Thursday, December 30, 2021

Cape Cod Woods and Waters

While enjoying an extended family visit on Cape Cod over Christmas break, Carol and I navigated two snow-free hikes through fine woods and along beautiful waters. 

Our first hike was a 4 1/2 mile loop on familiar trails through Brewster's Nickerson State Park, visiting five kettle ponds along the way. The park's 1,900 acres were once part of the Nickerson family estate. The land was donated to the state in 1934 and became the first state park in Massachusetts. With 400 campsites, the park is super-busy in summer, but in winter it is a quiet and wild oasis. The park's premier trail is the three-mile loop around 200-acre Cliff Pond, either in the woods just behind the shore or along sandy beaches.

Of course there was some geocaching to be done.

Inviting path through the pitch pines.

One of two large glacial erratics on the NW shore.

A sandy, windy spit at the south end of Cliff Pond.

One of our favorite stretches of trail.

On the other side of the spit is shallow Grassy Nook Pond, where a flock of Hooded Mergansers was hanging out.

Looking north across Cliff Pond.

New trail sign.

A gorgeous beach at the pond's SE cove.

The trail along Little Cliff Pond.

Another beach at the south end of Little Cliff Pond.

Just to the east is secluded Higgins Pond, with yet another beach on its south shore.

On the south side of Higgins Pond is shimmering Eel Pond.

View of Higgins Pond from its north shore.

Looking south down the length of Little Cliff Pond. Nickerson State Park is truly one of the Cape's treasures.

On the next afternoon we did a four-mile hike on fire roads and unmarked footpaths in the highlands of South Truro.

Scrub and stunted trees herald the approach to a high bluff overlooking the ocean.

The Atlantic, looking mighty cold on this grey December day.

I can see for miles and miles.

There are hundreds of acres of undeveloped pitch pine woods on this upland, making it one of the Cape's wildest areas.

A narrow path led out through these woods... another ocean overlook.

The path dropped steeply through picturesque pines....

...down to the Great Beach, the most famous feature of the Outer Cape, where Thoreau and countless others have wandered.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Snowshoeing in Avalanche Ravine: 12/21/21

On the first day of winter, after a snowfall of 5"-6,"it seemed fitting to break out the snowshoes. Options for snowshoeing were limited, as there wasn't enough depth to cover up the rocks and ice on many trails. So I headed back down to Waterville Valley and the familiar Livermore Trail, whose smooth surface can be snowshoed with less cover. My plan was to head out into the Tripyramid backcountry wherever my snowshoes would take me.

The first 2.2 miles of Livermore Trail had been groomed by Waterville Valley Nordic Center. Even though the compressed surface was only an inch or two deep, I found snowshoeing easier than barebooting.

A fine sunny day in the mountains.

On the ungroomed section of Livermore Trail, the three kinds of tracks found on the winter trails: snowshoe, ski and bareboot.

An otter slide at White Cascade on, appropriately, Slide Brook.

A curve at the lower end - wheee!

I had thought of heading out towards the South Slides, but the crossing of Avalanche Brook looked sketchy, and there would be several more brook crossings heading up the Slide Brook valley.

So I headed another mile up Livermore Trail, where there was about 6" of powder, passing this contorted yellow birch.

At the hairpin turn, where the Mount Tripyramid Trail departs for the North Slide, I headed off-trail on an old logging road leading along the north side of Avalanche Brook.

Though obstructed in places, the old road was fairly easy to follow.

After a while I emerged in one of my favorite hardwood glades.

Nice place to be on a sunny winter day.

Just beyond, I crossed the brook that drains the valley below the Scaur Ridge Trail.

The road became a bit more obscure as it headed into Avalanche Ravine, aka the Ravine of Avalanches. It was named after the great North Slide of Tripyramid fell in 1885, along with 8 smaller slides farther up the valley.

Eventually the road led into what I consider the inner sanctum glade of the ravine.

A legacy sugar maple.

Avalanche Brook.

North Tripyramid looms above the ravine.

Approaching the East Fork of the North Slide.

I was looking forward to snowshoeing up this open swath, though I knew there would be ice under the new powdery snow. After ascending about 100 ft. of elevation on the slide track, I decided it was getting too sketchy to continue up.

Looking back down.

From here I headed east up the ravine to reach a couple of remaining open patches on an 1885 slide on the south wall. I knew from a previous snowshoe excursion that the going would be pretty steep and tangled, and in that regard I was not disappointed. The new snow, with no base beneath, was quite slippery on steep pitches and sidehills. It took ~45 minutes each way to cover a quarter-mile.

Caked in snow, I emerged at what seems to be the highest remnant open patch on this slide, at ~3160 ft, and found a fine view of Breadtray Ridge, Mt. Osceola and East Osceola.

A few steps higher, Mt. Moosilauke came into view through Thornton Gap.

Most of this old slide track is populated with a dense growth of conifers.

Heading down an open strip of the slide.

This is the shady side of the ravine.

Looking back up.

The slide I visited is the second from the left in this 1910 photo by Edward H. Lorenz.

 (Photo courtesy of Town of Waterville Valley)

Type II fun on the return bushwhack.

I was glad to get back to the East Fork and more open going.

Late afternoon light.

Despite the new snow, the North Slide was still looking rather bony.

I had first tracks heading down the ravine on the Mount Tripyramid Trail. Didn't see anyone all day.

A recently fallen yellow birch giant lay across the trail.


Alpenglow on Scaur Ridge.

The sun sets early in here, on one of the shortest days of the year.

Lighting the way home. Happy Holidays to all!