The snow has been disappearing fast around here for the past four weeks. Four Saturdays ago I was cross-country skiing in the best snow of the season, and then there were a few inches of perfect glide snow that night and Sunday’s skiing was spectacular. The following weeks were warm and rainy and by last weekend I was considering planting my peas.
I’m glad I didn’t. It’s been a cold week, with snow twice, though nothing stuck. But not up north. Five of us gathered to hike Mt. Jackson today, and when we got to the trail head and got out of the car, a stinging wind whipped with snow squalls greeted us. We dressed in our extra layers as quickly as we could and got into the woods, where the week’s snowfalls had left plenty of fresh powder.
Winter. Again. Still. Luckily, there were snowshoers ahead of us, so we didn’t have to break trail. As we hiked higher, there was more powder, the packed trail sinking deeper with walls of snow on either side, and the clumps on the trees thickened. Hiking up on snowshoes was hard work.
But it was beautiful — sun periodically breaking through the racing clouds above and drenching the white world in yellow light, trees feathered with snow, fresh powder on every surface, and off to our south occasional glimpses through the trees of Crawford Notch, a deep cut in the mountain, a vast empty space below us as we climbed higher.
Getting tired, and thinking that the next corner would bring us to the top, or the next, or the next, we finally rounded a corner and could see the peak a couple hundred feet above us, a rocky knob above spindly winter and wind worn trees. “I’ve had enough,” Anne said, and Ellen and June were still behind us, so she headed back to find them. But Cynthia wanted to bag the peak. She’s working on hiking all the 4,000 footers in NH, and this was one she didn’t have.
“Okay, let’s go,” I said. It was wild, fiercely windy and wonderful. We mistakenly took the trail broken by the young men we’d met on their way down. “We lost the trail and got a bit bushwacky,” they’d said. As we crawled and scrambled up the steep summit cone, hoisting ourselves up by spruce trunks sticking above the snowpack, we knew we were in bushwacky land ourselves. But the summit was right there, we climbed the last bit of rock and saw the trail signs, then the summit cairn and Cynthia hustled over to it. “Okay, I did it. Thanks for coming with me,” she said. “Happy to do it,” I said and we headed back. It was too cold and windy for a photo, too hard to look into the wind to take in the view, and we wanted to be sure to follow our tracks down before they blew away.
We bagged it.
Snow shores receding
Grass taking over again
Gray morning unfolds
Snow lacing light through branches
Sun breaks open clouds.
Deep snow brook still falls
Over rock under thin ice
One stone standing clear.