Tyson skied Oliverian Brook with me. It looked doubtful the Friday before when it poured rain at home in southern NH and radar showed rain all the way to the White Mountains. Saturday morning, Tyson scouted out the trailhead on his way to Mt Washington. Amazingly there was still snow. Isaac wasn’t interested in an AMC cross country ski trip, so we left him with the grandparents.
Sunday morning, Tyson and I pulled into the trailhead right on time. Thor, Joel and Irene were already there. Thor told us not to park his car in. He was feeling sick and might have to bail early. I had been looking forward to skiing with Thor, and, of the two of us leading the trip, he was the one who knew the trail.
The snow was firm, but not icy. Tyson and Thor took up the rear while I led. Tyson told Thor all about our recent ski flying trips. Thor told Tyson about getting his tail wheel endorsement from Bill Rose in the Piper Cubs at Hampton. Tyson was thrilled to hear Thor liked the Cubs so much that he is renting them and flying on his own.
For a long while, the flat straight trail was obviously a railroad grade. Then the railroad bed jumped straight across Oliverian Brook while we turned right and up the hill. As the air warmed above freezing, the snow softened into small grained corn snow. I stopped at a plateau to let the group rest. Thor announced he was exhausted and needed to head back. We said farewell and continued up.
Just beyond Thor’s line of sight when he turned around, we found four washed out drainages crossing the trail on a side slope. I crossed over and around them and then waited for the group. Next was a downed log, followed by an open stream with stepping stones and a slick icy exit where I wished heartily for microspikes. Tyson had no problem balancing across. We arrived, after one more open stream, several drainages avoidable with skis on, and one blow-down turned limbo bar, at the junction of the Oliverian Brook Trail and the Passaconaway Cutoff.
Yet another water crossing barred us from the Oliverian Brook Trail. Thor and my map indicated that Old Mast road connects the two trails at a saddle above for a loop. The group preferred to ski down the flatter Oliverian Brook Trail and preferred to ski up what we would ski down. Our decision was cemented when a 10+ member bare booting MeetUp group passed us and took the right fork up to Passaconaway. We took the left fork.
Actually, we took the right fork, then wound through the woods around the water crossing to the left fork. We were bushwhacking again shortly to avoid another water crossing. Tyson cheerfully commented to Irene and Joel that I wouldn’t stop. When they’d had enough, they had better speak up. Tyson, in back, was enjoying picking out the optimal route after watching everyone else’s strategy. Irene and Joel between us were left bewildered when I side stepped across yard wide and deep chasms, or I slipped between pine saplings balancing on one ski.
The skiable trail ended above a mossy stream bed. Down below us, Irene and I couldn’t see any snow covered path to follow, just ferns, moss, and dirt. We concluded it was time to turn around.
Tyson skied up front. He saw something and asked us to wait while he explored. “I found the trail” he hollered from trees on the other side of the stream, “you can even keep your skis on”
Tyson’s enthusiasm was contagious and we all skittered down the slope. On the far side, Tyson had indeed found the trail, well covered in soft snow. He led the way. The trail was now pleasantly level and free of obstructions.
But it didn’t last. We came to a major tributary of the Oliverian Brook. There was no crossing it. Good thing we had skied up what we would ski down. More snow and ice bridging the water, we all agreed, would make this an excellent cross country ski trip.
On the way back down, we saw Thor’s tracks — long, fast skating tracks. He must have had fun despite being tired. We finished the day skiing the official cross country ski loop near the trailhead. It was a good beginner route except one short steep drop.