St. Patrick's Day 2005 dawned clear and crisp. I hopped in the car at 7:00AM and hit 93 North, groovin' to some '97 Phish and chuckling at all the poor saps stuck in the southbound stop 'n' go. NH 118 was pretty exciting with plenty of frost heaves and the odd scoop loader thrown in to keep things interesting.
Met up with RR (who was wearing his shamrock fleece) at the trailhead around 9:15 and we were on the trail by 9:30. Conditions were great for fast skinning and we made it the 1.6 mi to Ravine Lodge in no time.
After a quick discussion, we decided to head up the Gorge Brook Trail (which neither of us had been on before) and see what we could find.
The trail was a touch narrow in spots, but seemed reasonable enough as we trudged our way up beside the bed of the brook itself. The streambed seemed like it might also be a nice run, however visible water and considerable deadfall suggested that the trail was probably the better option.
After a while, the trail contoured away from the brook, and began a series of long switchbacks through inviting open hardwoods interspersed with breathtaking views to the South. The closer we got to treeline, the lower the branches got. Check that, the higher we got. There must've been 4+ feet of snowpack up there! Combine that with the fact that the branches were coated with inches of rime ice, and we knew it was going to be a battle getting down. Eventually, we reached treeline and paused to shoot some more pix.
From there, it was a short hike through rime encrusted krummholtz up to the top. Although the trail was icy and windswept, there appeared to be skiable snow directly off the southern face of the summit. Upward we went, at one point even passing through a patch of sastrugi.
We arrived at the top and admired the view. The mountains spread out before us in all directions. The Greens to the West, Cannon, Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials to the Northeast, Tripyramid due East, and the foothills and Winnipesaukee to the South. I think we picked out at least 6 or 7 ski areas from up there.
On the summit.
Well, since we hiked all the way up there, we figured the earning part of the day was over and it was time to start turning. The snow we saw from below turned out to be the best that the summit had to offer, but we weren't complaining. We hiked over to the North side to check it out, but found no skiable snow, just windswept, rocky rime. We did however find, of all things, a moose! (Sorry, no pic. You'll just have to believe us.) He was just wandering around in the treeline at about the 4000 ft level. Cool.
OK, here's the action shots you've been waiting for.
We yo-yo'd the summit a few times, had a snack, and decided it was time to head down. Oh, yeah. We had a little refreshment up there too. Hey, it was St. Patricks Day after all.
Appeasing Saints Ullr and Patrick.
The ride down was exciting and fun-filled. It varied from white-knuckle, narrow-trail, survival skiing to peaceful gliding through the trailside woods. A little bushwhacking got us back on course and we even dipped into the streambed for a couple of turns.
A fantastic veggie pizza at Elvio's in Lincoln provided a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary day. 10 stars in my book.