A chilly day, reminiscent of last year’s trip, but this time I warmed up in the sunny spots protected from the wind. And we had much more snow. There were five of us: Nora, Darrell, and I on leather boots and narrow skis; Peter and Al on plastic boots and wider skis.
We followed day old tracks, blown in with snow. The tracks climbed straight up the hills. Darrell, especially, slid backwards on the steeper sections. After herringboning through thick snow beside the track, Darrell put his skins on. The rest of us were mostly able to pole our way up. The people setting the track must have used skins.
The trail stays in the woods on the side of Mt Washington, but the birches are sparse enough I could see up to the gullies of the Gulf of Slides and east to Wildcat and farms above Jackson. Al was astounded at the snow bridges spanning every stream crossing. The two recent nor’easters had rebuilt them after the February melt. Not far after crossing Avalanche Brook proper, we finished climbing. Next the trail drops, climbs one short span, and then commits to a series of downhills.
I hung back as sweep. This gave me time to look around while the others negotiated the hills. Every clump of spruce and pine chirped and rustled. I stared into the spruce while waiting at the top of a run until a chickadee flew to an exposed branch, twittered, and flew off again. Nora spotted pine siskins in a different stand of pines.
The snow surface in the sunniest of glades crunched lightly. Elsewhere, the wind had packed the snow, excepting for little dips and nooks behind trees where the wind had left deep powder. I fell several times not anticipating the change from thick snow to unsupported flakes. The snow was great for long slow glides and arcing old-school Telemark turns.
This trip requires spotting a car at the Rocky Branch Trail parking, 4.0 miles south of the AMC Pinkham Notch lodge. We start from Pinkham Notch and take the left turn off the bottom of the Sherburne trail onto the Gulf of Slides trail. This first section is well tracked out. After 0.3 miles turn left at the sign for Avalanche Brook. This trail is much less popular, so you may have to break trail yourself. It is blazed with blue diamonds. Al adopted the trail a few years ago, so it is well maintained.