Three carpooled from Richmond Park and Ride and met the rest of us at the Burnt Rock trailhead at the end of Big Basin Road in Fayston. It was evident from the frozen ruts as we traveled up North Fayston Road on the way to the trailhead that yet another mud season of the year was underway. This had not been anticipated by the trip leader, and in retrospect, meeting at the Fayston Town Office park and ride would have been advisable so folks with less mud-worthy vehicles could have left their cars there. As it turned out, the mud fortunately wasn’t too deep on the drive out and we made sure everyone got back down the road safely to pavement at the end of the hike. But back to the hike…. It promised to be a bright sunny day with temps climbing into the 30s, with little to no wind.

Six of us started out at 9:15. There is a wide water crossing over Hedgehog Brook right at the start of the trail, which can be a serious obstacle in winter and high water conditions. Fortunately, we’d had enough cold weather here and there (particularly the previous two nights down in the teens) in amongst the unusually warm weather to form a very solid “ice bridge” over the brook, so the crossing was unusually easy (as were all of the numerous small water crossings on the trail). Nearly all of us had donned spikes for the first crossing, to reduce the chance of slipping on ice, and then left them on just to make travel up the trail of mostly packed, slightly slippery snow a bit easier (we encountered no ice on the trail). We continued this way until the snow deepened, and after walking for a short time in the post holes made by the group ahead of us, we donned snowshoes to try to flatten out the trail, and wore them for the duration of the hike. Fortunately, the crust wasn’t too hard so we didn’t find snowshoeing over the uneven post-holed surface terribly uncomfortable. It proved more comfortable than walking in others’ post holes, was certainly safer for the ankles, and indisputably better for trail stewardship. We were surprised to see only one other hiker that day with snowshoes.

We reached the junction with the Long Trail at around 11:25, and continued on up, reaching the summit around 12:10. This hike very often is quite challenging in winter due to steep icy and washed out sections, tricky water crossings, etc., but we encountered none of those issues that day, and the steep sections were for the most part nicely snow covered. The trail can also be very difficult to follow, especially near and beyond the junction with the Long Trail, but fortunately the group ahead of us apparently knew the trail well, so those in the lead in our group could pretty much just follow their tracks (although they would have preferred to have seen more white blazes!). We had lunch and relaxed on the summit in the warm sun for close to an hour, heading back down around 1 PM. The snow had softened somewhat in the bright sun and warm temps, but didn’t turn soupy or terribly sticky, and the trail wasn’t very wet, so we had little trouble with ice/snow balling on our snowshoes. When we got to the bottom, we found the “ice bridge” over Hedgehog Brook to be just as solid as it had been that morning (even after the warm sunny day, much to the surprise and relief of the trip leader), crossed easily, and reached our cars around 3 PM.

A really fun time was had by all! It was a great group and a great hike!

Participants: Julie Cimonetti, Liana Edwards, Rich Douglass, Susan McDowell, David Hathaway, Jill George (trip leader). Photos: Susan, Rich, Jill, David.