Emilie Phillips updated January 15, 2019
Still no snow on the ground this winter. Tyson spent the day working on the Bearhawk skis. I took Isaac for a hike.
Isaac wanted to find more caves on Monadnock, but I said no. The air was a few degrees warmer than last weekend, when the whole family climbed Monadnock. But it was still around freezing with occasional flurries. I didn’t feel like managing a kid by myself in hypothermia and frostbite inducing conditions. Instead, we went to a lower section of the Wapack trail in New Ipswich, accessible from Binney Hill Rd
Last I hiked this section was for Isaac’s post-potty training backpack, back in 2015. Since then, Binney Hill Road has washed out even more. I attempted to drive up the hill, but decided I had better give up before I got the car stuck. I retreated back down to a gravel parking lot at the bottom. Isaac consented to the extra half mile of hike
A small stream runs down the road gully. It was frozen over and dusted with snow. Isaac spent the whole hike up showing me that the ice was thick enough for him to walk on.
Another change since 2015, is signs now line the road, declaring the adjacent property owned by Northeast Wilderness Trust. Furthermore motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses are forbidden off Binney Hill Rd. Boulders block every hint of an old logging road or pull out.
Once we met the Wapack trail, we followed it down to the Binney Pond outlet and then up and down and up and down along the pond. This section has some views, bog bridges, a mix of hemlocks, silver birches and laurel. I pointed out interesting things to Isaac, and Isaac showed me silly things. A few flurries drifted through the trees. Then we came to the spring marking where the trail turns away from Binney Pond to climb Pratt Mountain.
I told Isaac “this is where we camped on the backpacking trip.”
“But that’s so short,” he answered, “It’s not even lunch time yet.”
Heading up the hill, Isaac slowed down. He started to make excuses, but then I held his hand and sang silly songs and up we went. We agreed to go to the top of Pratt Mountain, but no farther. After the top, we backtracked to the overlook for lunch.
The overlook faces east with a good view of Pratt Pond, Binney Pond, and Emerson Hill. The flat land to the east glowed with sunlight. Low, billowing clouds drifted above the Wapack ridge but somehow never reached Nashua. When we first sat down, the overlook was warm with sun, but halfway through my sandwich, the breeze blew a cloud over us. The flurries turned to dense falling graupel. Across the pond, the large pine where a raven had landed, disappeared into the gray.
Isaac declared he was cold. He wanted to finish lunch at the bottom of the mountain where it would be warmer and less snowy. We packed up. Not long after we started hiking down to the pond, only 500 feet below us, the sun came out again and the graupel on the ground melted. Isaac won the game of “tag the blazes,” 20 to 17.
At the bottom, I tested the ice at the edge of the pond.
“See,” Isaac said, “the ice is thick enough. I’m not breaking it.”
In the blueberry bushes, the ice was thick enough. Out in the middle of the pond, the cracks and drain holes from the last rain cycle were a darker color, but still thoroughly frozen over. However, when we tried to find a way back to the trail near the outlet end of the pond, a band of exposed water lay between us and shore.
I balanced across an old stone wall, built back when people had extirpated beavers in New Hampshire. Isaac balanced most of the way, then tripped and fell in.
His mittens were soaked, but most of the rest of him was dry enough. His snow boots had kept the water out. I hung his wet mittens on my pack and he changed into liner gloves. I offered my own spares, but he said he was warm and happy. Back on the trail we hiked out to the old road
We had one more adventure on the way out. When I came back from a pit stop, Isaac said,
“Look, I found two feathers on top of each other.”
I looked and saw not just two feathers, but an entire bird skeleton. I don’t know bird anatomy well. There were several flat bones that might have been part of the chest; a line of vertebrae; some longer bones near what was left of the feathers; and two skulls. One skull was the bird’s. The other was a small rodent. I don’t know why the bird died, but I know what it ate last.