|Mature spruce dwarf the younger hardwood stands at the top of a |
ridge in the Mill Brook area.
Since the holidays I have been able to get out on two snowshoe hikes. This entry is about the first of those trips.
|How can you not feel blessed when a road like this |
lay before you. You simply say a prayer as you walk.
The weather was crisp and sunny and I had been thinking about a waterfall that I wanted to visit in winter. I was thinking there might be some good ice for climbers in there and for me to take pictures of. There was lots of snow in the woods and I knew it would be a great day for just getting out and stretching my legs and working off the Christmas turkey. I had plotted a route that wouldn't take me directly there but rather bring me around the hill from the back side. This would later prove to be a mistake, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.
I packed up a day bag with extra clothes, food, water, map, emergency kit, and of course my camera. I made a quick stop at my parents to pick up their dog Kizmet and headed to the upper headwaters of Mill Brook. The Cotter Holler road is a beautiful walk no matter the season but it is extra special in winter and that is why I wanted to start there. There was also a ravine there that I hadn't yet explored so that is where I headed with the intent of following that ravine up to the crest and then crossing over to the other ravine. This plan sounded good in my head but I was unprepared for how deep the snow was and how steep the first unknown ravine would be.
|The Cotter Holler Stream is a photogenic presence anytime|
of year but especially in the winter as its spring fed waters
tend to create great ice and water formations.
If you have ever been snowshoeing before it is not a simple task to climb up steep slopes that have a light upper layer of snow and a hard crusty lower layer. You tend to have to crawl on all fours and push a trail of snow off ahead of you or to the sides. It is an amazing workout and by the time I reached the top of the ravine I was climbing out I was tuckered out. To be honest at that point I was beyond probably any point I have ever been, and it was going to get worse. As I climbed the ravine I topped out into a clear cut area which had snow up to my waist and it was next to impossible to push through. I decided to skirt around the clearing and find the access road and use that to cross over to the next drainage.
|The Bluff is part of the landscape that is often used to orient yourself to |
the rest of the surroundings. Once I was provided this view I knew
instictively which direction I was looking.
One positive thing about the clearing was that it provided a great new perspective for me of the Bluff in Sussex Corner. This local attraction is a photographers dream and if I had a better camera I could have snapped some great pics of the frosted tip evergreens as they revealed the Bluff through a grey sky. I sat at the high point of the sloping clear cut and caught my breath while the dog sat on the back of my snowshoes. She was so quiet I often had to turn around to see if she was still there.
|The snow hung off everything and provided a nice |
contrast to the clear, crisp blue of the sky.
We made our way to the back of the clearing where I was able to find an access trail that was leading in what I felt was the right direction. If my hunch and my thought about where I was on my topo map were right I should be able to catch the main logging road and then from there drop over the other side of the mountain. My problem was time and energy. I had spent over half the daylight I needed and my energy reserves were running low. I was seriously, for the first time in my life considering spending an unplanned night in the woods. Not because I was in trouble, hurt, or lost, but simply because I was pushing my personal limits.
When I made what I thought was the main logging road I continued in the direction I needed to go but nothing looked familiar and I became uncertain. Given the time of day I couldn't afford uncertainty, so I gave myself ten more minutes walking time, but even then I wasn't certain I was where I wanted to be so I had to turn around and head back the same way I came to get home. I was sour and disappointed in my own inability to get to where I wanted. It revealed to a certain extent my age, my arrogance, and my need to improve my skills. It was a humbling day, but one that rewarded me by simply being outside. I was shown many things from a different perspective, the least of which was myself. Once again the wilderness of this great area has exposed its strength to be that not only of beauty but of a fabric of life and persistence on multiple levels.
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