Working title: It's fun, they said. It builds character, they said.
Trails: Mt. Meader Trail
Mileage/time: 6 miles, ~2250 feet of gain, book time of 4:10, actual time of 3:55
The "it", in this equation, refers to shoulder season, and hiking in it. That wonderful season, where it's not quite winter, but not quite spring. The calender is deceptive. I ran into all manner of trail conditions today, from dry trail, wet trail, traces of snow, a little ice, and deep, deep snow. Winter most certainly has a grip on the high ground.
Today, summits were optional, as I was scouting. I'm planning on leading a hike for Random Group of Hikers, and I needed some first-hand, first-person information on the current conditions. Since I had not been on Mt. Meader Trail, I decided to check it out, as it could be a bailout point for the hike.
After a productive morning, including FINALLY filling out my 4000 Footers application (I finished in July 2011), I headed north, and parked on the shoulder of Rt. 113, at the very nondescript Mt. Meader trailhead. I changed into my trusty La Sportivas, which I haven't worn since November, and got my boots on trail just after 2pm. There was snow from the start.
The trail starts off on an old road, and the snow was spotty. I ran into anywhere from an inch or two, to almost two feet, interspersed with sections of dry trail, and some minor mud. To be fair, I was carrying snowshoes, but it would have been a constant game of off and on, and I did what I could not to posthole in the soft snow. I passed the National Forest boundary, and soon reached the spur for Brickett Falls. I took it, for great effect.
While scrambling up next to the falls, I managed to knock my water bottle askew. Once I reached the top, and stood up, it hit the rock, and went *kerplunk*. It sunk to the bottom of the pool, a couple feet down. I had an extra bottle, and my snowshoes were at the bottom of the falls, so I left it, figuring I'd return on my way down. After a slightly tricky crossing shortly after returning to the trail, it started to climb and steepen, and the snow cover became consistent enough to warrant the snowshoes. The snow continued to be soft, and I was sinking in three to six inches. It was nice to have some sections of normal trail, but the still snowy sections were exhausting and demoralizing. After taking the snowshoes off at a crossing, they went back on shortly before I hit the switchbacks.
The snow conditions varied greatly as I climbed, from soft spring snow, corn snow, and a frozen crust once I reached the junction. There were some great views to the south from some ledges along the trail, and shortly, I popped out at the junction with Meader Ridge Trail. I had the answer I was looking for, there's still a ton of snow up high. I wandered around at the junction for a moment, getting some good views to the Baldfaces, the Royces, and east into Maine.
|Eastman and the bulk of South Baldface|
|Pleasant Mountain in Maine|
|The Royces and Evans Notch|
I didn't feel like postholing in snowshoes the 0.2 miles to the actual summit of Meader (which has no views from what I understand), and started my descent without much of a break. I made good progress on the snowy sections, and soon was able to take off the snowshoes, for the first time. Some soft trail, and some rock hopping later, the beasts came back on for a while. At the spot I put them on the first time, they came off for the remainder. I went back down the spur, and used my snowshoe to remove my water bottle from the stream, which had made my water ice cold. Refreshing! Sooner than I expected, I arrived at my car.
A great afternoon hike, and very... instructive, of conditions. I stopped by the side of the road in Stow, to take a picture of some nice clouds.