Southern NH Nordic skiers/snowshoers: Windblown ski swap 12/6

Back FortyThis photo is just a tease. It’s not snowshoe weather in southern New Hampshire just yet. I’ll be back on Windblown’s trails (like the one in the picture) soon enough. It’s time to prepare for the season, though, and Windblown cross-country ski area’s annual ski swap is coming up on December 6, 9-11 a.m. at 1180 Turnpike Road (routes 123/124) in New Ipswich. Keep an eye on Windblown’s Facebook page for updates.

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A foot of powder? Yes, please!

Horse Hill Nature Preserve, Merrimack NH. Ellen Kolb photo.

Horse Hill Nature Preserve, Merrimack NH. Ellen Kolb photo.

We’ve had two snowfalls in my area in recent days, both nice fluffy powder. I was one of the first hikers since yesterday’s snowstorm to walk through the nature preserve nearby. It was a lunchtime trip and I had less than an hour, but with the preserve less than three miles away, I couldn’t pass it up.

I met only a couple of fellow hikers on the way.  Like me, they were wedging a walk into the workday. They looked as relaxed as I felt. Aside from our greetings to each other, things were pretty quiet. I would hear aircraft approaching the regional airport to the north and the community airport to the south and the corporate helipad nearby, and then all the flights would be over for a few minutes and I would hear nothing but the wind in the bare trees. Those are the bonus moments.

This made a good break in a day when too much was racing through my mind. Today is the web site launch for another project of mine, and I am at the mercy of my techie-pro colleagues. I’m baking for a holiday celebration. (Food is love where I come from.) Christmas is next week, and I feel the loss and separation from some of my loved ones more keenly now than at other times of the year. The car needs work. Real life is in high gear, in other words.

Hooray for high gear. It makes me appreciate low gear in snowshoes.

The winter games are here

Mine Falls Park after first snowfall, December 2013

Mine Falls Park after first snowfall, December 2013

No, not the Olympics in Sochi (which I will watch on TV in a couple of months along with a billion other people). I mean there’s finally been a snowfall in my area just heavy enough to put a base on the trails. It’s late fall, and winter is impatient to elbow its way in. This morning in Nashua, I spent an hour at Mine Falls Park enjoying the crunch of snow beneath my sneaker-clad feet. The canal is almost-but-not-quite frozen over, and the muskrats have taken refuge wherever muskrats like to go.

Sometimes the season’s first snow in southern New Hampshire pounds us – the Halloween Eve snowstorm in 2011 dumped a foot of heavy wet snow, uprooted countless oaks & maples, and left me without electricity for four days. Other years are more like this – a couple of tentative snowfalls, just to get us ready for the inevitable big ones.

I can pull my snowshoes out of their little nook in the basement and put them closer to the door.  I can  look forward to hiking on those brilliant cloudless days that follow snowstorms. My favorite cross-country ski area, 45 minutes away on the eastern slope of the Wapack Range, has announced that it’ll be open for business this weekend. That means their 40km of snowshoe trails are ready to go as well. That’s a special trip for me, too far for weekly visits. A prime memory for me is a midweek trip there a few years ago, the day or two after a storm. There were a few skiers around, but I was the only snowshoer in sight, and I had all that wonderful powder to myself on the woods trails. Solitude, beauty, sunshine, and unbroken powder: does it get any better in the winter?

When the Olympics are broadcast, I will ooh and ahh over the alpine skiers. I have never learned to ski, so seeing people do it at a high level of skill is alarming and thrilling for me. I’ll cheer for the cross-country skiers, who are better-conditioned than most of us could ever hope to be. I’ll watch the snowboarding, which for my money is the most fun event to watch at the Olympics (and yes, I watch the X Games). But eventually, I’ll tire of being a spectator. The snowshoes will be right by the basement door, waiting for me.

 

First day of Spring on a foot of new snow

Flexible work hours meant I could take a quick late-afternoon trip today to Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. I had the place to myself, as far as I could tell. I haven’t had nearly as much time to go hiking this winter as I would have liked. Winter went out yesterday with about a foot of snow in this area, and Spring began today with sunshine and temps in the 30s. Wonderful.

Location: Beaver Brook Association, Hollis, New Hampshire. See www.beaverbrook.org . The trailhead I chose is on NH Rt. 130. 0.8 mile west of NH Rt. 122. Parking lot (unpaved) is on the south side of the road.

My one snowman of the season.

My one snowman of the season.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Packed Powder at Horse Hill

My timing couldn’t have been better. I drove into the Horse Hill Nature Preserve parking lot this afternoon just as a snowmobile emerged from the trail after grooming the snow. We’ve had about a foot over the past three days, topped with lovely powder, and I was eager to bring the snowshoes out from offseason storage. I usually don’t get out on trails after snowfalls until the snow’s been chewed up & packed by lots of other people. Today, I had two great hours on the main loop trail: no ice, no bare spots, no skiers. I love skiers – in fact, I’m married to one – but today, I didn’t have to worry about staying off to one side to make room for them. Today was for snowshoers.

There were ten cars in the lot when I arrived, but that didn’t presage a traffic jam on the trail. Horse Hill covers a lot of ground. I passed maybe a dozen people altogether, along with four friendly dogs. The presence of the dogs probably accounted for the absence of wildlife along my way.

To the folks whose photo I took, I am omitting the picture from this post since I neglected to get your names. My mistake! The four of you looked like you were having a great time. You can post the photo taken with your camera in the comments section, I think.

Just a little copper glow on the treetops as the sun goes down.

Just a little copper glow on the treetops as the sun goes down.

Freshly packed, ready for snowshoe tracks.

Freshly packed, ready for snowshoe tracks.

Even with ten cars in the parking lot, I found the trails uncrowded.

Even with ten cars in the parking lot, I found the trails uncrowded.

Stiff breezes will probably take some snow off this lodge tonight.

Stiff breezes will probably take some snow off this lodge tonight.

First Good Snow

A two-inch snowfall last week was enough to get the roads salted, but for recreation, yesterday’s 8″ was much better. I brought my snowshoes to Horse Hill in Merrimack this afternoon. A number of my neighbors apparently got there earlier, though, and there was a well-beaten path that rendered snowshoes pointless. No problem. An hour’s walk in boots was a good way to end my workday.

Yesterday’s powder was followed by just enough rain to settle the fluff a bit. This afternoon, there was a light crust over the powder, and breaking trail up to Blodgett Hill was easy. Breezy, 30s, partly cloudy: very pleasant.