With low snow levels (about a foot deep), and consolidated snow at that, I decided to take a trip up to N. Hitchcock. With Brian sick, Greg decided to join me, despite being on a Sunday. It was a cold day to be sure, the ranger station said the temp. was 0F, and the wind was whipping across the parking lot. Me and cold don't go together well, so I finally relented and got hand warmers.
We marched up the trail, and it wasn't long before I could ditch the hard-shell, thanks to the woods sheltering most of the wind. We got a view of Bond and Bondcliff along the way.
The plan was a more or less direct attack up the brook from near the Pine Island Trail. We arrived at the departure point pretty quick, and despite some punching through the snow at first, it firmed up within 50 feet or so. Woo hoo! I was aiming for a logging road and we were in wide open hardwoods, but as we climbed, I kept slowing down, taking frequent breaks. I'd look up and see the slope was next to nothing, but clearly winter and almost 3 months of no hiking were taking its effect. Finally at a point where I couldn't go 50 feet without stopping, I realized we still had a ways to go, the slope would get worse, and the we'd be more exposed to the wind. I had to admit this was going to get ugly and talked to Greg and we decided on plan B. The Bailmaster had returned.
Well, we made up a plan B on the spot. We'd go up the East Side Trail as far as we could, seeing if there was a way to get across the East Branch for some variety on the way back. Barring that, Greg wanted to take the Pine Island Trail on the way back, which worked for me, having likewise never been on it. So a quick trip back to the trail (distressingly quick, showing how slow I was plugging along) and on we went, being the only footprints in an inch of new snow.
It was quick walking, and we had a lot to catch up on. We checked out the old crossing by Franconia Brook, and saw no way across even if this low flow.
We kept going, and my hope to get all the way to Stillwater (which was dubious at best) wasn't going to happen. Even on a relatively flat surface, my groin was bugging me. No matter, as when we got to Cedar Brook and I tested the ice, my foot readily broke the ice. End of the road, which was good for me. We'd at least get around 9 miles for Greg's Trekking for a Cure hike today, so not too shabby. And I'd get 9 miles of walking in, which was much needed. We turned and chugged back the way we came, never finding a safe enough crossing.
My groin kept getting worse, and I was regretting piling on so much miles, but nothing to be done about it except chug along and make the best of it. And think of hot pizza. I was being very careful about my hands, and was finally having a good day out in the cold, at least for hand warmth. We finally got back to Pine Island junction and trudged along on that. It was an interesting break from the monotonous East Side Trail, and the damage from Irene was quite evident in spots, which cause the trail to be closed for some time. Coming back to the East Side, we started seeing a lot more tracks in the snow, including skiers. I winced at every little uphill on the way back, but we quickly enough found ourselves back at the lot.
At least I was able to get out and get some work on my legs, especially with a 25 pound winter pack, and it was great seeing Greg again. Piping hot pizza didn't suck either.