Sunday, October 25, 2009

10-21-09 Felsenmeer

I played hooky from work on Wednesday (10-21-09) in part because the weather forecast indicated it would be the only decent hiking day for the rest of the week and woould be similar to last Saturday which was a peach. There'll be more good days to come: warm, calm, and clear, but not always when you can get out of work and on to a trail. I got on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail around 9 am heading, first, for Lakes of the Clouds and then to the summit of Washington to look more closely at the 'felsenmeer' before the coming snow impounds it. I wanted more info to mull over this winter. The photo above is the trillium patch where early last June I took photos of the red trilliums (T. erectum) that were growing profusely in this very spot.

Getting on the trail in the winter is more painstaking then the summer. You really have to spend time thinking about what you're going to take and the winter backpack is always heavier than the summer pack for obvious reasons but it's always a shock how much you have to carry and how much more work it is.

The Ammonoosuc River is thriving and as melodious as ever. The water's so clear in the late fall and winter before its completely buried, its voice muffled, under layers of snow and ice. As I headed up the mountain I'm reminded that these huge blocks of Littleton Schist in and along the river are disparate representatives of the felsenmeer that traveled this far down Ammonoosuc Ravine brought by gravity and possibly, during great storms, by the force of water and gravity combined.

The forecast at 5 am when I left home was for seasonally warm temps, a bit of fog in the morning, then partly cloudy with winds of 15-25 mph. From the moment I got on the trail it looked like the forecast would ring true. Looking up into Ammonoosuc Ravine the cloud cap was sitting at about 4,000 feet and seemed to be lifting gradually.

By the time I reached the head wall of the ravine the cap had lifted a tiny bit allowing this view to the northwest towards Cherry Mountain but the clouds seemed to be settled in for a longer seige then just a few hours. I thought of bailing out of the hike but kept climbing even though a dense cloud cap, wind and cold temperatures would make it a bit of a challenge to to see much and be able to explore high on the summit cone and take photographs. When I used to rock climb ages ago I heard this quip in Scotland from a seasoned mountaineer: "Well, we struggled up the wet rock, climbing higher and higher in the cold and rain and fog wondering if it would ever stop when suddenly a voice came down to us out of the clouds and in a deep voice urged us on saying, 'Cheer up. lads! Things could be worse!', so we cheered up and sure enough things got worse."

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