Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Hike to Mount Field

The first day of March and three more weeks until Spring, twenty more days to get those last Winter hikes in. Friday was a ski day, yesterday I rested the legs and today was a hike to Mount Field (4,340') over Mount Avalon via the Avalon Trail. The weather forecast called for increasing clouds ahead of the next snowstorm, a small storm of maybe a dusting to two inches in the evening.

Sunrise on the drive to the trailhead

Scenic view

Sun through thin clouds

Crawford Depot


Upon waking this morning and glancing out the window I could still see the stars but as I left the house for the trailhead high clouds were moving across the sky. The clouds provided a colorful sunrise. Was not sure where to park when I arrived at the trailhead. The Crawford Train Depot does not get plowed out so I parked in a plowed area along 302. I layered up and walked back to the train depot where the Avalon Trail begins with snowshoes in hand.

Snow-covered brook

A-Z Trail junction

Someone left their mark

The trail was well packed and I walked for a ways before putting the snowshoes on. I like the added traction that these snowshoes provide and knew that I would be needing the televators on the upper part of the trail. It was smooth going and when I got to the A-Z Trail junction I turned left and continued up the Avalon Trail. Someone had been butt sliding on the steep sections and it was a little tricky in some places but the snowshoes dug in and up I went.

Deep trough

Spur path to Mount Avalon

Presidentials from Mount Avalon

A view of Crawford Notch

On the summit of Mount Avalon

When I got to the col below Mount Avalon I took the 100 yard spur path to the summit. There are excellent views in every direction. The cold breeze got my attention but it was not the bitter, frigid wind that had been blowing in the month of February. It was still enough for me to add my Primaloft jacket. Three hikers came up behind me and I got one to take a photo, save me from breaking out my mini tripod. My stay on the summit of Avalon was brief and I was soon back down on the main trail to the next summit.

Snow all around

Deep snow and spruce traps

Beware of overhead snow

Willey Range Trail

The trail was still well-broken but there was a lot of snow and I found myself snowshoeing through a trench. Snow hung heavy from the trees and in one particular section a few steps off the trail would have meant floundering in some very deep snow. I made my way up the steep part of the trail and the climb leveled out a bit as it continued to the Willey Range Trail.

Presidentials from Mount Field

Summit of Mount Washington zoomed

On Mount Field

A left turn onto the Willey Range Trail and it was a short, steep 100 yards to the summit of Mount Field. There is no view from the true summit. A clearing to the east provides fantastic views to Mount Washington. The welcoming committee was there and that would be the Gray Jays. Landing in nearby trees only feet away they wait for a handout. Upon placing the snack in your hand they promptly fly down and pick it up. I managed to eat my sandwich but kept a watchful eye out for the jays.

The Gray Jays were waiting

After lunch, photos, videos, and jay feeding it was time to make my descent. Most hikers I met today were going on to Mount Willey. I was kind of glad that my plans only had me going this far as I was not feeling up to par. As I made my way down some of the steep sections I found it quite challenging. My snowshoes were slipping and I would just go with the slide hoping not to posthole. I can see how one could easily break a leg in these conditions. Slow and easy was the way to go and with a little bit of tree hugging I made it down past the steeps unscathed. This would have made for some interesting butt sledding.

Standing on the viewless summit of Mount Field

Snow-covered Franconia Ridge

I veered off onto the loop path to Beecher and Pearl Cascades. There was nothing to see as these cascades and falls are completely covered in snow. Back on the main trail I crossed back over the snow bridge on Crawford Brook that has a deep snow pack on it and not giving any hint that there is water beneath.

Mount Avalon

This blaze is a little low

Open water

The conditions today were much better than anticipated. The sun was shining through a thin cloud cover, temps were tolerable with just a slight breeze. The trails were in great shape with no postholes and well-packed. While I could have gotten by with microspikes I enjoy the traction of my snowshoes as well as the televators to take some strain off of my calves.

Snow bridge across Crawford Brook

Bench with a natural foot rest

Mount Avalon and Mount Field

Elephant Head

A look back at Crawford Depot and the Highland Center

It was a beautiful day to be hiking and I added another winter 4,000 footer to my completed list!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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