A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

West Chairback Pond

February 23, 2017
Emilie Phillips

After 3 days skiing groomed trails, we needed to some backcountry fun. The AMC map only shows the groomed trails, so we had to search for ungroomed options. Tyson had logged GPS tracks to update the spotty OpenStreetMap coverage in the area. The database showed pieces of logging roads climbing Chairback Mountain. Tyson’s other discovery was a large poster propped behind the desk in the lodge entry. It showed every property boundary and logging road that crisscrossed the area. One promising road headed towards Fourth mountain, the other towards west Chairback Pond. My Dad asked the AMC staff if they knew either route. One caretaker suggested West Chairback Pond. He said the logging road was pleasant to cross country ski. “It peters out near the top, but there’s a use trail continuing up to the junction of the AT and West Chairback Pond Trail. Also, on your right on the way up are some nice telemark glades.” Sounded good enough to us, so off we went.

Skiing up an unnamed logging road

It was another hot sunny day. Yesterday’s skate ski tracks had almost melted away before we left the lodge. Isaac set a consistent pace up the Chairback Mountain Road. This time he seemed to understand there was an interesting destination. We rounded the right hand corner at the top of the hill and then took the next left over a hint of a metal gate. No one else had skied that way. My Dad set off breaking trail. After my turn, I demonstrated to Isaac how to step aside to let the next person break trail. Then it was Isaac’s turn. He set off with gusto. This was Isaac’s first time breaking trail in a group. After a few more rotations, it turned into Isaac and my Mom competing for who could break trail most.

White Cap Mountain

As typical with logging roads, the road traversed many wide log collection clearings where 4 or 6 haul roads split off in a sunburst. Each time, the continuation of the main road was obvious. After climbing 250′, the road leveled out and traversed east below the ridge. Off to our left we glimpsed views of Gulf Hagas peak. We paused for snack in the sun. When we stood up to leave, we discovered springtails coating our tracks. They wiggled and hopped in every depression.

Ice on the side of Third Mountain

Soon enough, we reached the end of the road. It stopped right at the boundary with the Appalachian Trail property. Tyson explored a clearing in the brush to the right, and my Mom one to the left. Tyson declared his didn’t go. So we all followed Mom. Hers was clear for a while, but then turned into a bushwhack. Isaac wanted to know “why are we skiing through the bushes instead of the trail?” Tyson, skiing second, hollered back through a stand of fir trees, “turn right earlier and come around this way.” Of course my Dad and I couldn’t see him, so we made our best guess. Farther up, I heard my Mom exclaim, “I found a trail and a waterfall.” We had found the outflow from West Chairback Pond and the use trail coming down from the AT.

Lunch on West Chairback Pond

“Here’s a sign for the pond!” Mom called out. Sometimes Mom sounds like she remembers the whole trail from through hiking. This time she couldn’t spot the trail. There wasn’t a snowshoe print or ski track in sight. The ridge and pond were ours alone. We crossed the AT and followed the official West Chairback Pond hiking trail. Isaac demanded lunch before we reached the pond proper. So we ate in a protected corner of a swamp. Then we continued on to the pond.

The pond was bigger than I expected. It disappeared around a corner. We skied out on the frozen surface to an island in the middle. The breeze blew the snow into a misty haze above the pond. For once, Tyson hadn’t brought his kite. He wished he had. Third Mountain rose to the east of us. Otherwise, the ridge cut us off from the rest of the world. A perfect spot to enjoy, but we needed to head back.

From the top, the use trail down to the logging road was obvious. We intersected Tyson’s exploratory tracks. The warm wet snow eased the grade. Our cross country skis were well matched to the descent. We were ahead of schedule so we stopped in the last log collection clearing to make a snow person. Then Tyson and Isaac skied laps on a rock lump until they had skied all the snow off it.

We cruised back to the lodge for 2pm nap time. This was our last night at the lodge. Tyson, who had no book to read, napped with Isaac. The rest of us set right to work finishing our books before we had to return them. Mom finished hers first, and I finished second. Dad wrote down the author and title of his book to borrow from the library back home. He was a little over halfway done.

Previous day‘s report.

Continued on the next day.

All Photos

GPS Track