I led the Cedar Brook this year again. It is almost becoming a tradition.
This year felt less like a winter adventure than I remembered from other years, but I couldn’t quite figure out why during the trip. There definitely was less snow as it all fell in Boston and the coast this year. Looking back at Cedar Brook posts from previous years, it looks like we generally run the trip a month earlier — early to mid February rather than mid March. One other year we ran it in March. The big differences are that February tends to have fresh powder, in March the snow is already partly melted. Early February sunrise to sunset is 10 hours. By mid March, the sun is up for 12 hours and daylight savings time has started. I think I like the powder and finishing under headlamp in February better. It feels like a real back country skiing experience.
But anyway, back to this year’s trip.
We got off to a bad start. Rob discovered at the trailhead that the toe on his three pin boot had snapped. It was holding on by a small layer of leather. He wanted to figure out some way to jury rig it, but the rest of us were adamant that he shouldn’t even try to start the trip. Luckily, Al had his telemark boots in his car and wore the same size shoe as Rob. So they went back to the cars and fitted Rob in Al’s two buckle touring boots, and Al in his full up plastic telemark boots. The rest of us, including those with scaled skis, re-waxed while waiting
Then about 15 minutes down the trail, I realized Tyson had forgotten to put his sandwich in his pack. Worse it turned out he didn’t even have any snacks. Neither of us wanted to turn back and delay the group even more. I always pack some extra food just in case. We decided if I gave Tyson my extra food plus some of my lunch, both of us could make it through.
Snow conditions were firm. The snow had melted and heat cycled many times until the surface was covered with old pine needles. Untracked snow was very dense with just a hint of crust. The snowshoe track up to Hancock Loop was solid enough to bare boot. Temperatures were near freezing predicted to go above freezing with possible rain in the afternoon. I use modern fluoridated waxes in these conditions, and they work surprisingly well. These waxes are picky about both snow temperature and type of snow. I studied the waxes on the Swix website the night before and preselected waxes for the expected conditions.
The trail was icy enough that some people walked the steeper sections. The stream crossings were surprisingly easy given how shallow the snow was. It looked like a lot of them had frozen solid before it snowed.
At the Hancock Loop trail, all the snow shoe traffic turned off as usual. This time we could see an old track continuing on Cedar Brook. Even though we normally put skins on, Tyson advocated continuing without skins and just bare booting it as necessary. I was not sure the old track would hold up to boots and, from what I had seen so far of people’s skiing skills, they were not sufficient to ski up all the hills. So I encouraged everyone else to put skins on. Putting on the skins took a lot longer than it should have because one person’s skis were set to the wrong length and were really finicky to adjust.
Eventually everyone arrived at the standard lunch spot up top. We discovered why it is a nice open sunny spot; it is a small stream, and this year the water was open. We moved along a little farther and ate lunch half on the trail and half in the bushes. During lunch it started to snow. The snow continued for the rest of the day, varying in intensity.
The trip back down the hill was fun as usual. I concluded the old track must have been a ski track. It was too narrow for snow shoes. They must have skied through when the snow was fairly fresh and uncompacted. The track went straight down the middle of the trail, never widening for a snow plow. This left us with a slightly icy trough that was hard to get out of and thick snow on either side which liked to catch edges. I used a combination of one footed snow plow, reverse snow plow, and stepping entirely out of the track for a snow plow. The skiing was definiteky easier at the back of the group after the first few people broke down the sides of the trail.
I was a bit disappointed at how many times I fell in the whoop-dee-doos, including one where I barely missed falling into unexpected open water. But I finished the downhill section nailing the last dip and getting nice pictures of everyone else going splat.
Becca regaled uswith stories of all sorts of old logging equipment she had found in the woods. The best was a set of old metal bed frames left lined up in a row after the bunk house rotted around them.
We reached the edge of the wilderness with plenty of daylight to spare, so Tyson went exploring and found a route across the river to the wilderness trail on the other side. This is the one big advantage of finishing in daylight. The east side trail is a wonderful old railroad grade, but I would not want to try to cross the Pemigewasset in the dark. Once on the railroad grade, differences in our skis became quite apparent. Those on long skinny skis barely exerted any effort gliding down the trail. Those who had opted for easier to turn skis for the downhills actually had to work to ski out the last three miles.
Another successful Cedar Brook trip. It didn’t start raining until we were done. A bunch of us enjoyed dinner in town together afterwards.