Ascutney and Gerry Falls

This winter has, so far, been pretty much a bust.  Virtually no snowfall, with plenty of warm weather and rain to ensure that the little snow doesn’t stick around. I decided to head for one our closest big-mountain neighbors, Mount Ascutney, an hour down the Connecticut River, because the trail passes some nice waterfalls.  If there’s no snow, at least there will be ice.  I spent about an hour at the falls, enjoying the indirect lighting as the rising sun illuminated the open woods to one side of the stream. One nice feature of an icy stream, I discovered, is that you can stand on the ice in mid-stream and explore many angles you might find to be too wet in summer. Got some nice photos!  More to say below.

Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.
Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.

It was a bluebird day, with scarcely a breeze.  Further up, the trail had been dusted with a light snow two days earlier. No humans had yet been by, but the mountaintop critters had left me a crisp story of their comings and goings.  A coyote trotted along the trail, from time to time. Snowshoe hare were plentiful. Once, a grouse. And several times, some mysterious cat-like prints that were, maybe, a bobcat?  (I really need to bring a tracking guide on the next hike.)

The trail, however, was basically a sheet of ice from Gerry Falls all the way to the summit. Before that snowfall was a day of heavy rain, and the water had run down the trail and frozen into a thick, slick ribbon of ice. Without my microspikes and poles this hike would be impossible.

The summit of Ascutney (3,411′) has some rocky outcrops but plenty of trees, so they build a tall platform to provide a 360° view. Ascutney is rather isolated, so there is a grand though distant view to all the Whites of NH and Greens of VT, and the Connecticut Valley stretching to the north and south.

Gingerly crunching my way back down the trail, and with one last moment to appreciate the waterfall, I finished my hike about 1pm. A wonderful way to spend the morning!

Check out the photos on Smugmug.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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