Thursday, January 10, 2013

Little Jackson - Weld, ME - January 10, 2013

Tim and I returned to the Tumbledown area today, mostly due to its proximity.  Due to my poor navigation, we probably could have made it up to Old Speck in the same time it took us to reach the trailhead.  But really: Who doesn't love a random visit to, um, East Dixfield?

We ended up on the Little Jackson trail.  The trailhead is a little right directly after the Mt Hope Cemetery, as promised by Jeff Romano's directions, which we eventually did manage to follow. The road was vaguely plowed and the jeep purred with confidence.  We considered going to the Brook trailhead, which has a sizable parking lot, but the road seemed even sketchier up ahead.  

No matter.  Little Jackson is an excellent trail that we've both been on before.  Familiarity can be a boon.  It is blazed blue (seemed like it'd be a little easier to follow than white, what with all the snow).  Tim pointed out that we'd chosen a trail on the south/east side of the hill.  It would be sufficiently sheltered while in the trees.
Visible wind!
Shelter would end up being essential.  Temps were in the high 30s(F) in the valley, and the wind down low was around 20mph.  Up high it was way, way, stronger.  Hard-to-stand-up-strong.  

The lightest of snow was falling for the first hour or so.  The forecast predicted a sunny and breezy day; instead it was windy and mosty overcast.  Still delightful in its own right, but I was glad to have brought all the gear I did - just in case. (Will probably even bring more next time. Pretty sure Crag thinks I am a little nuts to carry so much. So be it.)  All day, the clouds tumbled about restlessly.

There had been maybe a couple inches of new snow last night.  Before that, the snow was over a week old and it looked like one person in snowshoes had ascended around the time of the last snowfall. Her/his tracks were far from fresh, but were followable, which was very nice and helpful.

There is really not tons of snow on 2/3 of the mountain - maybe a melty foot - though of course as we ascended, the depth increased and there was some rather dramatic drifting near tree line and above.

I'd just been wondering if anyone remembered the horse/rock that we saw/made last fall on this trail.  I decided that surely no one else thinks about horse/rocks as much as I do, so I decided not to mention it.  Moments later, Tim said he was pretty sure we just passed the horse/rock.  I am glad these most salient landmarks can survive among their enthusiasts...

Hat tastes the wind...
I know I'm going to want this list for future reference, and I also know it is an imperfect list which would require amendment on any other hike.  Here's today's list, anyway.

I wore:
Tubbs Flex Alp 24" snowshoes
Salomon boots
Wigwam socks (Smartwool)
Gaiters (lightweight)
Running pants, lightweight, same ones I run in all winter
Base layer short sleeve shirt
fleece midlayer longsleeve shirt
Wool sweater
Puffy jacket (put on near summit, wore on through descent - shouldn't have though, got too warm! Easily could have prevented...and didn't.)
Knit wool/fleece lined hat
Lightweight fleece gloves
Forerunner GPS - just to see time/distance - it's not really a navigational tool as far as I can tell - just a running-related gadget
Osprey Ariel 65 Pack

I carried/used:
Leki poles
Camelbak 70oz reservoir (Temps weren't supposed to be below freezing, so I went with it. Worked great; I used the push-back method to keep the h20 out of the tube. Though many recommend against using a reservoir system in winter, I am really used to using it in the cold, so it's second nature.  Also, I am still wanting to learn a feel for its limitations.  Anyway, yep, I still brought another h20 source as a back up. Definitely.)
One mostly full Nalgene in a cozy (As mentioned: the backup.)
Plenty of food
I brought but didn't use:
Waterproof strike anywhere Matches
Worlds smallest and least useful first aid kit, if it can be called that
Waterproof full zip trousers
Waterproof jacket (It's aging and not waterproof even though I keep spraying it...time to replace this! But better than nothing.)
Extra pair of socks
Warmer gore-tex ski gloves
Two pairs of glove liners - they weigh nothing and sometimes you really need something dry against your hands...
Wool scarf
Fleece hat liner

Views and drifts.
I followed Tim, who had by now been re-named Crag, for the lower section (there are a couple easy little stream crossings, several not frozen over, by the way). As things eventually steepened, I wanted a feel at breaking steeper trail, so I scooted ahead.  Again, someone had been on it like a week ago so it wasn't too hardcore, but I certainly got an awesome workout. Sweated like crazy. It felt great. 

Lines in the snow.  Don't fall to the left!
Speaking of which, one thing I would have brought but didn't was a Nuun tab thrown in my h20.  I'd run out of Nuun after last weekend!  (Lo!  The nerve of a tube to not be endless!)  The persistent headache may well have been from over-tiredness, but I don't trust myself to sweat that much with no Nuun present...

Raging clouds.
Heeding the audible harbinger of wild gusts of wind, we paused for a snack before getting too close to the tree line. Of course, we got chilly fast.  I donned the down jacket.

Some very steep sections slowed us (me) down right around tree line but fortunately Crag, who's spent far more time on snowshoes, on far more, and bigger, peaks than I have, was able to give some advice.  He soon reclaimed the lead, finding a more passable route than I'd found.  Awesome to have his expertise.

By now we were just about out of the trees and the wind was crazy.  No sooner had Crag climbed up on an boulder than a gust nearly sent him right back down.  As I watched in amusement and surprise, the same gust promptly plowed into me.  I just barely remained somewhat upright.  Kind of awesome!  ...And I was grateful to be staying close to treeline.  L

oose snow was furiously whirling about us in the wind and the drifts underfoot were increasingly unpredictable. Crag stepped into a super deep one at one point. Though he seemed to extricate himself without the slightest bit of trouble, I took it as an effective reminder that we really can't know what is going on under the snow.  

Pythagoras has hiked here?
Though we could see the depression where sleeps a surely icy Tumbledown Pond, we decided to turn back just before said pond came into view. Getting out of the wild drifts and wind quickly became a priority.

We were quickly comfy again when back in the trees. Crag tried to show me how to snowshoe-ski down and I tried it a bit.  It felt unwieldy and it kind of scared me so I didn't get too aggressive with it.  Eventually I just chose to glissade/slide down since I ended up involuntarily doing it part of the time anyway.  Such is the nature of the playful beast.  I didn't complain when the flatness returned.  I do look forward to getting more comfortable with the seemingly erratic nature of the snowshoe descent - this may take a bit of practice...

We stopped many times to draw and write Many Important Things in the snow. It was a wonderful day, and so invigorating to finally begin to dig in to hiking in winter.  


  1. Wow. You picked a windy day to be out! But looks lovely. Such a wonderful spot!

  2. Pythagoras? I'm worried about his equation :/

    Looks like the perfect blend of beauty and silly!

  3. Ah lovely snow! Fave pic is the one of the dark clouds against the trekked path. Goodness.

  4. Really great pictures on what looked like a beautiful and fun-filled day!


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