With a little bit of planning, I was able to arrange for a whole day to hike without having to drive the carpool! The plan was to hike Field and Willey and if I was up to it, Tom as well. Although I’ve been to Field and Willey before on several hikes, I had not visited them in winter, nor had I ever been on the section of the Willey Range Trail between Field and Willey. With a good weather forecast, Tuesday seemed like a good day for the hike.
As soon as the children left for school, I loaded up the car and headed up to Crawford’s Notch. There was no one in the train depot lot when I arrived, but as soon as I was ready to start a group headed to Tom arrived. I was going to Field first, so declined their offer for me to join them. I chose microspikes for the day, and carried the crampons, leaving the snowshoes behind. In hind sight, I probably could have used the snowshoes in a few spots higher up, but at that point, I didn’t know that. The trail was really nicely packed out, and probably could have been bare-booted up to the Avalon and A-Z Trail junction.
I took a break and head up the Avalon trail. This is where the microspikes came in handy. The trail was a bit smooth from previous hikers having a bit of fun glissading on the way down, but there was enough snow cover for a good bite with the microspikes and I didn’t feel the need for the crampons. Once past the spur to Avalon, I continued up through the forest, enjoying the snow, the brilliant sunshine and glimpses through the trees of what was going to be some nice views. After what seemed like a bit longer than it should have been, I arrived at the Avalon and Willey Range trail junction. Right before this point and at the junction is where I encountered the first drifted sections. It was amazing to me how quickly this could be drifted over, since I knew that others had hiked this exact same trail within the past two days. It was as if no one had been there. Since I’d been there before, I knew where to go and was at the summit of Field in a few minutes.
After a break, it was time to head down the trail that I’d looked down many times, but had never been down – the Willey Range Trail to Willey. In all the other times I’ve been to Field, it was never in the trip plans to go that way. I headed out and soon came across more drifted snow. At this point I started to wonder if leaving the snowshoes behind was such a good idea and how much more of this I would encounter on the way to Willey. Fortunately, there were only a few short sections of drifted trail. Enough that snowshoes could have been useful, but not enough to bring them along. The trail for the most part was the nicely packed sidewalk it had been. The trail is well-blazed, too, and the snow pack is not deep enough to obscure the blazes. There were several places where the trail makes a sharp right or left, and is nicely double blazed to get your attention. A double blaze to me says, “Pay close attention; the trail does something different here.” Usually that is stream crossing or a sharp turn that one would miss if not paying attention. Overall, I found the trail enjoyable; it descends nicely to the col, ascends a little bit and is fairly level until the gently climb up to Willey. The views in the winter are nice as part of the trail follows the Pemi Wilderness side of the ridge.
Soon I was at the Pemi outlook, and knew I was just around the corner from the summit. Passing the summit, I went to the Crawford Notch outlook and enjoyed a break, the views and a few fine-feathered friends.
Having reached the two peaks, that I needed, I was pretty happy and ready to head back across to Field. I enjoyed the trip, and although I knew I’d have to hike back up to Field, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and soon I was back at Field. I was feeling good, so I made the decision to hike to Tom and then descend. Back to the Avalon and Willey Range junction, and sure enough just after that I encountered a bit more drifted snow, but kept going and was soon past the drifts and cruising toward the A-Z trail. After a right onto A-Z, and then a left onto the Mt. Tom spur, I was on my way to Tom. The way over to Tom was nicely packed out with no drifts, so the trip was quick and easy, and I was soon at the summit and over to the other outlook. Tom is where I saw the most people of the day, a few pairs of hikers and a dog. Up to this point, I had only seen one other person, a solo female hiker on the Willey Range Trail headed toward Willey, while I was headed back to Field. The wind was picking up a bit at the outlook, so it was time for the last part of the hike, the descent back to the car. The hike out was uneventful, hiking down, down, down, sinking below the peaks and ridges I had ascended during the day. The trail back to the Avalon and A-Z Trail junction was nicely packed and all the water crossings were snow bridged, but you could hear the water flowing and in some places, see the water. I had a nice chat with a couple coming up the trail near the cascades, and then was quickly back at the car.
I had a great day, weather-wise and trail-wise. It was good to get out by myself and just enjoy the hike, the scenery, the sunshine and some snow!