Sunday we got up early and headed north for skiing. This was an exploratory cross country ski trip. Unfortunately, we did not convince anyone else to come with us. We skied up the west side of the Pemigewasset and then headed up Franconia Brook trail to 13 falls. The first part on the Lincoln woods trail is usually groom, or at least packed out 6 feet wide. Instead, since we had gotten there right after a snow storm, there was a single track in the middle with a few snow shoe tracks and ski tracks. We caught up to the snow shoers first. Then we caught up to two of the skiers. It turned out we knew them from some of the recent AMC trips. They were doing their own exploratory trip to Bondcliff. That left two more ski tracks that turned off to go to Black Pond. So even on Lincoln Woods trail, we did a little bit of trail breaking.
Then we got to our turn off at Franconia Brook trail. Breaking trail on Lincoln Woods had not been so bad because the fresh snow was not very deep. Franconia Brook trail had seen much less traffic, so we were breaking several snow storms worth. The recent snow storms appeared to all have been heavy snow, and there was a layer of sleet in the pack that acted like ball berrings. At first the going was reasonable. The trail followed an old railroad grade going at a nice easy uphill. The breakdowns were a bit hard because skiing back up, we couldn’t get any purchase on the snow and ended up side stepping. If we followed the old snow shoe track, we sank in about 6 inches. When we fell off or side stepped, we sank in to our knees.
We arrived at the first junction with Lincoln Brook trail at noon. The guidebook said four miles from there to the falls. Our nominal turn around time to get home before dark was 2PM and we had been doing maybe 1 mph breaking trail. We discussed and decided to try to push harder and up our turn around time to 3:30PM which we guessed would put us back at the car at 7:30PM. From there on up, it was just a slog. The front person would break trail at the fastest pace they could manage. When we swapped lead, they would take a rest, eat some food, or whatever was needed. And then by the time they caught back up to the other person, it would be time to swap again. There might have been some views if it was less cloudy, but they were all through the trees, so it was not as scenic as Tyson had hoped.
We did make it to the falls by the turn around time. We took some pictures, ate some food and headed back. Coming back was much easier. It was downhill and we were following our own tracks so we got some nice glide. Even though we were exhausted, it was quite fun. We met some snowshoers headed out to camp. They were probably even more behind schedule than we were. The whole trail just sort of whizzed by on the way down. Our traveling speed was probably at least 3mph but we did have to slow down for the break downs in the railroad grade. Eventually it got dark enough that I took a good tumble in one of the breakdowns, so we turned the headlamps on.
We got back to the junction with the Wilderness trail about on schedule. Although Tyson did decide to do a truely impressive face plant. There was a drop to get off the Franconia Brook railroad grade and onto the Wilderness trail railroad grade, and apparently his skis picked up more speed than he expected. I saw skis go flying through the air. By the time he extricated himself, he had snow packed into his ears and everything. From there out we were on the Lincoln Woods trail which had finally been packed out. My legs were tired enough that I ended up double polling much of it. We still managed about 6mph on that leg and got back to the car at 6:30pm.
All told, 16 miles, 5 miles of tough trail breaking, 9.5 hours, a kind of boring waterfall, and a few views. The trail was such a nice easy grade though, that I’m still wondering if I can make something of it for a future AMC trip.