Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cross Country Skiing and Hiking AMC Trails

On Sunday January 27th I headed to Greenville, Maine in the Moosehead Lake region with the J Man to XC ski on the AMC trails.  The AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) owns a nice tract of land in the 100 Mile Wilderness based around wilderness lodges that offer all forms of man powered outdoor recreation.  In the winter, XC skiing is the main draw.  Most people will come in and ski to the lodges where they pay to stay and have there gear shuttled, nice meals, and warm beds.  I use this area regularly in the winter since they have somewhere around 80 miles of XC ski trails that are almost all groomed and entirely free.  Despite the fairly full parking lot, while on the trails it is rare to see anyone else. The area is nestled between three sets of mountains (Lily Bay Range, Barren-Chairback Range, and White Cap Range) and is quite scenic.  It's my favorite place to xc ski.
The J Man and I decided on skiing in towards Little Lyford Pond Lodge.  There is a loop near there called the Indian Mountain Circuit that goes around Indian Mountain that we never skied so we decided to try it. It turned out the be one of the more challenging trails in the area with some steep and windy sections.  Part way into the loop is a side trail that climbs Indian Mountain to an overlook called Laurie's Ledge with views reaching Katahdin and the northern 100 Mile Wilderness.  It is to narrow and steep to ski so we hiked to the viewpoint which was only 1.5 miles roundtrip.
View towards White Cap Range from Indian Mountain

 Snowy Katahdin in distance from Indian Mountain (Clicking on photo will make it clearer)

After leaving the summit we continued on skis around the mountain and it was clear not many used the trail, if anyone, in a long time.  The last section of the circuit heads on an ungroomed backcountry trail that was not broken this year.  Since J Man was tiring, I took the lead and broke the trail.  I had fun on this trail. It was fairly narrow and hilly making it a nice challenge from the groomed trails although I think it pushed the tired J Man a hair too far perhaps.  The loop ends on the trail we came in and we returned back to the parking lot on the same trail on which we started.  Including the 1.5 mile hike the total trip was about 16 miles.  Conditions were among the best I skied all season.

More Fun in the Cold and Snow

Last Saturday January 26th was a cold and windy day but it was also clear so I wanted to do something outside.but wasn't up to a long drive.  I decided on a hike fairly close to home that makes a 7 or 8 mile loop using the Appalachian Trail in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  The trail starts to a fairly popular spot on the AT called Little Wilson Falls which is one of the highest waterfalls along the entire AT.  Some others had the same idea as the trail was well pack with snowshoes.  Beyond the falls though I headed north on the AT and was breaking snow the rest of the way.  This hike isn't particularly difficult but it is remote and not many people hike beyond the falls. Since it is wooded the wind wasn't too bad despite single digit temperatures.  Windchills were in the negative teens out of the woods. I didn't see another person until I got back to my car.  It was my first longish snowshoe hike since last March so it was nice change from all the cross country skiing I have been doing.
Little Wilson Falls frozen in winter

Little Wilson Falls when not frozen

Following the AT in unbroken snow up some ledges in 100 Mile Wilderness

The icy results of hiking in single digit temps

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cross Country Skiing

I've been cross country skiing a fair amount this winter.  This past weekend I was out three days covering somewhere between 35-40 miles.  Friday and Saturday I did a local loop that goes around the north side of my town pretty close to my house.  The distance is somewhere in the 15-16 mile range and uses a series of snowmobile trails.  The two main trails are fairly quiet but the connector trail can be quite busy.  The loop involves a nice variety of rolling terrain through mostly woods and a few short stretches of field.  The snow coverage has to be fairly fresh or the conditions are pretty nasty.  I last did this loop on New Years Day and conditions were miserable at best.
 Last Wednesday we had about six inches of snow so I gave this loop a try Friday around noon when the temperature reached a balmy 5F (It didn't reach 0 until about 10am up from -12 earlier).  It's amazing how much heat you produce XC skiing as even in this frigid weather I wore only a base layer for a shirt.  The temperature did get up to a toasty 9F at the peak of the day.
With the new snow, the skiing was pretty nice despite a few areas of thin cover.  With the single digit temps and subzero windchill I didn't see an entire soul all day.  I had about an inch of ice hanging from my chin by the time I finished.
A fresh dusting of snow Saturday morning inspired me to hit the same trail that morning.  Being a warm 15F and a weekend, I did cross paths with a few snowmobiles but they basically just groomed the trail for me.  I even saw another skier.  The fresh snow sweetened the conditions.
Saturday night saw another 3 inches of snow.  I decided go out on skis again.  This time I skied in logging lands north of Sebec Lake in Barnard, ME.  In the winter this place is pretty isolated.  I skied here last weekend in hopes of possibly finding moose antlers or seeing a moose since they are fairly common here. I was out of luck.  The skiing was not the best.  Fog settled and warm air came with it hitting the upper 30s making the snow very sticky.  I constantly had  scrape accumulation off the base of my skis.  The fog did lift though and besides a few moose and snowshoe hare tracks, I had the place to myself.  After an 80 minute trudge I covered maybe 2.5- 3 miles before turning back.  This area is backcountry and I had to break about 8-10 inches of recent snow as most of these trails are not used in winter.  I made it back to the car in less than an hour since I retraced my old tracks. I think this shorter trek is even more exhausting than the longer town loop.
With the exception of a few moose and hare tracks, only my ski tracks as far as the eye can see.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Starting a Blog

For anyone that is interested, I'm going to start writing about my adventures.  I do a fair amount of hiking, mt. biking, skiing, kayaking, other outdoor pursuits so I thought this would be a good platform to share my journeys.  I hope all that are interested enjoy reading about my outdoor tales and enjoy the pictures.