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02/15/2009


Date Climbed: 02/15/2009

Distance: 5.8 miles

Low Elevation: 4051 feet
High Elevation: 1840 feet
Elevation Gain: 2146 feet
Elevation Loss: 2146 feet

Start Location: Avalon TH
Finish Location: Avalon TH
Route: Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, Mt. Tom spur to summit and return

Weather: 5F, overcast, little to no wind, light snow.
Companions: (none)

Photos: http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/570122263vQYdWJ

Picture it! Bethlehem, June, 1985, a young hiker is on the A-Z trail on the way through Zealand Notch. He skips the viewless Mount Tom for another time (or maybe he meant to do it after Field/Willey the next day, he doesnít remember). Decades later, he rediscovers hiking in the Whites, and to his joy, fir waves have blessed Tom with views! That hiker was me. Yeah, so I like Golden Girls. So what about it. After hiking for the first time in a month on E. Osceola, I had really wanted to get out this weekend, too. Weíre heading off on vacation soon, so cramming in a few hikes sounded just fine to me. Tom has been on my short list for some time, and being a nice short one, fit the bill well. Sunday was forecast to be mostly sunny and fairly warm according to the NWS, so I was primed to go. Not only to finally check out those views, but to see how much better I felt after hiking only a week ago. Lousy sleep, and a remote feeling of a chest cold coming on made for a rotten morning. I really just wanted to sleep in, but I wasnít going to miss out on such a prime day. On the first part of the drive up, I was yawning and feeling mentally unwilling to do this. By the time I got to Canterbury I really started noticing what a great day it was going to be and perked up. Awesome! View Man will have much to see. Itís (almost) all about the views! Huh? Wait now. No! No! NOOOOO! Tecumseh was barely in the clouds, and the notch was invisible with clouds. I drove into the snow and hoped things would be better on the other side. Alas, it was not to be. More overcast, light snow all the way to trailhead, and Crawford was socked in as well. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Well, maybe itíll clear later. I pulled into the Highland Center to see a very full lot and an F&G truck. Then another. And another, and many, many more. I suddenly remembered reading on VFFT the previous night about 2 lost hikers up in the Presis. Perspective-time. To hell with ďmyĒ crappy weather, this was not going to help with the search on high. I was feeling gloomy and anxious seeing this scene, knowing two people were probably miserable somewhere up there, or worse. An F&G guy stopped by my car and I wished them luck, both of us hoping they were hunkered down well somewhere, he confirming they were at least probably well-equipped. He told me they had gone missing on Thursday, but the call didnít come in until apparently late Saturday. Eek. I headed off in search of the TH around 8:50 (it was where it was supposed to be), and headed up probably two hundred feet before realizing something wasnít quite right. Poles. Argh. I am forever forgetting these things. All the way back to the car. Just as I re-entered the trail I could more bright red suits hitting the trails and the helo preparing for takeoff. Good luck, folks. The trail grade is modest at first and made for a pleasant start. I could hear the helo for the first mile or so, reminding me to be careful myself. I knew of one group heading up here, but opted for a solo hike, partly for flexible scheduling, and mostly for some solitude. The trail was nicely packed, and had good traction, as it had apparently snowed more after the melt we had. I quickly changed to snowshoes instead of barebooting, though, as I found the little slips backwards to be annoying. As it turns out, it was a good move, as I saw a small number of postholes in unexpected places throughout the day. The junction of the A-Z trail came up quickly. Shortly after this, thereís a nasty PUD from hell. I thought about butt sliding down, but with a stump and a tree right next to the trail, this didnít seem too wise, so I was super careful in descending. I knew I would hate this spot coming back (it really wasnít that bad). I took many short breaks, something I had realized I needed to be doing after hiking with a group last weekend. I donít think of myself as particularly strong, but my problem is I push myself way too hard (in everything, as it turns out). Heck, I should be able to just storm up the mountain! I knew now my pace is all wrong, and was determined to just have a nice, easy hike at a moderate pace with lots of breaks. That and eat and drink more, something else Iím not usually good at. I found this hike much more pleasant. Always something to learn. I hadnít seen anyone all day so far, but soon a cute dog (Labradoodle, Iíd guess) and owner came along. We exchanged short pleasantries, and went upon our ways. He was going to shoot for the three-some, and I let him know there was another group ahead doing the same. I slowed down to give the guy some space, and after a time he was out of sight. I reached the headwall, and found things not so pleasant here as the steepness increased, but nothing outrageous, and again, just took it easy and stopped a lot. I had a few psych! moments where it looked like I was reaching the height of land, but a quick look right to the rising ridge would confirm I wasnít there yet. I had to slow down mentally, too. It ainít a race. I reached the spur and had bite to eat, looking around realizing what a beautiful little spot this was. I threw on my outer shell figuring the winds would pick up, but strangely, the only wind I felt all day was in the raving around 3000 feet. After a time, I went on up the spur, wondering why for 0.3 miles I hadnít come this way in 1985. Strange creature, I. Nice moderate grade for a while, and then I hear ďHi Salty!Ē. Now mind you, this may be normal for a lot of you, but Iíve been off the scene until this year, and have only done one group hike. Of course, it was Bob Hayes, who I hiked with last weekend and I knew was up here with Jason Berard. It was one of the highlights of the day to run into people I know (and put faces to others), and it was nice to meet Jason and talk with Jay and Bob. He mentioned Geri and Trish were up ahead. I saw some unfamiliar faces peering up from the back of the line. When we got moving again, I got to meet Steve (ďThe Man in Orange?Ē says I, and Iíll never feel the need to confirm he is indeed in orange), Getawaygirl, and Iím sorry, but I didnít catch the last fellowís name. I hadnít expected to run into you guys today, as I figured with an hour on me youíd be long up the Willey trail by the time I rolled around. Guess Iím not that slow. Just staminatically challenged. I met the fellow with the dog coming down, and quickly gained the summit at 11:30, marveling at the views that werenít there today. A monochromatic numbness of grey. Well, looks like Iíll have to return at some point. I was happy to knock off another unclimbed peak, at least. I poked around the summit for a short time, and was just starting to head into the woods when I saw it. Right in front of me. The Grey Jay. Dang, I had tried to remind myself I had heard they were up here. I fumbled for food and the camera while the little guy just sat there, as if saying ďplease feed me, Iím really cute, Iíll wait!Ē. OK, out went the hand another jay swooped onto it from behind me. Ah, two of you guys here, plenty of food to go around. This was my first experience with these birds, and it was awesome and a hoot. The pictures are a big hit at home, too! I headed down, gradually increasing speed heading into my normal super-speed descent mode, and came across a couple of women heading up. We chatted, and one of them was about to get their first Grey Jay experience. I was excited for her and wished them all the best. I have to offer my apologies and hope it did no harm to them that I gave them the wrong time when they asked. I had looked at my GPS on the summit to see what time it was, and the stupid things seems to keep coming up an hour ahead even when I set it right, so I hope they didnít cut anything short because of it. One of them seemed to sense this wasnít quite right, anyway. Super-Speedy Descent Man kicked in, but I had to stop and catch my breath a few times. I donít try to run down the hill, but as long as I have some control, itís easier than trying to brake. I ran into three more groups heading up, and was out at 12:50. The chopper was refueling, and I saw a couple of SAR guys coming off the Crawford Path. I was hoping the hikers were found, but really had no idea, and didnít want to interfere as Iím sure they get pummeled by questions a lot. I found out a couple hours later they had been found an hour before I got out unharmed. Quite the pleasant day.