Monday, February 20, 2012

Mt. Crawford (3119') February 19, 2012

Mt. Crawford via Davis Path, February 19, 2012

Mileage: 5 miles RT

Elevation gain: 2100'

Trailhead: Route 302 - 6 miles west of Bartlett, NH - just across from the Notchland Inn.

Lesson learned: What a difference 15° and a broken out trail make!

The Mt. Crawford hike is a favorite with local families and is also on the "52 with a View" list.

After recently hiking Hedgehog Mountain, I was tentatively looking forward to hiking Mt. Crawford.

Hedgehog beat the stuffing out of us.  Though prepared for anything on Hedgehog, we found ourselves unexpectedly breaking trail that day - for 3 miles in 4°.  The frigid temps left the snow crusty and rebellious; we took turns being in front (similar to a cycling pace line), and had difficulty several times finding the trail. We were absolutely wiped out at the end of the day.

So with visions of cold hands and laborious trekking, we headed out to the Davis Path trailhead at 10:00 a.m.  About a dozen cars were already in the large parking area, not surprising as the day held promise. Much of the gray clouds hanging around the peaks had disbursed and there was no wind to speak of.  We put on our microspikes and headed down the road to the Bemis Bridge.

The road from the parking lot to the bridge.
As with many Davis Path trip reports, I am compelled to include a picture of the bridge, a cable-stayed design swooping over the shallow Saco River.  Several houses were on the other side of the river and the path comes quite close to one.

Sandy is our "pot of gold" at the end of this bridge!
Being packed out many times over, it was easy to see the trail however there are blue blazes at regular intervals.  Trail starts out at an easy grade, becoming steeper.

Some information. Davis Path was a bridal path in the Civil War era.

The sky was blue and bright, which made the snow in the woods gleam.  As we headed up we found a Nalgene bottle with a bit of red wine hanging from a tree.  Interesting.

Using our poles was annoying at times.  The temp was in the teens; the sides of the narrow breakout crusty. Since the edges were up to 10 inches higher than where we were stepping, planting poles was awkward. Our sticks clicked on the snow, skittered off to the side, requiring extra effort to get the poles firmly planted in spots where they provided assistance.

We met several groups of hikers coming down the trail; most were wearing microspikes but one group was wearing Hillsounds Pro for traction. I was intrigued.  Since I don't consider hiking the higher peaks in the winter, I've never considered purchasing crampons. Still, these hybrids look like they would be just the trick for traction on the steeper slopes and on wet ice.  The group collectively sang the praises of their traction.

A narrow path broken out made for easy following!
Up on the ridge we were treated to a fabulous view of Notchland and the mountains of Crawford Notch.  It was pleasant here with the sun shining on us.  We met two hikers, Randy and Mike who were hiking hard and had stripped down to shirts and summer hiking pants. 
Randy and Mike - next stop, the Bonds!
The rock slabs here were covered with at least 15 inches of snow.  The path beyond was easy to find. We headed out, our surroundings changed.  We were now somewhat out of the trees, the path leading us up and out, and then back into the trees briefly. It wasn't long before we found ourselves at the spur.

We were in and out of the trees on the ridge.

Spur trail off Davis Path
The spur trail leads to the summit, approximately 1/3 of a mile from the sign.  We headed up what looked like a sledding slope and got to the summit about noon: cold and windy with spectacular views!  Mt. Washington was still dealing with cloud cover but the other peaks were under clear skies. Our stay was brief, just long enough to take a few photos and head down out of the wind.   

Stairs Mountain, a few clouds.
Not a bad shot of us considering Rich was crotch deep in off-trail snow trying to set up the camera!
We had lunch back at the ridge viewpoint, which was delightfully out of the wind.  The sun was warm and view pleasant and we stayed their sitting in the snow until our butts became numb. It was time to head back down.

Joe having lunch at the overlook.
As sometimes happens, my camera decided it was TOO COLD to take a color photo!
We met several groups of hikers heading up as we made our way to the car.  The Nalgene "decanter" was still hanging in the trees and thinking someone had lost it (I mean, who would leave perfectly good wine out in the woods?, we put it on the picnic table at the parking area.  

From our car we were able to see the ledge where we lunched.  Off we went to get a beer.

What a beautiful winter hike Crawford is and quite a pleasant contrast to the January Hedgehog trip.  This was my first trip up Crawford and I can't want to see it in autumn!