Reaching 40% Traced (Days 50 - 90)
It’s been a while since I last posted here about my attempt to hike all of the trails in the White Mountain Guidebook, 30th edition, but I’ve reached two big milestones and wanted to hop on and share what I’ve been up to. In my last post, we were in full-blown foliage-mode here in the Northeast. Now, we are in some strange Twilight Zone-esque winter. At lower elevations, trails are all but snow-free, and for me, this has been a welcome surprise. Hiking in winter is hard. Breaking out trails solo is a nightmare. I hike solo and although I’m not afraid to stomp out a few miles of fresh powder under my snowshoes, I would prefer a hard packed monorail or snow-free trails.
Winter hiking will make or break this attempt for me. It’s that simple. I don’t have the luxury of time. Looking at the calendar, realistically, all of the trails won’t be snow-free until at minimum early June. There is nothing more frustrating (or exhausting) than rotting monorails, and when planning my attempt to hike all of the trails and the 100 highest peaks in New England in 14 months, weather (specifically winter) and trail conditions (think, spring hiking) are what dictated which hikes I would do when, throughout the year.
The first flakes began to fall mid-November. I had snow-free trails for days fifty through sixty-six, and I couldn’t have been happier. Over those sixteen hikes, I watched the seasons change, shuffled through knee-deep drifts of dead leaves, and coined a new phrase: post-holing, leaf edition, along Great Brook Trail in the Speckled Wilderness. On day sixty-seven, true-blue shoulder season made hiking along the notorious Kinsman Ridge a slippery adventure and I silently cursed myself for not bringing my snowshoes on Cherry Mountain Trail when an unexpected foot or more of snow coated the seldom-used trail.
The hikes have gotten shorter, forest roads are closed, and the elevation gain has dropped substantially as I settle into full-blown winter. The first major snowstorm came in mid-December, and I was grateful that the Franconia Ridge between Mount Liberty and Little Haystack were doable without snowshoes, though the freeze/thaw temperatures of December meant major ice on Falling Water Trail (and on Moat Mountain day 78).
January has brought unusually warm temperatures back. We’ve had one major storm this year, where over 3’ of snow fell in the presidential area, but since then, almost no storms have rolled through. My approach to which hikes to do has shifted and I’ve been hiking a lot of lower elevation hikes to get them done while they are unusually snow-free. The New England Trail Conditions online forum is riddled with posts about the horrible conditions of the trails on the 4000’ers and I’m all too happy to avoid the landmine post holes that are riddling the higher peaks right now while we wait for another significant storm to fill in the ankle-twisters.
I completed my 90th hike on January 9, and have now hiked over 42% of the trails in the White Mountains. It has been an unexpectedly snow-free winter, and as January rolls into February (the coldest month of the year) I am hoping that the temperatures will remain above zero and that snow will melt away quickly so that I don’t have to contend with rotting monorails all spring.
Days Hiking: 90
Miles Hiked: 967.68
Overall Vert: 276,933’
Miles on Vehicle: 22,000