Tom, Field, Willey (without Alex) -- Feb 15, 2009
Cut and pasted from http://trishgrid.blogspot.com
Accompanying pictures can be found there..
*However, pictures today aren't too exciting, I didn't get any views.
Tom (2), Field (2), and Willey (2) -- February 15, 2009
Traverse -- Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, and Mt. Tom Spur to Tom, then Willey Range Trail to Field and Willey, then down Ethan Pond Trail.
8.5 miles total.
Alex and I were supposed to hike today, but Friday night she came down with the flu. So instead, I decided to knock off a few winter 4Ks.
I had to start and end early, since I needed to be back in MA by 6:30pm. I began the hike at 7am, hoping to eventually join a group containing Bob and Geri, Jason, and a few others. They were to set off at 8am -- I figured they would overtake me at some point.
The trailhead, in the 7am morning light...
This trail was such a sidewalk that I didn't even need microspikes. I hoofed up in unaided Sorels.
Every once in a while, I would stop and listen....to the wonderful, sensational silence. It was perfectly quiet. Little snowflakes were drifting down through the trees. It was peaceful. Fulfilling.
Soon enough, I arrived at Avalon's intersection with the A-Z.
I took a slight break here. I had to move onward after only a few minutes, however, because the cold temperatures were getting to me.
Feeling happy and silly, I wrote my name and an arrow in the snow, to make sure the group knew I was going up to Tom (and not heading straight to Field).
Off I went, up the lovely snowy sidewalk.
Here's a bit of the steep section that leads down to a (snow-covered) stream crossing.
And climbing away from the crossing...
Trail was steep for a bit now, just like I remembered.
I began to hear sounds of the SAR helicopter over on the Presidential Range. Two hikers were missing and there was a rescue operation going on. (I found out later that they both turned up safe and sound.)
After a bit of huffing and puffing, I came to the Mt. Tom Spur.
Another break here, before moving along on the beautiful, packed trail.
The summit this morning was a tad uninspiring...the cairn was buried and the view menu consisted solely of cloud...
Some food and water, then I headed down.
After another quick rest, I made another silly snow sign, then headed down the A-Z for 100 yards until I came to the Willey Range Trail.
At first, the trail was nice and packed, just like the nice trek up Mt. Tom.
This continued for a few tenths of a mile, and then the trail seemingly stopped. I know bryan from VFTT did this traverse just yesterday...however, the wind had blown 2-24 inches of snow over much of his work. I strapped on the snowshoes and followed what looked like the path. Whenever I began to become uncertain, remnants of bryan's tracks would appear and the way would become clear. Somewhere along the line, one of my poles snapped in two. I secured them to my pack (or so I thought) and continued onward.
After a little over half a mile of quasi-trailbreaking, I reached the signpointing toward Field.
I climbed the last 100 yards or so, then realized I was missing one of the broken pieces of my pole. I climbed back down and searched a bit, could not find it, then climbed back up the path. I knew Bob, Geri, and Jason were behind me somewhere, and I hoped they would come across it so it would not litter the trail (I found out later they did indeed see it and pick it up -- much thanks, folks!).
The summit cairn of Field was -- surprise surprise -- buried. I walked on all the high bits around the place where the cairn is supposed to be.
The viewpoint provided...more cloud!
More snacks and silly signage, and I headed toward Willey.
At first, the tree branches were at eye level. A bit of manuevering was required to avoid being poked in the face.
The trees soon opened up, and the path headed down. And down. And down. I started to hate this bit -- I absolutely dreaded having to come back this way in order to get back to Field (in order to get back down to the car). In addition, I managed to pull a muscle in my right leg, and each step began to become increasingly painful. I took some aspirin and trudged onward, really, truly, very much dreading having to come back this way.
After much muttering and cursing, I dragged myself up to Willey.
There was a man sitting at the summit, having his lunch. He offered to take my picture.
Turns out this man's name is John, and he usually hikes with his son....who was home sick today with a cold. I told him that I usually hike with my daughter, but that she was home sick today with the flu! We struck up a very pleasant conversation and ate lunch together. He's an avid hiker and climber, and we spoke of different trails and mountains.
