Chilly November hike

The first day of winter?

Today is the first day of winter. Well, I suppose there are many ways to define “the first day of winter”: the first time snow falls, the first time snow falls and sticks, the first time you actually need to plow or shovel snow, or the astronomical date of the Winter Solstice. I’m going with a new definition: the first day the temperature never rises above freezing.

Although the higher NH mountains have already experienced some significant snowfall, and plenty of freezing temperatures, I’ve been staying close to home and enjoying the low-altitude hikes here in the Connecticut River valley – wearing lots of orange clothing, now that deer hunting season is fully underway.

Today I took advantage of a gap in my Zoom schedule to visit a trail network I’d never explored before – between the huge complex of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and the graduate-student housing over at Sachem Village. This big green spot fills the center of the triangle formed by the towns of Hanover, Lebanon, and West Lebanon. There’s an amazing variety of terrain, and a thorough network of trails used by walkers and mountain bikers.

For me it was a pleasant, if chilly, stroll through the quiet post-autumn forest, one that has laid down its blanket of leaves and is awaiting the big snows of winter. I enjoyed the opportunity to snap a few photos of the delightful details like the following. When mud freezes, the water expands and is pushed up through pores in the mud, leaving these fragile towers of crystalline ice. Check out the full-size photo, and three other scenes from the hike, in the photo gallery.

Extruded ice, which happens when mud freezes and the water in the mud expands.

Hike stats:
distance: 5km
time: 69 minutes
gain: 127m

A hike on the Indian Ridge trail, behind Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

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.

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