Hello! This is Willow. I wanted to share a pretty interesting story about the power of hobbies and social media. I love social media for bringing like minded people together. Despite being a fairly late adopter and an introvert, most of my closest friends are in my life because of social media- Thanks Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! There is truly no better way to stay motivated and inspired to do the things you love than watching others do the same and making connections along the way. When my Instagram friends Eric and Jenny invited me to join their crew for a New Year’s Day hike on Old Speck Mountain in Grafton Notch State Park, I was stoked. Not only am I working on my winter NE67 list, but I have been wanting to hike with these guys for a while. If you saw my previous post, you know that I am new to winter hiking, so I am always glad to meet new friends who don’t stop when the temperature drops.
Our first brush with Eric and Jenny was on Pierce last March, when DD and I hiked her first winter 4,000 footer, although we didn’t know that we were standing right next to one another until later that day when we posted on IG and a mutual friend connected us. (FMI on that hike: Mount Pierce) The next time, I had a brief chat with Eric on a socked in April day on Moriah, but we didn’t make the connection until later that day when Jenny mentioned that Eric was up there too. Then in July, I saw Jenny’s bright colors and big smile on Carter Dome and officially met them both.
Old Speck Mountain is the most accessible of the 4000 footers in Mainer, aside from Saddleback via the ski trails. You don’t have to use logging or camp roads to get there, the parking lot is plowed in winter and the length of trail to the summit is relatively short. However, don’t let the ease of the trailhead and relatively short round-trip mileage fool you, this is one of the more challenging because of the many ascents and descents along the ridge and false summits.
New Year’s Day in western Maine was a snowy start to the year after several days of fresh powder. We met in the parking lot at 7am, organized our gear and hit the Appalachian Trail shortly thereafter. Fortunately someone had been out the day before and cleared a nice trail for us, so we only had to break through a light dusting that had fallen overnight and was still drifting down that morning. There isn’t anything more magical than snow falling in the woods even if it means that summit views are of the clouds.
This was my first time on snowshoes in almost a year and I was really excited to try my new MSRs out. The televators made for an easier experience on some of the steep sections of trail. Even though these shoes can be pricey, I got mine for almost 40% off, so it definitely pays to be patient and wait for the right sale.
We moved quickly for the first several miles, but once we got higher in elevation and to the many ascents and descents of the ridgeline, we slowed down a bit and stopped for water, snack and clothing adjustments. One of the challenges I have hiking in winter is that I don’t want to stop moving, but have to, to ensure I stay hydrated and fueled. This is where hiking with a group is helpful because you can remind one another to stop and also to ensure you all stay warm when you do.
A few glimpses of blue sky had us hoping, but the summit was totally socked in so we didn’t bother to climb the rime-covered firetower. After a few celebratory Heady Toppers, snacks and photo opportunities, we began the descent which was a breeze with glissading and leaping down the trail. At the junction, we decided to descend the Eyebrow trail rather than retrace our steps down the AT. This trail is not recommended for descent, but we got some nice views from the Eyebrow and enjoyed butt sliding down some of the steeper sections of trail. We also spotted moose sign on this section of trail thanks to the tracker in our group. Back at the parking lot a little before 2pm, we quickly changed into dry clothes and parted ways.
I really enjoyed hiking with this crew and this was a great way to start off 2017! This was also my first Maine 4000 footer in winter which is an accomplishment as I work on hiking the other 13 Maine peaks in winter in the coming months and years. What is next on my list? Weather and opportunity will be my guide!
Distance: 7.8 miles roundtrip
Gear: Skida Nordic Headband, Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Hoody, Deuter Futura Vario Pack, MSR Revo Ascent Snowshoes, MIMOSA (for drinking)
Have you done this trail? Let us know in the comments below!
Sending Love and Light from Maine,
Willow + Crew
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