The question on everyone’s minds as we were loading the cars at the Park N Ride was, as always, “Do we need our snowshoes?” That question was answered very quickly as we pulled up to the trailhead at the road closure on VT. 108. YES!!! It was surprising to see the amount of snow that Stowe had received since the surrounding towns had only received a trace amount. So, we threw on our snowshoes and proceeded up Mountain Road to the trailhead, enjoying the milder temperatures (20’s) despite the wind.
Once at the trailhead, we realized this might prove to be more difficult than one would have thought, since there were no signs that anyone had been at this trailhead in a while. First, there were no tracks in the snow, and the pencils at the sign in board were frozen in the pencil holes. We continued to march through knee deep powder, while searching every tree for a visible sign of the white blaze. After a couple of miles in, we agreed we were off trail since we hadn’t seen a white blaze in quite some time, though that didn’t really deter us from continuing on our route. We were able to see more signs of wildlife once off trail.
We saw quite a few signs of bear scratches on the trees as black bears often use trees as territory markers and rubbing posts, as well as a food source. Black bears will often bite and pull off strips of bark on particularly tasty trees like pine, spruce and fir. We also saw signs of porcupines, where the trees had been nibbled on higher up. After enjoying some signs of wildlife, and checking GPS coordinates, we decided that making it to Sterling Pond was just not going to happen on this day. Too many things working against us: deep heavy snow, untracked trail, snow covered trees camouflaging our white trail blazes, and short daylight hours. So, we headed back down the trail, taking advantage of all opportunities to slide on our butts down steeper sections. We had lunch at a snow covered picnic table while the sun graced us with its presence.
Thanks to a hiker’s cat like reflexes, she was able to defend her backpack from being marked by one unruly dog from another group. After that excitement, we packed up lunch and decided to add a little road walk to top off our hike. Although we didn’t reach our original destination, we all agreed it was a fantastic trip. We had great conversations where we got to learn about one person’s end to end hike on the Long Trail, another person’s upcoming trip to Machu Picchu and stories about each other’s current and previous jobs. The hike also allowed for great opportunities to take beautiful pictures, especially of the ice covered trees that looked like chandeliers. We all look forward to seeing this hike again come summer when the blazes and trail are easier to find.
Participants: Taylor Christie, Mary Keenan, Michelle Ross and dog Hadasa, Thomas Ross, Doug and dog Lilly, Patrick Hewitt, Wesley Bolk, Audrey Winograd, Kurt Mehta
Trip Leader Kelley Mackison and dog Trigger.