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November hiking November 18, 2008

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Uncategorized, White Mountains.
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Bob expresses his feelings about November hiking

Bob expresses his feelings about November hiking

Bob won’t even consider hiking in November any more.  Or in April.  The trouble is, he’s so knowledgeable about trail conditions at different times of year that he writes those months off completely.  Most of the time he is quite right about what it’ll be like.  In November, just as I described in my recent post , the rocks were covered with a thin coating of ice that made the going very difficult.  I am waiting now for my Kahtoola microspikes to arrive via UPS so that I can go out again and mount my assault on the mountain ledges of New England.

It’s the transitional months that turn out to be such a problem.  In November, there’s lots of ice, but the streams haven’t frozen over yet, so instead of sauntering across on thick snow and ice, you’re desperately bounding across icy rocks.  On the trail, the ice doesn’t have any nice cushiony snow underneath that crampons can sink into.  In April, you will start your hike among the early spring wildflowers, but then as you go higher you will encounter increasing amounts of old, dirty, icy snow.  Sometimes on the really beaten-down trails, you run into what gets called the monorail—the snow in the center of the trail has gotten so compacted by snowshoes and general traffic that it’s melting very slowly, while on both sides the softer noncompacted snow is completely gone.   This is entirely a manmade phenomenon, and it is very strange and inconvenient.

When Bob and I first met, one of the first hikes we did together was a November climb up Mt. Mansfield in Vermont via the Long Trail from Smuggler’s Notch.  Very short hike, but we had to turn back at the “Nose” because of those classic November conditions, thin ice on smooth ledge.

Basically, Bob regards November hiking as a pain in the ass.  I tell him that I know he’s right, but I still think I might get something worthwhile out of the experience.  He tells me, “Go ahead!  Have fun!”



1. Gary Howell - November 20, 2008

November is much less hazardous in the South of Texas. Water from Hurrican Ike is almost gone. The rivers are clear now, the creeks no longer flow, but have a pot of water deep and almost clear, every few hundred yards. The grass is only half brown.

Perhaps you could get tired of cool days and clear skies and not quite freezing at night, but I am only here a few days and am greatly appreciative. It seems to me the natives are also grateful (the sun finally tamed).

I came a day early for a conference, having looked for the longer hikes on the internet, drive east from Austin. Lost Pines State Park just outside Bastrop. The pines are the last surviving pocket of East Texas, nurtured by sand (sitting on sandstone), surrounded by prarie and post oaks. The trail is a ten mile loop, after a while I strip down to running shorts, jeans and water in the pack, jog slowly. After the initial boy scouts, there are people only every mile or so, hiking with their dog, a few other runners, much faster than I.

The woods are not dense, the trees not mainly large, but brave. On part of the trail, there was a fire, and everywhere some fraction of pines are dead. Perhaps loblolly pines live only 80 years, perhaps it has been drought. The draw and the water tanks remind of childhood 300 miles north. We would try to build dams from chunks of sandstone, and once in a while they would not was away when
the water again briefly ran. At the end of the walk there were ferns, not entirely brown.

Late breakfast in Bastrop, false fronts in down town (they preserve the hitching posts here) 100 years old wood houses with porches and big yards. The Colorado River runs through it .. clear water, canoeing would be very relaxing. The outside of town has a new 4 lane highway and a Home Depot and a block of big new houses crammed together in a 40 acres square. But on the way back to Austin are the McKimmon Breaks, falling a few hundred feet down to the river (drier here, the cactus are 4 feet high, oak and cedar trees, the odd armadillo rustling steadily through the underbrush
a few feet from the trail).

Austin itself has a trail all along the river, both sides, walkers, joggers (college town but also housewives and families and only a few homeless). The water is clear here too. And it’s only a block from the convention center .. which probably doesn’t fit the theme here.

2. Jenny - November 20, 2008

Gary, that is really interesting about the lost pines of Bastrop. I googled them and learned that they are thought to be a relict of a cooler, moister Ice Age climate. I haven’t spent a lot of time in central or west Texas, but I remember it as a big open prairie without many trees. I’m always interested in isolated pockets of forest (sometimes one type of tree isolated among other types, like the red spruce of West Virginia).

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