Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Icy jaunt to Willard

Distance: 3.2 miles (roundtrip)
Route: Mt Willard Trail (out and back)
Duration: <2 hours
Elevation Gain: 900 feet

Today was a day that went totally not as expected but turned out to be what we needed.  In theory, the original plan was Jackson, then it was Willey, which we scraped upon crossing the railroad tracks when the trail had a pitch that was basically a frozen waterfall.  My two were able to go around although it was steep but I had a new foster (Skylar) attached at the hip.  We made an attempt but quickly bailed for safety.

Our attempt at Willey:
(Above, below) Not a bad start....

I let the girls explore whatever this was til I realized there was a small chance there may be critters inside!

Our turnaround point (steeper than it looks!)
Wondering what's next as I contemplate the options
After a quick glance at the map, I drove us up to Crawford Depot and we set out for Willard, turning left at the fork with the Avalon trail that heads to Tom.  We encountered two small crossings almost immediately.  For the first one we took a few strides up the brook from the trail and crossed where it narrowed.  I carried Skylar across a log for the second one and TybTangs clumsily made it on their own.

The trail was pretty icy but crunchy along the edges for the dogs.  No paw-postholing.  I opted for my "baby crampons" again and, despite my apparent inability to fit them properly, was very happy with the decision for the little extra digging-in power they afforded me when being pulled.

First crossing is technically where the water is running over
the log center-screen.  Photo taken from where we actually crossed.
Second crossing I carried Sky across
General Trail Conditions:

Common condition of the trail today

There were few turns in the trail; it was often a straight, magical-looking "tunnel of green" as we headed up the very easy grade.  As we gained elevation, the trail progressively became less icy but never lost the single-footing line of ice down the center that began in the parking lot.  Here and there, melting had begun in greater earnest than other spots.  I learned Sklyar is not a fan of icy slush!

We reached the summit in about an hour and fifteen minutes and I made an attempt at summit photos.  Ty continued to dislike summit breaks in winter/wind and Skylar was wiggly as a puppy so the break didn't last long!  We did some light jogging on the way down.  Unfortunately, I believe I was "that guy" holding up the couple behind us for quite a bit.  Regardless, we made it back to the car and were back on the road an hour later.

I'm glad we ended up on Willard for a lot of personal reasons I am still sifting through but ultimately, it gave me a chance to write about this one for the blog and was well-fitted for most of the dogs today.  It's a great little hike for new hikers, those short on time, and as a backup plan.  There is also a lot in the immediate vicinity such as Saco Lake and the AMC Highlands Center.  It can get busy so it may be a little tough to have dogs off leash respectfully but I believe the footing is even enough that a leash won't present a safety concern (I've only visited when snow hides the true terrain).  For comparison, it is a gentler introduction to hiking than Mt Major in Alton.  Skylar turned out to be not quite ready  for a big hike.  She was mentally ready but not leash-ready so this was a good introduction.  Tango was lagging a bit after sprinting up to the tracks on the Kedron Flume Trail so he took it easy on this one.  Ty was hoping for a little more excitement but you can't please everyone!  Wish us luck prepping Skylar; our next hike is at the end of the month!

Goober needs some training for the next hike!  

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