fun to camp in a snowstorm. The more snow the better and the roaring winds can be fun too so long as nothing falls on you. Overnight the sound was constant, though louder at times which was especially unsettling. Along with that constant roar there was the thudding of snow bombs falling from the trees. Most of them were soft plopping noises, but the ones that hit the tent would thunder and shake the walls. Sleeping becomes an adventure on a night like that!Oh but to wake up in the mountains while the storm is still blowing is always a fantastic feeling. The wind was peaking it seemed as trees were shedding limbs all around me, mostly small though a few of good size. I kept moving so as to give them a harder target to hit, but did have to stop and gaze in wonder at the peaks a few times. Couldn’t help but think how happy I was to be down where I was rather than up there. Between the howling winds and the clouds wrapped around the high ridges I knew it would not be happy times up there that morning.I on the other hand was pushing through deep powder on my way back to the road. My timing was perfect as I arrived just as the crew was starting to plow the lot. By the time I finished getting my gear stowed and the ton of snow wiped off the roof of the car I only had a few feet of snow to shovel in front of the wheels to get out. Everyone seemed to be rushing to get out to play in the snow which I found funny after spending four days out there alone. I guess fresh powder will do that though!
Not sure when I’ll be able to get out there again. Winter trips are harder to come by now that my daughter has started school. Hopefully there are a few more to come. It is such a different world out there this time of year. Hopefully you are getting out when you can too, even if you can’t find a blizzard to camp in.
Ternua Loughor Jacket
This was an interesting jacket made by an interesting company in the Basque region of Spain. It incorporates post consumer down that has been cleaned, sterilized and reconditioned into a light, breathable jacket that was made for active use. Check out the full review at Trailspace via the link above for details on both the jacket and the company as well as a bunch more pictures.
Four from the warm days that melted all the snow…
And four from today with a fresh coat of white!