It has been a few weeks since my last post! (Ok, more like almost a month.) I have been out hiking, but not working on my list. Due to family and other projects, I never got around to posting any reports about those trips. Add to that, the weather hasn’t really cooperated for finishing my winter 48 list. Until recently, that is. When you’ve only got Monroe, Adams and Madison left, you have to be patient to wait for a good weather day. With a major project behind me, and a Presi day forecast, plus a forecast for the next day that seemed reasonable, it seemed that I was going to get the break I needed to finish that list!
On Friday, the Presi day, I knew what I needed to do: bag Monroe as a Carpool Challenge, up and down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. Simple. With that done, I had a good chance of finishing the list the next day. Sounds easy, but having never been up the Ammo in winter, there was a question of how that was going to go, since in the upper section this trail is steep, ledgy and has several stream crossings, which in winter can translate to dangerously steep and icy conditions. Waiting until later in the winter season was a good choice – the ice on the steeps would be covered and the snow would be compacted, making travel a bit quicker and safer.
I arrived at the hiker parking area at the Cog, chatted with Lefty E while he was waiting for his companions, and headed up to pick up the trail behind Marshfield Station. The starting temperature was 2 below, but there was a promise of a temperature inversion and a quick warm up in the weather overall. The start temp didn’t bother me. As a side note, this was a sign of progress in my winter hiking skills and confidence – I wouldn’t have thought about hiking in such temps last year! We’ve had quite a bit of very cold weather this year, with many starts below zero, and I’ve learned how to manage that. Off I went, quickly getting warm on the way to Gem Pool.
Totally frozen over, Gem Pool’s outlet was easily walked over and then started the real work for the day. The steep section of the Ammo lay just ahead. Thankfully ground conditions were good, and I was able to dig in with light traction and hike upward. It was steep, but the Ammo has a way of luring you on with ever expanding views with each effort to climb higher up. With a bluebird sky background, the scenery was truly amazing and there wasn’t hardly a breath of wind to worry about.
At the hut, I left my snowshoes, and made my way up to the top of Monroe, even standing on the rock with the pin, without a balaclava, neck gaiter or shell! The views all around the Whites were just stunning!
Back down to the hut, I said a quick hello to a group, picked up my snowshoes and descended back to the car. Beside the excellent views, the Ammo also rewards those who hike it in winter with a little fun on the way down. The Ammo is steep enough for some nice butt sliding. Controlled. Of course. I was quickly at Gem Pool, and then had to walk out – even so, the stroll by the frozen river didn’t disappoint for lack of beautiful winter scenery. Back at the car, I was thrilled and thankful to have had such a beautiful morning, safety up and down, and one more winter peak. I emailed my hiking friends to make final plans for the next day’s hike to finish the winter list!
When I got home, my husband asked me if I went into the hut. From the tracks he receives from the tracking app on my phone, he can zoom in pretty close and see where I am. If he switches to the satellite mode, he can see features like the huts. I looked at him kind of funny and then realized what had happened and said, “I wasn’t IN the hut, I was ON the hut!”. He didn’t realize that there was such a large amount of snow that you walk right up like a ramp! I showed him some photos to clear that up.
A Presi day is a rare and great blessing – the stark beauty of the white snow against such a deep blue sky and rugged landscape is hard to put into words, yet at the same time, a Presi day almost feels like cheating, since you’re not fighting the sub-zero cold, the wind, poor visibility or the rocks and roots of summer. I certainly enjoyed it, but it is a different than the satisfaction of a peak that comes with a few more challenges, which I would certainly get the next day!