Sunday, February 17, 2008

Triple Cheat Day

I generally feel like I've cheated when I do an easy hike to someplace really spectacular. It should take more work to earn the reward. Today I did three of these hikes - a triple cheat. I have to admit that putting the three together into a long (and very enjoyable) day makes me feel like I cheated at least a bit less overall.

Today was our second day at Highland Center and Nat and Jamie went skiing because the forecast for tomorrow is rain. I didn't want to do a long winter hike alone so put together these three instead.

Started the morning with my regular pilgrimage to Red Bench. This spot seems to be a well kept secret and I hate to advertise it for fear of losing my solitude. The Red Bench Overlook is at the end of a spur path off the Around Ammonoosuc Lake trail behind Highland Center. It's about a 2 mile total loop that's almost completely flat so it's really more a walk in the woods than a hike. I had been to the Red Bench several times in previous stays before I realized what is special about it. On a clear day there is an absolutely spectacular view of almost the entire Presidential Range. The view spreads from Adams to Pierce with Mt Washington taking center stage. Once I realized this I began my morning ritual of going to Red Bench just after sunrise whenever we are at Highland Center. On the mornings that the summits happen to be in the clear the views of Mt Washington at first light are amazing. Today it was in the clouds and I waited for about 30 minutes but it just kept taunting me.

Later in the week I got the real reward with amazing views of the light playing on the top as it drifted in and out of the clouds

More views in my online Mt Washington album here:
Mt Washington

For cheat #2 I joined the group from Highland Center on a Bretton Woods Alpine Eco Tour. This is a snowshoe hike across the ridge at Bretton Woods ski area accessed via the lift (the cheat). We did this last year and it is really an awesome hike. For $7 you can get a lift ticket for snowshoers which takes you to the top on the Bethlehem Express lift (ends at Top 'O Quad) to access the trails. There are a set of dedicated snowshoe trails in the woods along the ridge line that are off limits to skiers. Today the trails were unbroken powder and the trees were coated with snow - a real winter wonderland

When crossing the ski slopes between the sections of woods the views to the Presidentials are gorgeous. The clouds had moved away since I left Red Bench this morning and the summits were now all in the clear.

At the northern end of the hike the trail leads over the back of the ridge line and leaves a sweeping view of the Pemi wilderness.

Overall hike was about 2 hours and a great way to spend the morning.
The rest of the photo album for this trip is here:
Bretton Woods Alpine Eco Tour - 2-17-08

Wanted to get in one more hike in the afternoon to beat the rain tomorrow. The clouds had already moved in and the temps were warming up. Decided to do Mt Willard as the third cheat of the day. We've done this hike several times before in both summer and winter. It has to be the best views you can get in the Whites for this little effort. The trail was well broken as expected and could easily have been bare booted but I kept the snowshoes on anyway as I find the downhills easier with them (and my bad knees).

There were a couple of people on the trail ahead of me that I passed just before the top and one person already out on the ledges with his dog. The clouds turned out to provide some interesting contrast and the lack of blue sky no longer seemed a negative.

I hung out and chatted for about 1/2 hour on the top and was still back at Highland Center in 2 hours. 90 minutes up and back on this hike is actually a pretty good workout - particularly on showshoes.

The rest of the Mt Willard photo album is here:
Mt Willard - 2-17-08

One last shot for the day of Crawford Depot wearing its winter clothes. Then back to sit by the fire with a beer and wrap up the triple cheat in style. Two wrongs might not make a right but three cheats add up to a good day...

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