Trails: Logging road, bushwhack
Mileage/gain: ~3.6 miles, ~1100' of gain
I took the month of January off (from writing) to reassess this blog, what I want it to be going forward, and what it should offer those who read it. This tour was the impetus to dust off my fingers and get typing.
Big plans, I tend to have them. With all the new snow, it was as good a time as any to sleep deprive myself, and see about getting some fresh tracks. A slow drive up from Portland, across the Kanc and over 118 (which is in WAY better shape than it was last winter), I finally arrived at the trailhead for the Moosilauke Carriage Road. Much to my dismay, the Carriage road had tracks on it... so much for a powder run. Not exactly feeling spry, I decided to save redlining for another day, and check out my alternate destination.
Chokecherry Hill is a 2971 foot prominence on the ridge leading south from Moosilauke's South Peak, and I'd read a report from Steve Smith a few months ago about some outstanding hardwood glades on its south side. Just when I was about to email him looking for further information, I received an email from another gentleman giving me just what I was looking for!
From Breezy Point, I diverged just before where the Carriage Road starts, and headed up in untracked powder. Light and fluffy was the name of the game, and it made for great going up along the road, which widened and narrowed at the whim of conifer growth along the sides.
|The sun's trying at Breezy Point|
|Fields at Breezy Point|
Entering predominantly hardwoods, the road forked, petering out straight ahead, and continuing to the left. The woods were nice and open, and I was following the brook, so the going continued to be great. Climbing to a flat ridge, I soon glimpsed the unnamed pond (my first target) through the trees, and made my way down to it. Sitting in a small bowl, it is the source of Merrill Brook, a tributary of the Baker River. It was very quiet here, light snow falling straight down.
I glimpsed open hardwood slopes above the pond, and made my way (questionably) into them. The bits right by the pond had a few blowdowns to contend with, but beyond this they were wide open. Excitement built with each step, my skis sinking into a foot or better of fluff. The woods had some interesting trees, some ancient giants, and some wayward "outside the box" thinking youngsters. The summit itself is ringed in conifers and blowdown, so I wisely stopped at a large pair of trees at the top of the glades, a bit above 2800' or so.
|With a twist|
|Sentinels at the top|
I packed down an area with my skis, and got to layering up and taking off the skins. Though I could hear some noise from Rt. 25, it seemed a world away, and I had some neat local views through the snow and trees, all the way to Mt. Cube. Excited for the run down, I soon got packed up, locked down, and headed out.
It was then, that I encountered a problem. Powder. It has this tendency to slow you down, which is great on steep slopes... but these aren't them. There weren't many points where I could get enough speed to make turns, though I did get a few in, and they were nice and surfy. Sadly the steepest parts didn't have great lines, and had some ice hiding under the powder. Donning the skins again near the pond, I came out more in the middle, and made my way east to my prior track.
|Looks great, skis slowly|
|More like it|
|Mildly thin cover surfing|
|Back at the pond|
Skinning back up to the ridge, I ended up leaving the skins on until almost back at the road, as there were minor ups involved that I wouldn't be able to carry speed into. Finally off with the skins, I got a mostly downhill run back to the car, though again few turns. Some powdery floating was good by me. Back at Breezy Point, there had been no other traffic, but I was done, no more.
|A lonely tree and marching ridges|
Navigating back across 118, I saw that the Mountain Wanderer was open, and Steve Smith himself was in residence... so I turned around and stopped in. We chatted for a while about Chokecherry and other glades, maps, redlining, you name it, before I headed for home (more coffee). Always a pleasure Steve!
Going forward, I'm going to have to be more selective in what I have the time to write about. It's great being out so much, but when it's all said and done, I just want sleep! I do have two "in progress" pieces, and reports will continue to be forthcoming, thanks for reading.