Now that it is officially winter season, I can start working again on the winter 4,000 footer list. I’d rather hike in the summer or fall, but winter has a breath taking beauty all of its own. That alone is reason to be out there and enjoy the peaks and scenery.
The day before my hike, my husband and his friend did this same hike so at least I had some first hand trail information. We had both planned to make a loop from Jackson, over to Pierce and then down the Crawford Path. Neither of us were able to do that due to weather conditions. We did have a big snowstorm earlier in the week, but we also had a warm spell at the end of the week. This meant softer, denser snow conditions and added to that, there was a lot of cloud cover.
I arrived and parked near the Highland center, and headed down the road to the Webster-Jackson trail head at 7:30a. I started out in bare boots, but was carrying the usual assortment of winter traction devices: microspikes, snowshoes and crampons. I wasn’t sure what the trails would be like after the softening snow of the day before, probably some refreezing that night and then warmer temps again the next day. It turns out that after about .2 of a mile, I put the snowshoes on and did not take them off again until I got back to the trailhead sign at Rt. 302. While the trail was already packed out, it wasn’t too bad, and I was soon at the trail split for either the summit of Jackson or Webster.
After pushing further up the trail, I was at the ledges right below the summit trail junction of the Webster-Jackson trail and the Webster cliff trail. That’s where things got interesting. My husband said there was snow on the ledges, but it got warm enough the previous afternoon so that some of it had melted and refroze as ice overnight. After putting my fleece back on and taking a careful look at it, I was able to skirt around the ice on the snow just to the left, as it looked like others had done before me. At some points, I did have to go over the ice, but the snowshoes were just fine.
I made it to the trail junction and then over to the larger cairn for a time check (9:50a), few quick photos, and a snack for me and the jays. There was no view to speak of, it was totally socked in with clouds, a little windy and not the most pleasant summit experience I’ve had. I quickly decided that I would not be going over to Pierce and would save it for another and much better day. I didn’t want to be on Pierce again with no views like I had this past summer, and being out in the cold, damp, windy weather wasn’t exciting me much, either.
On the way over to go down the ledges, I saw another hiker, the first person I’d seen all day. He was coming up to the Jackson summit and said that he was hiking with his wife, who was behind him a bit. I watched him disappear to the summit in the clouds and picked my way carefully down the ice to a spot beyond the ice on the snow covered path to watch for him. I have found that the hiking community is very friendly and looking out for each other is common courtesy; even the most experience, confident hikers can get into trouble. Once he was down safely, we started the descent, and in a little while met up with his wife. I couldn’t believe it when I saw her – I knew her! We had worked together about 3 or 4 years ago and I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years. It was pretty neat meeting up with someone like that. I’ve followed her accomplishments in hiking over the years and she’s one amazing hiker! What a neat surprise on this trip! After catching up and hiking together for a while, we eventually parted ways and I headed down towards the parking area.
On the way down, I met quite a few groups going up, many without snowshoes and saw quite a few post holes, too. I’m glad I kept the snowshoes on, as it was a lot easier to navigate the trail, which by this point, was a bit mushier than when I ascended it. After removing and strapping the snowshoes to my pack, I headed back to the car, and set off for home. The time in the car was 11:30 when I pulled onto Rt. 302. Not a bad trip time. I wish I could have moved along a bit faster, but that’s goal for the next hike, where maybe the snow conditions will help me out a bit, too!