Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mt. Roberts 2/26/11

"Breaking Trail on Roberts" (pictures)

Saturday morning it was time to hike! Missing out on hiking the weekend before due to high winds. So we were both rested after a long Friday and ready for a good hike......and that brings me back to Friday actually. Yes Friday, when all the wonderful thawing that took place the days prior, the feelings of Spring, that dash of hope that soon the trees would be budding, blah...blah...blah! Well it was all covered up with 10 inches of snow! I shoveled the driveway all day and was sore and tired. Scott had to drive home in crappy conditions and we both had to go out to clean that evening. So with plenty of snow back on the ground it looks like the snow shoes I was excited to purchase at will be getting much more use after all!

My original plan was to hike the Pawtuckaway North peak as we had visited there once in the summer. So I packed my smaller back pack and went a little lighter on the emergency type gear. I threw my camera in the bag, which I don't usually do until I get to the mountain. Things changed however when Scott mentioned hiking one of the other mountains at Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area, that mountain being Roberts. I was unsure about it, the wind was blowing a bit and I didn't know exactly what the trail was like. But I soon agreed to give it a try, as I was certainly anxious to check it out! Sooooo, I switched everything (almost everything...) back over to my larger pack and we headed out.

We arrived at the lot at 9:30am. The first one's there by the looks, one vehicle with a person hanging out, perhaps a worker at the bottling plant? It was certainly cold, so we bundled up and I checked out the kiosk to look at the map. The route scanned, all packed and camera in hand........oh $#!% My camera was still at home in the other back pack! Oh this bummed me out so bad! Can you imagine? Me without my camera, AWE-ful! We did have Scott's camera, although I have hated it since I bought it. Lousy pictures, slow, difficult to use. I cursed at it all day, but at least I got a few decent pics out of it!

"Sigh", moving on ... sheesh, 3 paragraphs and we aren't even on the trail yet!! So, down the road we went carrying our snow shoes to the trail head (follow the road to the left, signs for Mt. Roberts trail which lead beside the horse stable). What lay ahead of us was nearly a foot of unbroken, fluffy snow! This would be our first major trail breaking on snow shoe's! The trail follows a logging road, switch backs around and comes out at the top of the horse field along an electric fence. We then made the moderate climb through the varying conditions of deep snow, snow drifts and frozen granular. You follow and cross several logging roads, but the trail is well marked by orange blazes, diamond markers and arrows.

We passed the camera back-and-forth for pictures as Scott pretty much led the way. As he broke trail I kept an opposite step so as to pack in between his steps. Animal trails were everywhere. It is always neat to see all the tracks left after a snow fall! Mice, deer, fox. One track imparticularly was impressive. It was the complete outline of a small mammal which I believe was a Bobcat. I thought fox at first, but given the track and tail imprint I am leaning towards the Bobcat....what do you think?

We saw glimpses of ledge through the trees, that being the first view point which was looking impressive from here. We made a moderate to steep climb and followed the spur trail 50 yards to a wonderful ledgy viewpoint. I don't want to diss' Bald Knob on the other side of the Castle, but I like this view much more! Easier to get to, and it includes a view over to the snow capped Mt. Moosilauke. The wind was very cold here so we hurried along back onto the trail to warm back up. Well, Scott did. I fumbled with the stupid camera trying to get the panorama mode figured out and trying to get a clear picture.

The trail began now has moderate climbs through stunted oaks, following and crossing several more logging roads. The trail then crossed some open areas that I am assuming were ledges but covered in snow. We then arrived at another view point then a third looking directly across to the other mountains in this range including Faraway, Turtleback, Shaw, Castle in the Clouds, Bald Knob beyond and Lake Winnipesaukee. We now climbed over 3 foot snow drifts then onto a lovely ledgy knob. Certain this might be the top we got a bit excited, only to find there was another rocky knob ahead. We got to that knob to see yet another ahead. I dropped my pack for a break as we talked to see how each of us was doing physically. Scott I could tell was getting tired, as he should be, he broke trail nearly 2 miles. I was getting tired myself after the day of shoveling. He than said "I'm just gonna check to see how deep the snow is beyond these trees" and off he went. Feeling left out I hoisted my bag up and followed him.

We spotted a very prominent knob ahead and felt this may really be the summit and we decided this would be our stopping point either way. We reached it and I unstrapped my snow shoes to climb the bare rock to get a look-see. Unfortunately this was not the summit, the ridge continued on into a pine grove with no definitive top in sight. We took a break at 11:45am and curious as to how close we were I pulled out my phone. Service was slow but I was still able to access my google maps which put us at 2400 feet. 170 ft. of elevation and a quarter mile or so from the summit. Not much, but we were happy where we were and felt no need to go further.

And so down we went and fast as always! Once again as with the Bald Knob hike the snow shoes got the best of me and as I slid down a steep section my feet went out from under me! As I made a "yelp" I landed flat out on my back...back pack that is. Luckily I had the camera so no pics of the fallen, bwah, ha, ha! Once I had the snow off me we continued. At the bottom of the ledges we crossed paths with a couple and the always annoying "how much further to the top?" question was asked without even a hello! Now let me just get this off my chest. I HATE being asked this.
First, I am enjoying myself and don't want to try and think how much time it took us to get down to this point and figure out how long that translates to going back up.
Second, if you don't know how long the trail is and don't know your math, perhaps you shouldn't be hiking! The general math is: 2 miles an hour plus a half hour for each 1000 feet of elevation gain. So, 2.5 miles = 1.25 hours, 1200 feet elevation gain = 35 min. or so which = 2 hours, perhaps longer in deep snow!
Third, if all your concerned about is the top, again, perhaps you shouldn't be hiking. Enjoy mountain as a whole, not just how fast or how many summits can I get to.
Sorry, but that is how I feel about that!

Surprisingly we passed about 8 other people coming up (a group I think) and all asked the same dam question, grrrr! Most were polite and friendly however and it was neat to see how many people we broke trail for and how much easier it would be now to descend! As we got back down below the first view point I spotted a triangular track in the snow. It literally looked like arrows pointing the way down hill! After checking my Scats and Tracks of the NE book I determined them to be turkey tracks.

As we passed the electric fence again, me being me had to get a picture next to the "HOT" sign. We then cut off the switch back and snow shoe'd down the banking. There were several vehicles parked near the stable and a group with 2 dogs out for a stroll around the pond loop by the looks. I over heard the lady say to one of the dogs "thank you for coming with us Bella". This name rung a bell as I had encountered this lone hiking dog twice on Blue Job Mt. in Farmington (tagged as the Blue Job hiker). I looked to see a black lab and so it had to be the Bella I have met. I was going to say hi to the owner but he had already jumped in his truck. We finished at 1:15pm.

We finished our day with a stop at Dunkin Donuts as always for a coffee and....what's that? A new sandwich? Two Big N' Toasty sandwiches please! WOW, so GOOD!! But not as good as the ritual Chinese food take-out and a coke and rum for dinner!! This was a lovely hike that I certainly plan on visiting again and again! The perfect distance and trail gradient for the average snow shoe hiker. Total time for us was 3:45 hours, about 4.6 miles.

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