Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Arrives

It seems that winter has finally arrived, at least up north. We were greeted at our place in Maine but 4" of crusty snow and a mound of frozen hard-pack at the end of our driveway. The first task after unloading the truck full of gear and cats was to attack the mess in the driveway. It had been a long time since we had to clear snow. Fortunately after about 15 minutes of tugging on the starter rope and one elbow smashed into the door frame, the old snowblower sprang to life. Much wrestling ensued to clear the crusty stuff only after much chipping with a spade to loosen and break the snow up into chunks that the blower could deal with.

After that chore was finished we headed for the brewery for cheap beer night, then back home for dinner on the grill. The following day we awoke to a raging snowstorm, one that would continue through most of the day. Many more trips with the snowblower to clear the drive as the storm racked up about 10-12" of fresh powder. This was going to make biking really difficult. It wasn't the roads and dealing with the snow and ice on the bike that concerned me. It was simply the traffic, snowplows and fact that I had no business being on the roads during a storm like this. Why ride in that stuff in the first place? Just trying to finish out the year and keep the streak going. Only a few days left and I can't stop now.

Once the drive was cleared, at least temporarily, during the heart of the storm, we decided to go snowshoe. Though the idea of the Eyebrow trail in Grafton Notch was appealing, driving there in the storm and then dealing with that trail in those conditions could be perilous. We therefore decided to do the much closer and easier Mount Will trail. This is a hike that we have done many times both in the summer and winter. We decided though to do it in reverse, counterclockwise, which we had never done before.

The hike was mostly uneventful and we broke trail as expected in the storm's new fallen snow. At elevation the snow was deep and drifted making the trail tough to follow in places. Some of the steep ascents were difficult with the snow and limited traction as were some of the descents. The trail is close to Bethel and Sunday River and directly off from Routes 2 and 26 yet when you get out into the woods, you seem very remote. The whole loop is barely three miles but took us a couple of hours moving along at a good steady pace. The snowfall was heavy through most of the hike but began to taper a bit as we neared the bottom. Another good hike. Too bad it wasn't the Eyebrow trail as that has a bit more bite to it, but still enough to remind me of the inevitable blisters I get on my heel from snowshoeing.

  Back home I was faced with the biking dilemma still. Noting that traffic was light, save the plow trucks, I cautiously dressed and heading out to try and do a very small loop on our road and a couple of other small offshoots. The roads were a mix of packed snow, ice and not quite packed over ice. This made for great going that was really fast, until you got into some snow that couldn't support the tires and broke apart, revealing the ice below. You were then presented with a neat front wheel skid. As long as you didn't fight it and try and turn, your momentum would continue in a forward course and you would stay upright. Still a very neat challenge to deal with.

The roads up here, as in many places, are not all that great either. Thus they tend to hump up in the middle and slope wildly to the edge, or worse, have a trough worn in the surface from the continual heavy loads running the same path. They had also had the wings out on the plow trucks, pushing the snow back out into the shoulder and beyond. This made it nearly impossible to discern where the road ended. Some times that was good as you got a nice flat dirt shoulder. Some times there was no shoulder, just snow plowed flat to give the appearance of solid purchase. Regardless, it was good stuff. I never strayed more than a mile from the house but did a bunch of out and backs and loops.

This was enough to constitute a ride and keep the streak alive while not getting killed or having someone else run off the road trying to avoid me.

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