Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wild Week

What a rollercoaster week it has been for Nordic skiers in the northeast. It looked like we were set for a full season with many areas reporting bases in feet. Then poof, a week of near summer temps took it all away. Not many were complaining about unseasonably warm weather though. When skiing sucks, riding can often be good.

Tuesday looked to be the coldest morning offering the best prospects for groomed skiing. I hadn't been to Windblown Cross Country ski center yet this season. Less than a hour from work, I couldn't resist playing hooky for the morning. Conditions did not disappoint. Hammered for 21 miles/3450ft.

Mt Monadnock

Freshly minted corduroy in fast transformed snow

Temps rising from 25F. Doesn't get any better.

The forecast kept looking more bleak for the ski season as the week progressed. Four days in a row of 60's to maybe 70F+ in February? WTF! Glad I got what potentially was a final skate of the season in.

Thursday I brought my Ridley Noah road bike in to work. I hadn't ridden that bike in almost a year, or any road bike for that matter. Why do I still keep road bikes in my quiver? I had modified the gearing on the Ridley for an upcoming Spain cycling trip. I needed some miles on it. I was still feeling a little beat up from the rigorous ski Tuesday and a not so easy ride Wednesday, but it was too nice Thursday to not hammer out a 30 mile loop on my lunch break. The bike worked fine, and so to the body. 22+ average is not bad for February, especially considering I've gone almost whole weeks without riding. Skiing will do that for you.

40F degrees warmer than Tuesday and completely wiped out

Not good, going into a three-day weekend with significant volume already expended on bikes and skis. My off-Friday looked no good for anything, too warm to ski, trails too sloppy to ride, plus rain moving through the area.

The rain cleared southern NH early, so I opted for a local hike I've done several times now, North and South Pack Monadnock double traverse. Would it be post-hole city in rotten snow? Ice? Bare ground? Water everywhere? Yes. I must have looked goofy heading up the Wapack Trail in gators and microspikes with no snow on the south exposure. But there was copious snow cover for most of the hike. Could have used snowshoes in a few brief sections up high in drifted areas, but conditions constantly alternated between rock, water, ice and deep snow. Just wasn't worth the trouble swapping out traction. I left the microspikes on for the entire hike. Hiking peaks in February in short sleeves while sweating your brains out is a surreal experience! 11 miles/3900 feet in mashed potatoes.

Starting out on Wapack Trail in Miller State Park

Mt Monadnock from South Pack summit. The Wapack Trail follows the range south through Windblown where I skied on Tuesday.

Inverted snowshoe tracks on Cliff Trail. Compacted snow melts slower than uncompacted snow. Looks like only one snowshoer had been through here in a while

Looking up cliffs that Cliff Trail crests

View towards Boston from the cliffs. There was probably 1-2ft of snow in those fields a week earlier.

Felt at least upper 60's up here. Could easily have hiked in shorts, but then the gators would have looked really goofy. The gators proved useful in several places.

View south along the Wapack Range. Mt Wachusett is just visible in far distance.

Cascades on Ted's Trail. This was bone dry last fall when I hiked through here. Now I had to cross this without falling in. Ted's Trail is my favorite on the Packs. Up high, nice views, down low, follows this stream.

Near bottom of Ted's and junction of Carolyn's

Approaching summit of North Pack Monadnock. Tricky here, running water undermining snow and random postholes happening anywhere

Crotched Mountain and the Uncanoonucs near Manchester just beyond from near summit of North Pack.

The Pack's hike was technically a winter hike, but the weather was anything but. With threat of rain gone and local trails still a soggy mess, I was looking to one of my reliable winter riding destinations for a trail ride on Saturday. The last of the snow in Duxbury south of Boston had melted a couple days earlier. There is no frost in the ground in those parts, the soil is sandy, so things should be fine to go.

Conditions did not disappoint. There was not a wet spot to be found anywhere. In fact, my bare shins got dirty from sweat picking up dust... in February! Where was all the outrage over climate change this weekend? I wasn't hearing a peep. How easily we are swayed! Third day in a row in short sleeves in February. 40 miles on dirt.

Can't ride Duxbury without riding the dirt track out to Gurnet Light and Saquish. The wind is always killer though, and today was no exception.

The dirt road at times is no more than a foot above high tide. Today's ride coincided with high tide, so no cruising on the beach.

Duxbury singletrack. Miles and miles of this. No rocks, but plenty of roots and steep hills.

Many ponds and cranberry bogs to cruise around

The warm streak came to an end Sunday, violently in some parts of New England with damaged to structures in western Mass and 50 submerged cars in Plymouth NH from river flooding. Did any Nordic ski areas survive the fiery furnace? Most succumbed.

Prospect Mountain in SW Vermont sits high and started with a big base. They survived. Sunday morning I called to check on conditions before committing to a big drive. Skate conditions were perfect, they said. Sounded good to me, not giving it second thought.

Driving there, I could tell I was in for a rude change. It was snowing, wind was howling, roads were drifting. Temp dropped into the low 20's as I approached the mountain. That was almost 50F colder than yesterday's activity.

When I got to Prospect, I asked what had been groomed. Oh, nothing he said. What? The trails were "nature groomed last night, the best kind." I about shit a brick. I pictured bullet proof rutted ice. But I was pleasantly surprised once I got out on the trails. There was 2" of new powder on frozen crust that was not rutted. The new snow bonded to the crust, so it actually skated quite well. You could find areas that were less than ideal. I skied to the summit for the first time ever and encountered several open water bars high up. Some of the old alpine ski slopes were wind swept and icy on the east end too. But by and large, the bulk of the trails were in good shape. I skied 20 miles/3300ft.

Easy Way trail at Prospect. Hard to believe we just had several days of 60's.

Looking down one of the alpine runs from summit of Prospect Mountain. No, I did not go down with my skinny skies, although you seek tracks from one brave soul that did.

"Nature groomed," not bad. Glad I didn't ask what was groomed when I called, else I probably would not have driven over and missed out.

The week began on snow and ended on snow with a "summer break" in the middle. This wild week turned out to be high volume of moderate to high aerobic intensity. Will need to back it down in the coming week. Cycling trip coming up first full week of March, three of us heading to the Canary Islands for an uber-climbing week of road. None of us have ever been there. Guided trip, and we'll be hitting two of the islands, averaging around 8,400ft of climbing per day. They say that which does not kill you makes you stronger. We'll see.

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