Early 2009
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Mt. Kearsarge (South) - April 5, 2009
Activity, photos, and report by Ken L.
Additional photos by Sandy R.
About a month before this hike, Your Webmaster and Sandy went to visit a small cross-country ski area in Wilmot, NH.  Very little of the ski area was open due to diminishing snow.  So we decided to hike instead, and we went to Winslow State Park to head up 2937' Mt. Kearsarge via the Barlow Trail (1.8mi) to return the Winslow Trail (1.1mi).

Although the trail is great--and fairly easy for the rewarding views--it was cold, the trail was full of ice, and the wind was howling!  If we look cold in the picture, it's only because of the generous sun that we weren't icicles.

Your Webmaster ventured up into the observation tower that day but could barely hold on.

So...We decided to try it again one more time now that it's officially "springtime" (right?), and we ran into...MORE OF THE SAME!

Not a good sign...


We arrived at the turn onto the road leading to the gate for Winslow State Park.  Not only was the sign down, but snow still blocked the way.  So we parked, got our gear together, and hoofed it up the snowy road to the picnic area inside the park.  And, yes, we reminded ourselves of a discussion earlier in the day about needing crampons or not.  Yeah, there'd probably be some snow and ice, but probably not a lot...uh-huh.  My spikey crampons were safely tucked away...in my garage, of course.

Mostly deserted this time of year, we did run into a few people hiking or walking their dogs.  Our intent was to head to the Barlow Trail and wander up to the top of Mt. Kearsarge.  Already it was fairly windy, and the promises of temperatures in the 50s didn't materialize.  The sun could be seen once in a while, but by and large it was hidden by a big cloud that sat right on top of the mountain...for the day.  And it looked like the mountain got a little bit of snow at around the 2400' mark, as you can see in the above picture.  Yep, the curse was going to hold for Your Webmaster and Sandy...and this time we were going to share it with Kris and DJ.

Your Webmaster, Sandy, Kris, DJ

Undeterred, we grabbed a photo at the picnic area--quite scenic, actually, for a walk up a road--and made our way to the Barlow Trail trailhead.  The Barlow Trail is 1.8 miles and doesn't have any long steep sections, great for getting the bones moving if you've been hibernating.  Right at the start was plenty of snow.  Generally it's packed down this time of year, but on this trail we had a good amount of slippery ice and even noted some post-holing, so it had a little bit of everything.  We noticed the new light accumulation of snow start at a particular spot along the way.

Someone was hungry!

Sandy, Kris, and DJ on the bridge

I'd say the amount of snow and ice on the trail was about 60%.  It was all snow and ice at the start, then there were plenty of bare spots in the middle section of the trail, more ice nearer the top, then very little when the trail broke out to the rocks near the summit.  Already feeling the gusts, we decided to stop short of the summit to grab some lunch and enjoy the fabulous views to the east, which was out of the wind.

View to the west - the views from Mt. Kearsarge are incredible

After our brief repast, we made our way to the summit where there is an observation tower with an array of communications equipment.

The ice from the previous evening's snowfall was breaking off from the antennas and platforms and was crashing to the ground.

Your webmaster dodged the debris and wandered up to the observation deck, only to be blown back by the heavy winds.

Nobody else decided to head up, preferring instead to duck out of the wind and ponder the return trail...which itself proved to be a bit of a challenge.

The ice along the Winslow Trail was a bit tricky, considering our "real" crampons were, well, where they were doing the most good:  not on our feet and 100 miles away.  Sandy had some YakTrax with spikes, and Your Webmaster had a pair of the most basic YakTrax, so they helped.  However there's a large ice field along the trail, and without decent crampons, it's tough to negotiate.  The picture above was from the last trip Sandy and Your Webmaster made to Mt. Kearsarge (the incredible flowing ice is worth the trip alone), and the ice has diminished since then, but it's still a bit tricky.  Still we were able to skirt the slippery areas and make our way back down to the picnic area and then out of the park.

Safely back to the cars, we decided to grab some dins at a local pub and warm up by the fire.

Mt. Kearsarge is a relatively light effort for some of the best unobstructed views anywhere.  You can see over into Vermont, up to the White Mountains, well over to the flatter areas to the southeast.  During the warmer months the mountain is part a state park facility, but in wintertime the area is closed...but open to you!  Take I-89 to Rte. 11 and follow the signs.  This time of year you park as close as you can to the gate and walk in the rest of the way to the trailhead.  Dress for heavy gusty winds, and bring your crampons.  :-)  And prepare yourself for some great views!

