Waumbek, December 30, 2008
This is cut and pasted from our hiking blog, accompanying pictures can be found there:
Starr King Trail, roundtrip, 7.2 miles...plus 0.3 mile walk each way from winter parking to trailhead....
7.9 miles total.
Yesterday, the reported trail conditions for Starr King Trail seemed perfect for Alex. Frozen bumpy sidewalk, microspike friendly. A dusting of snow for the overnight forecast. So of course when we woke up there were several new inches on the ground (sigh). We agreed to go to the trailhead and take a look. Alex could make the call on whether or not we were going to hike, and we could bail whenever she wanted.
We drove to Jefferson, I parked in the public lot by the gas station, and we walked the 0.3 miles to the trailhead.
The snow cover was just enough for Alex to want to give it a go. It was snowing at the trailhead, coming down lightly but constantly. I told her we may have to deal with another inch or two on the return, and she seemed okay with that. So off we went, slowly but surely.
We made steady progress -- and we finally figured out a way to keep her hands warm 100% of the time while allowing her to use poles. Well, actually one pole. She would hold one pole however she could, then when that hand needed a break from gripping, she'd switch hands. This system kept both hands relaxed enough throughout the hike to allow for better blood flow. For the first time on a cold weather hike, her hands remained warm from start to finish. We were both relieved to have finally figured out something that worked for her.
Underneath those couple of powdery inches was a hard, icy surface. I think this made the trek a bit easier than she expected.
By the time we arrived at the 2.1 mile mark (the spring), it had stopped snowing.
We saw a few yellow icicles along the way. Alex thought they were interesting and wanted to know why they were yellow. I guessed that sap had leaked into the water while the icicle was forming, but I told her I wasn't sure and that I would do some research and find out.
We soon came to a huge blow-down on the trail. A giant tree had crashed over and completely blocked the path. There was no way around it, one had to climb through all the branches to get to the other side. Wish I had taken a picture of that...oh well.
Not too long after that adventure, we came to the short steep bit right before the Starr King summit.
We could hear the wind howling, so I layered up Alex before we reached the top.
Since we were somewhat exposed to the wind, we quickly ducked back into the trees and went on our way toward the summit of Waumbek.
The path between the two peaks proved more challenging than the path on the way up. The snow was a bit deeper -- instead of 2-3 inches to contend with we now had 4-5. Not that much of an increase, but enough to set Alex's teeth on edge. It took us about an hour to do what I hear is an otherwise easy mile.
Here are some trees along the way, displaying some lovely icy branches...
The final few tenths of a mile up Waumbek were difficult for Alex. We were going uphill in snow that was too deep for her liking. I encouraged her, sang to her, cheered her on...and we finally made it.
We didn't stay long, I wanted to get back down to the col between the summits before taking a break. We were mainly sheltered from the wind, but every once and a while a gust would sneak through and man was it cold!
The two of us trudged down a bit, then we took a water/food break for a few minutes. I asked Alex if she felt warm enough, she answered yes. She also said she felt very tired, which I understood and at the time thought it was due to walking through the snow.
We continued onward, Alex hiking verrry slowly up Starr King. We went up and around the fireplace, she buttslid rather unenthusiastically down the little steep bit, then she continued walking at a snail's pace behind me. I asked her what was wrong, she didn't say anything.
Something was definitely wrong -- without exception, on every single hike, she descends with newfound energy and talks my ear off every step of the way. Then I realized that even though we had stopped often for water and food, she hadn't actually drank a lot of water. She'd been taking little sips and then handing the bottle back to me. So I sat her down, threw another layer on her for good measure, hand-fed her two chocolate bars (so she wouldn't have to take off her gloves) and demanded she drink a TON of water. After that treatment, we went on our way....within 10 minutes she transformed from unfamiliar, quiet, grumpy kid into that happy, enthusiastic chatterbox I always descend with. Our speed increased threefold.
We made it down the trail, and Alex paused to check out something we had walked right by during our ascent....
Before we knew it, we were back at the trailhead.
Alex's 20th 4K, and her first winter 4K.
Another nice hike. Glad you figured out the water situation with Alex quickly and were able to get her back to her happy hiking self. Amazing what even a little dehydration does to your mood. And congrats to Alex on her first winter 4k. She's now one ahead of me . I'd really like to remedy that this winter (although I'm fine if she stays one ahead of me all the time)...
Looks like you guys had a terrific hike. Thank you for the t/r and pictures.
Yes, the deydration/perhaps lack of adequate calories had a major effect on her. At first I was worried she had the Grumbles (first stages of hypothermia), but that didn't seem likely due to what we were wearing and the fact we had been in much colder temps before. Then I realized that though we had stopped for food and water often, I wasn't actually watching her to make certain she was drinking. And our snacks, in retrospect, probably weren't as calorie-dense as they should have been for her (they were fine for me, but she's a growing kid). The two chocolate bars and a half-liter of water restored her completely.
Yeah, you burn twice as many calories in winter just tryin' to stay warm. Try to snack throughout the day rather than wait until you stop to eat. You get cold quick when you stop so meals should be quick and light. When you eat blood flows to your digestive system and away from your extremities so this also contributes to you cooling down.
Hydration is as hard to stay on top of in winter as it is in the heat of summer. Must constantly be sipping. I use an insulated keeper for my drink attached to my shoulder strap where I can get it easily and take a few sips every 20 minutes or so.
Camel backs can freeze no matter how careful you are about blowing out the tube. If it freezes then you are without anything to drink.
A thermos with something hot is always good for when you stop.
Hike on! Wish I could get out there, but family matters are preventing it for the time being.
Thanks, KDT. We do practice everything you wrote out. In retrospect, she wasn't taking in as much water throughout the hike as she should have...instead of hot chocolate, I had water....she's much more keen on sipping warm hot chocolate throughout a hike than she is warm water....I just wasn't paying enough attention to her intake. I had assumed she was drinking enough when she wasn't. Anyway, it was an easy fix -- a quick energy boost and proper hydration and she was herself in short order. Next time I'll be more on top of that (though there probably won't be more than one or two 4K hikes until the snow melts...conditions in winter have to be just right for the two of us to hike, and those conditions probably don't happen very often, lol).
Loved the pictures (who is that masked hiker?) and trip report. Waumbek is on our list and maybe Cabot next trip. I am also curious as to what makes some of the icicles formations yellow.