Jewell Trail, to treeline (that’s all)

Fred Knight

I got going in the car a little after 5am, listened to Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent on the drive, and arrived just before 8 at the cog railway hikers’ parking lot, the second car.  The day looked promising with good views up to the peaks and Mt Jefferson, my goal, gleaming between the forested ridge and the cloudy sky.  I got going at 8:20, headed past the cog railway station to the Jewell Cutoff Trail, jumped the snow bank, and was on a fresh blanket of 3″ or so of new snow.  Microspikes seemed fine and one solo snowshoer had been on the trail yesterday.

After the cutoff joined the main trail, the snowshoer took off on a bushwhack loop back to the railway, and I was left with unbroken trail.  Very pleasant with two layers on plus hat and mitts.  At about 40 minutes, I shifted to snowshoes due to windblown drifts, just like Mike and I did two years ago.  The trail had a good base, but breaking trail kept my pace slow
.  The new snow depth increased over the next couple miles.  I broke out on the exposed parts of the ridge to see views of north and south along the Presidentials.  It was apparent that the wind was going to be a challenge farther up, and the forecast predicted increasing winds.  My expectations of getting to Mt Jefferson were low.  The trail is a beauty, the woods were laden with new snow, and conditions other than the wind were perfect.

Two hours later, as I was approaching treeline, I added layers.  Having donned my goggles for the final turn into the open, it was obvious the wind was atrocious.  Wild, in fact. What a maelstrom. I turned back at 11am.  Coming back down the trail, the wind had completely obliterated my tracks, and snow started to fall.  Passing through the exposed areas of the trail, it was obvious that conditions had deteriorated.  Still, I enjoyed the trip up and down tremendously.  Nobody else was on this beauty of a trail.  Too bad I couldn’t go farther.  An enjoyable morning. Back to parking lot by 12:51. At least 15 cars, all for hikers on the Ammonoosuk, I guess.

One composite overview of the hike (pdf).

Summary:

~5 miles in 4.5 hours, snowshoes after initial 40 minutes with microspikes.  New snow untouched but good base on trail.  Wind picked up, especially on the way back.  Turned around at treeline due to howling wind.   Conditions worsened on the return: snow and wind.  Fun day.

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