Boxford State Forest Hike - March 14, 2009
Activity, photos, and report by Ken L.

The Boxford State Forest is a collection of state land and other conservation land located not far from Rte 95 in the Boxford, Massachusetts area.  Once planned to host a NIKE missile defense installation, the military's plans were shelved, and the land has now become a collection of trails to be enjoyed by the public.  There are no facilities aside from one or two parking areas.

Duane, Sarah, Michael S., and Your Webmaster met up at the Sharpner's Pond Road parking lot on what turned out to be a sunny Saturday.  It was still a little on the cool side, the temperatures not having shot up at 10am as they would by the end of the hike a few hours later.

Not having been there before, we led Duane over to the quarry, which was to be the site of the NIKE missiles, now full of water still frozen over from the colder weather.

Our trek had us hitting a bit of a loop before reaching Bald Hill.  As expected, there was a bit of water around on the trails, but everything was passable.  The snow cover was odd, though, as you seemed to have no snow, or you had half a foot or more.  There was very little in between; either the trail was bare, or you could have done some X-C skiing with the snow depth.  What snow there was had a soft and slightly slushy texture to it, so keeping our footing wasn't a problem.

Over near Bald Hill is the site of the old Russell-Hooper Farm, now little more than a few stone walls, a cellar hole, a cistern, and a foundation with a chimney.

However the legacy of the Russell family lives on, as these fine people reported for duty during the American Revolution, as noted on the grave markers in the cemetery.  Thank you...Your spirit lives on in the hearts of Americans who intend to take back and re-create the country you fought for over 200 years ago.

After a brief stop at the Russell-Hooper site, we wandered to the top of Bald Hill and bushwhacked down to the main trail to head on out.

Bald Hill

Along the way was the large beaver dam...

...that seems to grow higher every time we see it!

It was a quiet walk in the Boxford State Forest on a sunny, warm day during the last week of winter. 

Your Webmaster was glad to have some fine company!

Estabrook Woods X-C Ski - February 7, 2009
Activity by Michael S.
Photos and report by Ken L.

Barn at the entrance of Estabrook Woods

Michael S. invited us all along for a few hours of cross-country skiing at Estabrook Woods in Concord/Carlisle, Massachusetts.

Estabrook Woods is an area of woods and small ponds.  The area is full of history, most notably the Colonists marched along Estabrook Road on the way to North Bridge in April 1775.  And the rest is certainly a heck of a history.

In addition to cellar holes, there is the site of an old lime kiln, limestone being an important material for the Colonists, and it was mined there in the woods.  You can still see the sites where they dug out the limestone (although not on this day with all the snow).

When you visit Estabrook Woods, please note that there are many dogs around.  In fact, I ran into a co-worker with his dog Jake!

The day started out cold.  In fact, the overnight low was not very far above zero, but by the end of the day it was over 40 degrees.  The snow conditions were outstanding.  The trails had already been packed down, so there was a solid base of probably a foot with a little bit of tight powder at the top.  There was a little bit of grabbing on the bottom of the skis at around noontime, but after some clouds showed up, the trails settled back down, enabling a great kick and glide--and sometimes a kick wasn't even required!  Normally you'd need to drive far north for conditions this good, but not today!
Many SubSIG people were there for the X-C ski outing.  Our group totaled 12 at the start.

Our route took us from the Estabrook Road entrance along Two Rod Road, then into Carlisle, then some lefts here and there, and we found our way back to Estabrook Road for a straight shot back to the parking lot.

Although mostly flat, there were some gentle hills that provided a little bit of a variety.  There's a great sledding hill there in the woods as well...somewhere...:-)

We paused for lunch after a few hours along the trail.

It was then that the group suddenly went to 13 people.  At the trail junction where we decided to stop, a lone skier appeared.  She looked at us and said she was lost and asked if we could help her out.  Immediately she recognized Joel, one of the SubSIG people, who just happened to have a few maps printed out.  So our group size went to 13 for a while, and we helped our new friend find her way back to her car.

The trails were certainly busy...

Sharing the trail

Well, I guess dogs aren't the only four-footed friends in Estabrook Woods!

This was a fine day of cross-country skiing.  Estabrook Woods seems to be a worthy place to visit any time of year!

Information about Estabrook Woods is available here and here.  Your Webmaster could not find any "official" maps, but the "Walking Map" is about the best and provides some historical information.  There is a second page to the Walking Map as provided by Joel of SubSIG, but Your Webmaster could not find that on the 'net.  It is probably there somewhere.  The second link has a GPS-mapped layout of the trails and other things--neat!