He had come up the Ethan Pond Trail....which he declared to be nicely broken out. And then he said the magic words -- "If you want to go down that way, I can give you a ride back to your car."
Yippee!!!! I was THRILLED not to have to trudge back up Field. I made some more snow signage for Bob, Geri, Jason and the others, and off we went.
Before I began the descent, I took a picture at the viewpoint and got -- more cloud, yea..!
The way down did seem nicely packed out...
We reached the first steep bit, and there was no choice but to butt-slide. The descent was a mile-a-minute, very fast. I used my snowshoes to plow into the snow, so I wouldn't crash into a tree.
Then we came to one pitch that was...treacherous. Fun, but treacherous. At this point, there was also a nice view, for the first time today...
But, back to the trail. This picture does not do the steep grade justice.
I sat down and started to slide....and then realized it was crucial I take off my snowshoes. This particular pitch was way too steep, there was nothing to hold onto, and I didn't want the shoes to catch on something and have my ankle/lower legs break! I grabbed onto a little tree limb that was sticking out of the snow and frantically unfastened a snowshoe...nothing but the little limb was holding me back from an extremely fast descent. I threw the snowshoe down the trail, then threw my pole (and a half) down the trail, then went to work on the second snowshoe. I got it off just as the limb bent and my fingers slipped. I proceeded to slide uncontrollably down the slope. At some point I was able to reach out and grab one of my snowshoes as I zoomed by. I finally came to a rest safely....John stood a little ways away with a big smile on his face. He was gracious enough to climb up the trail to retrieve the other snowshoe, and the pole (and a half). I thanked him profusely and stowed the 'shoes and the poles safely away. It was now time to buttslide as much as possible, and snowshoes would only get in the way.
We slid down all the steep bits, which was really the only way to descend considering the snow and the grade. When we could finally stand and walk, we left the snowshoes off. We managed to descend in the soft snow wihtout postholing more than a couple of times....however, in retrospect, I think we should have put them back on to avoid postholing altogether.
We reached the Ethan Pond Trail...
and continued down, enjoying our conversation and chatting happily the entire way.
Once we reached the bottom, John again offered to take my picture.
As I put my pack in John's car, I realized I was missing one of my insulated Nalgenes! That was fastened to my pack via strong velcro. I imagine it came off during that one especially fast and furious descent?! Arg.
John gave me a ride back to Crawford Notch, and we parted company. It was truly a pleasure hiking with him, and again, I was so happy not to have to hike back up Field!!
I left a note on Bob and Geri's car, drove home, unpacked, left a few pm's for the folks I missed today, and headed out. I made it back to MA just in time for Hugh to make his flight.
'Twas a nice day in the woods!
Fantastic T/R. Sounds like a found day in the woods except of course your pulled muscle. I hope Alex is feeling better. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Chris! It was a good day, it's always nice when you can knock three peaks off the list in one swift hike!
Alex is doing better. She's 85% normal now. Just tired and very grumpy.
My leg really hurts! I can't walk without a lot of pain. I'm sure it's just a pulled muscle. Hopefully it will heal within a day or two if I can stay off it long enough.
I'm glad Alex is feeling better and hope your leg gets better good luck with two little ones staying off that leg . I am trying to get back to Pierce tomorrow if everyhting goes as planned and this time finish it. Could you imagine if you cold do three peaks every hike. You would be done with the 48 in no time.
I loved your description of suddenly realizing that it was not a good idea to continue glissading down a very steep slope in snowshoes! I have been in that sort of situation a couple of times. Once, coming down the Boott Spur trail on snowshoes, I reached a point where there is a little tricky ledge about 10 feet high. There was enough snow that I thought I could just glissade down it. I kind of scrunched down and put the weight toward the back of my snowshoes, and off I went at what felt like about 50 mph! I realized afterwards that I was very lucky that nothing bad happened!
Krummholz, yeah, the sensation is wild....thrilling yet a bit terrifying all at the same time! Glad you didn't break anything during your experience. Equally glad I didn't either. I will always glissade without snowshoes from now on!!