Back here in New Hampshire, it has a been a gray and drizzly week. So it was with great pleasure that today dawned sunny and cold – well below freezing, as it should be for January. (We’re still facing crazy conditions, though, with nights below freezing and days above freezing, a major confusion for the maple trees who think spring has already come!)
The Connecticut River is wide open – it can’t freeze over in these conditions. The water lapping at the shore’s edge, though, can produce some entrancing patterns where water meets rock in freezing temperatures.
This photo spans only one or two feet across, and the water has receded somewhat… leaving ultra-thin sheet of ice high and dry. Beautiful!
A mere five days after I went snowshoeing through winter’s glorious powder in the Kinsman Range, I went hiking with two friends … in decidedly spring conditions. Granted, Holts Ledge is much lower (elevation ~1069′ rather than 4293′) but there was much more snow at the base of the Kinsmans than there was at the summit of Holts. This week’s rain and unseasonably warm weather (close to 60º during our hike) has turned the low-elevation trails into mud, and (no doubt) the higher elevation trails are packed ice.
This section (and other low-elevation sections) of the Appalachian Trail is now basically done for the season, and should be avoided until after mud season.
Ironically, the view above is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway… fewer than 100m from the top of the slopes. There, skiers were still happily skiing on spring-condition snow. At least there were some views, below.
Sigh, we haven’t even reached the spring equinox yet.
Tuesday morning I saw the first spots of open water along the river as I drove into town. By Tuesday evening the river had opened up a channel down the center, near home. By Wednesday evening, below, the water was widely visible, the ice slowly dissipating and breaking up. I don’t have good records, but this sure feels early…
Last weekend was very cold, well below zero, and the river’s surface became even more solid. The cracks and fissures of a week earlier healed into sinuous patterns, which I found to be an interesting photographic subject – especially at the shoulders of daylight.
Twice on Sunday I saw skaters – traveling in pairs, some wearing nordic skates and carrying safety poles, and some (like the teen below) wearing hockey skates and using ski poles for support – enjoying the opportunity to skate for kilometers upon kilometers.
Today woke with frigid temperatures: -10ºF (-23ºC), which was certainly not inspiring me to get outdoors. But it was a beautifully clear and sunny day, and by mid-afternoon the temperature had risen twenty degrees. So a friend and I climbed nearby Holts Ledge – a hill in Lyme on which the Dartmouth Skiway is located. The snow squeaked under our feet and the stream crossings were smooth and icy. We had a fine view from the top, yes, but my favorite view was a close-up look at the frost feathers atop a puddle of ice.
It snowed yesterday – just a couple of inches – and today broke sunny and clear. So I met a few friends for a climb of Blueberry Mountain, a small peak just to the west of Mount Moosilauke. It’s not tall, or with a grand summit, nor does it have expansive views, but it’s a fine place to be on a sunny winter’s day.
One of the upsides of the current situation is that I’ve tended to look closer to home for outdoor opportunities, and that means I’m returning to some of the local gems I’ve not visited in a decade or more. Yesterday I took a walk around Boston Lot Lake, a small pond in West Lebanon not far from the river at Wilder Dam. Its network of walking and biking trails are popular with local runners and bikers, even on this gray Saturday morning.
The lake was skimmed with ice., though the temperatures were beginning to rise above freezing, so it would not last long.
In one spot, some kids had been clearly been tossing rocks at the ice – some of which went through, and some of which were trapped in the ice.
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.
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.