Sat January 29th Bear Brook State Park
This was quite the adventure and great day of snowshoeing around the park. It was all organized by Leeapeea and it was a ton of fun. The start time was set for 9:30am for 1 loop of about 9 miles, with a bail out point for a shorter 5mile option. Sherpa John and Josh had deciding they wanted to get some extra time on their feet and got there at 6:30 for some extra mileage. I was tempted to join them, I should have joined them. But I knew my body would appreciate the extra sleep the 9:30 start would allow. As I rolled into the parking lot I saw Josh's truck with him and John warming up inside. Loni and Mandiee where sitting on the tailgate waiting for everyone to arrive.
I waved hello as I pulled in and proceeded to unload my gear. It was a cool morning but a lot warmer than the single digits we shoed in while in VT the previous weekend. Soon after I arrived Leah pulled in with her Father right behind her. Introductions where made, in total there where 8 snowshoeing and 2 cross country skiing. We gathered up took a look at the map and hit the trails.
Due to the trails being used for snowmobiling we had a smooth packed start. We soon realized just how much they where used by Snowmobiles. About every 20-30min where where passed in one direction or another by the loud stinky machines. While they did not make our trek unpleasant they certainly took away from the serenity of nature. About a mile into the hike we get to the bottom Bear Hill trail, it is a fresh trail that appears to have not been used since the snow hit. Met with an option of a 1.2mile out and back or continue along the main trail we had been following the group split. John, Mandiee, Josh, Leah, Loni and myself choose to blaze our way up Bear Hill while the rest continue along.
We plod along alternating who is in front. Pushing through fresh powder in snow shoes is damn hard work. As we rounded a turn just before the final ascent to the top of Bear Hill we take note of a short side trail that leads directly to the main loop. With a final steep push up to the top we take moment to catch out breath before starting the hike back down. Heading downhill on snowshoes in powder is a completely different experience than going up. With the soft snow underfoot you feel a sense of floating many of us take off on a trot down the trail enjoying the chance to stretch our legs some. Taking the side trail we quickly get back onto the sled packed main loop.
Chatting along enjoying each others company we cruise along for another couple miles. Before we are met with a descent up hill section. Being about 4miles into it we are starting to feel the burn of being on our feet for two hours. We trudge to the top taking breaks to catch our breath and to keep the group together. Along the way I suggest with a question to Leah that we must be about half way. She gives me a half smile and says that we are only about a 3rd of the way through. Wow, 5 miles and 10 to go. Well that throws our estimated 9 miles right out the window. People are a little tired but still feeling strong, we decide to aim for the first cut off as no one has any desire to try and push the full distance today.
A few more miles and a few more hills start to take their toll on people. Legs are getting sore, feet are starting to blister. Moods are starting to fowl. Hoping to lighten the mood some I mess around in the snow a little. Front flipping into a snowbank, then jumping off a ledge of a snow covered mound of dirt. Still having a little spring in my step I begin to think what others are saying. I should have gone out to do the first loop, I am obviously not suffering enough.
With about 1.5miles to go we have the proverbial carrot dangled in front of our noses. Leah gets a text from her father informing us that they have cold beer waiting at the cars for when we get back. "Oh Long Trail, oh how I love thee." Spirits raised and the end in sight we make our final push. Mandiee with a sore leg puts it in high gear and takes off ahead. I try to keep up with John and Leah close behind. And Josh and Loni following them. With about a quarter mile to go I realize exactly where I am and pick up the pace to a trot. Apparently John had the same notion and jogs into the parking lot shortly after me. Followed by the rest of the group Mandiee and Leah, Josh and Loni within minutes of each other.
I look down at my watch 11.5miles, 4 hours 38min. Longer than expected but everyone is proud of the distance we finished. It was a ton of fun, great company and a beautiful day. A big thanks to Leah for putting together a great day out in Bear Brook!!