I knew I wanted to spend New Years Day outside on some sort of snowy wooded adventure. My first thought was to hike up Mt Tecumseh (one of the NH48) with my snowboard and renegade ride down thru Waterville Valley as I had with Bear Bait 5 years ago on New Years Day 2012. I asked Stud of she was game and she was! I went online trying to find some trip reports and it seemed like there was a good amount of snow and more coming. I was hoping we could hike up with just our micro spikes but it seemed that snowshoes were necessary with all the fresh snow they were getting. When Bear Bait and I hiked it 5 years ago, the Mount Tecumseh Trail was packed down enough to hike up without snowshoes but the Sosman Trail which connects the peak to the Waterville Valley Ski resort area was untouched and deep powder and we were *post-holing thigh deep all the way which was both obnoxious and really challenging! *Post-holing is when you hike on a snowy trail that isn’t packed down and create deep holes which messes up the trail for other skiers and snowshoers making it all bumpy instead of smooth and flat and evenly packed down.
I have some kind of blockage about snowshoes. I’ve never successfully snowshoed. I found abandoned pair in a basement and tried them for the first time as I set out with friends to hike up Doublehead to spend a night at the cabin The plastic buckles that held the snowshoes onto my boots snapped after just a few steps and so I ditched them in the car and managed without them. The pair I have now was a gift from my dad from job lot. I tried them in the arboretum after a big blizzard but could not figure out how to walk efficiently in them and so I don’t really think I could hike a mountain in them. They’re big and heavy and I just don’t understand how they work although I’m going to give them another go. I’ve barely done any winter hiking as it is and even my micro spikes are less then a year old. I’ve had a few successful winter hikes with no snowshoes and no spikes where the snowpack on the trail was packed down enough that it was manageable in just boots. I managed to get up the foothills of Mount Washington a couple times for a ride down the Sherburne Trail and even hiked into the floor of Tuckerman’s Ravine but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the only person out there without either spikes or snowshoes. So I finally bought spikes this past spring and tried them out on some icy trails. They are great!
Back to snowshoes. When I think about snowshoeing, I think about skiing. Like, why snowshoe when I could ski?! Skiing is so much more fun! But I can’t ski up a mountain with my flimsy little ancient cross country skis. I definitely can’t ski down a mountain in my cross country skis. I love going down some little hills but without that fixed heal it sorta feels like standing on a cafeteria sled meaning I have zero ability to turn or snowplow. Its more of a Hail Mary type of plunge. Lots of adrenaline on some tiny hills.
This leads me All Terrain Skis which enable you to ski up the mountain and then click in that free heel so that its fixed allowing you to descend with more control. This technology has even been adapted for snowboarding! Its called Split Boarding and its basically a snowboard sliced or “split” up the middle creating two “skis” so that one can ski up a mountain and then once at the top you can clip the two ski halves back together into a snowboard and pivot the bindings allowing you to ride down the mountain. Bear Bait had been wanting to try this for years but its just not really a thing here in the northeast. Once he moved to the Northwest he was able to try it and get himself a set up and now he goes split boarding all the time on Mount Hood. I’m hoping to go out and try it this winter.
All this leads me back to snowshoes. I have a wide variety of outdoor interests which means I have a lot of stuff and gear and various clothing for various activities and weather. I am constantly trying to find balance in my life around my interests, time and budget. Snowshoes, even really good ones, are not that expensive when compared with investing in a whole new set-up of All Terrain Skis or a Split Board. My cross country skis bring me a lot of joy and I can get up and down a few hills with them. If I want to hike some mountains in the winter, I need to figure out how to snowshoe or get myself a pair that works.
In the meantime, Stud and I made a plan B for New Years Day. We brought our cross country skis to Bear Brook State Park in Southern New Hampshire. Neither of us had ever been there but we wanted snow and woods and there was no snow in Boston. I printed a really old map from 1992 off the internet that had no trail names and was very hard to read. It was all I could find. Bear Brook has 10,000 acres of trails and separate trails for snowmobiles and cross country skis. Fortunately we ran into a really friendly snowshoer who assumed we were lost which wasn’t exactly true but we may have gotten lost had we not met her. She gave us some directions for doing a big loop and off we went up and down and over and around various hills and creaks and ponds and pines stopping for lunch at a lean-to built by the CCC in 1937. It was so nice to sit down in a dry shelter to eat my PB&J although we cooled down so quickly so we couldn’t linger long. The shelter overlooked a pond and had a big fire pit and outhouses. In total we skied for 4 hours and did about 7-8 miles. This was definitely my biggest cross country ski outing adventure. I loved it. It was only an hour and a half drive north from Boston and the trails were well packed from other skiers and snowshoers. We did hear some hunter shots and our ski trail took us thru an archery range that had big scary caution signs everywhere. I worried we might get arrowed but we survived unscathed for the most part.