Limited Daylight + Slow Pace = No Summit
On Saturday, December 15th, Frosty and I headed to the Bigelows. We got an early start. We left the house at 4:30. The roads slowed us down though. It had rained the night before and the roads were icy. Some parts were sanded, many others were not. We saw five deer this morning, including a young one who ran across the road in front of us.
Frosty has snowshoed up the Bigelows before. Last time, the Stratton Brook Pond Road was plowed nearly to the campsites. The road was blocked by some downed trees, and there was a possibility of the snow pack on the road soften up. So we parked and walked into the trailhead. We had to walk in over 2 miles just to get there.
Then we started on the Fire Warden’s Trail . The trail was packed down well. Frosty knew from visiting the New England Trail Conditions website that there had been snowshoe traffic on the trails, so they would be packed. We couldn’t have done the miles we did today if the trails hadn’t been packed. There were quite a few blow downs and lean downs across the path.
It was a gray, windy day. Since we weren’t out in the open, the wind wasn’t much of a problem. The weather forecast hadn’t predicted rain, but it certainly looked and felt like it was going to rain. Luckily, it didn’t. We did get a snow squall spitting snow on us. It didn’t last long though.
Today’s trip had multiple stream crossings. They were a bit annoying with my short legs. Later in the season they would be frozen and snowed over making crossing them easier. At one wider stream crossing, Frosty and I had to remove our snowshoes and rock hop across the stream.
We also had some narrow, one board, bog bridges to cross. Since I am balance challenged, these were a bit tricky. There wasn’t any place to the side to plant my poles. I had to plant them in front of me.
The terrain today was lots of flat and gradual slopes. We did have some steep sections thrown in for good measure. Since the temperatures were warmer than predicted, the snow was heavy and wet. This slowed us down a little. A hard, icy trail would have been faster traveling.
We had some great views of Sugarloaf today. We also saw some tracks Frosty thought might be from a pine marten. We has seen a marten in these woods before. There were bunches of moose scat and a clump of moose fur along the trail.
We had set a turn around time of 12:30. It is faster going down, but with these types of miles we would have tired legs too. The time was 11:45, and we had to make some decisions. We were a half mile from the col, but it was a very steep up from where we were. It would have taken us awhile. There was no way we were going to make it to the col, let alone a summit, by our turn around time.
We decided to head back down the trail. It was amazing how much the trail had changed. It was much punkier. We postholed the trail a few times, in our snowshoes! On our way down, we met a woman on her way up. She was bare booting it. She was postholing through the trail in places, too. She turned around not too long after meeting us.
Turning around was a good decision for me. Although, we could have pushed it to the col. We would’ve been returning on the road section in the dark, since our time would’ve been much later. I hate to be reminded of my limits, but I was dragging the last mile to the vehicle.
Our trip today was 11 miles long with an elevation gain of nearly 2000 feet. We were on snowshoes for 7 hours.