Sunday, March 16, 2014

Greeley Ponds

Even though I am back stateside and working full time once again, I can't let Hilary and B have all the fun! In the middle of last week, some weather passed through that did almost nothing around Concord, but dumped upwards of one foot of snow in the Whites. So come the weekend I pulled out my backcountry skis and cold weather gear, put Jasper in the back of the station wagon, and headed north.

I searched through our library of outdoors literature to find a trail that would be:

  • fun on skis, because I haven't gotten to do much of that this year
  • not groomed trail, because frankly I would just embarrass myself trying to properly cross country ski or, worse yet, skate ski. jasper may not be welcome on groomed trail, anyway
  • not heavily traveled, because who wants to be doing the same thing as everyone else
  • not too technical, because even though they're technically backcountry skis, I have neither the equipment nor the ability to do serious telemark skiing through the woods without breaking something
  • not too far away, because even through the best stuff is in the notches, I don't want to spend hours in the car for this

I found a nice looking candidate just off the Kancamaugus Highway, about 75 minutes from the house: Greeley Ponds. There is a well-used hiking trail from the main trailhead, but also a little-used ski trail that parallels it on a gentle ascent to a pair of ponds nestled between Osceola and Kancamaugus peaks. The ponds freeze predictably (especially during this winter!), which would allow some skiing out in the open. From the trailhead to the far end of the ponds and back would be perhaps 5 miles.

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From Snowshoe Hikes in the White Mountains by Steven Smith, 2000

In planning the hike, I had the choice between 40s with a chance of rain on Saturday, or 15 and mostly sunny Sunday. I chose the latter, because it is still winter here and, dammit, I'm gonna enjoy it! It was chilly, but I prefer a nice clean cold to still-pretty-cold-in-addition-to-wet.

Jasper was excited to come along no matter what:

The hiking trailhead was packed with cars - folks headed up Osceola mostly. But 0.3 mi west I pulled up beside a solitary vehicle at the ski trail head. Jasper immediately began his usual snow-frollick:

Since the snowstorm a few days before, it looks like just one other person had come through, followed by some thawing on Saturday, a dusting overnight, and then Jasper and myself. There were also some fresh paw prints - a fox or coyote perhaps?

On the way up I ran into only a few people. One older fellow from Sanbornton caught up to me on skis, and we journeyed across the ponds together. He apparently comes up to this trail frequently, and is a veteran of many of the long thru-hikes in the U.S. He explained to me that the trail further south past the lakes eventually emerges in Waterville Valley ski area, but has been hard going since Irene a few years back. After a bite of lunch, Jasper and I headed back across the ponds:

Jasper's energy was much diminished on the way back. Even though he is largely impervious to the cold, there's no getting around the fact that it was only in the mid teens with some wind. Although I had scrupulously purchased some new booties for Jasper the day before, I neglected to actually put them in the car Sunday morning, meaning that Jasper and I had to stop occassionally to de-ice his paws. He was a good sport about it though, and I think he did have a good time. He was pretty tired - and snowy! - by the time we returned to the car:

While Jasper usually sits up and pants excitedly anytime he's in the car, today he konked out all the way home.

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