February 7, 2015.
After staying away from the Whites due to last weeks cold and high winds it's right back at it where I left off. I knew going in that this was going to be tough hike considering that as of at least two weeks ago the Kodak Trail had not been touched. The other issue is completing a loop which would involve getting back to where I parked via an old road that is no longer used all the way. Baker Road allows vehicle to just below the trailhead for the Cross Rivendell Trail that leads up the western side of Mt Cube. Beyond that the road is not plowed in the winter and not sure of its status in the summer. I know at the Quinttown Road end it is gated where I parked two weeks ago. The mileage overall is doable it is just how long can I break trail twice in one day.
Getting to the trail as early as I can is the priority as I want to make sure I have enough daylight to complete this hike and finish this portion of the AT. First I take the trip up Baker Road to check out the conditions on that end. I know that the Cross Rivendell Trail sees some consistent traffic during the winter and sure enough there is a broken path leading up the closed portion of the road to the trailhead. That's a good sign so off I go to park at the same spot as when I did Smarts Mt a few weeks ago. All set with boots and snowshoes on the ground at 7:30 heading up the unplowed but tracked Quinttown Road. The temps are in the teens and nothing to note for the wind. Unfortunately it doesn't look like the sun is going to make an appearance today as the clouds have made their presence known for the day. I pass by the only house on this part of the road and it must be a summer residence as there is no evidence of anyone being there this winter plus it has no utilities at all. Shortly after and I reach the snowmobile portion of the trail and the walking is easier and faster.
Passing by the summer parking spot and a shot of the sun coming up over the trees. Reaching the second bridge that spans Jacobs Brook there is a view ahead to the Eastman Ledges.
It takes just thirty minutes to reach the trailhead for the Kodak Trail that leads up and over the Eastman Ledges.
For you old timers you may have picked up on the joke of the ledges and the trail name, Eastman Ledges...Kodak Trail. Eastman Kodak! The trail is relatively new opened in the late 1980's and Dartmouth named it Kodak appropriately so. This also changed the route of the AT as it used to come down off Smarts Mt via Daniel Doan Trail (the trail I was on two weeks ago) then follow Mousley Brook Road to Baker Road. Up Baker Road to Cross Rivendell Trail (formerly known as South Cube Trail) to the top of Mt Cube. Today the AT comes down off Smarts Mt via the J Trail and up Mt Cube by the Kodak Trail.
The trail is untouched just like I last saw it when I came down off the J Trail. Evidently no one uses this trail during the winter time. I know it is going to be a lot of work breaking this three mile trail by myself but mentally I am prepared for this and determined to make it all the way. It is quiet up through these woods except for the occasional whoosh noise. I stop each time to look around to see where the noise is coming from but see nothing. I finally realize what and where the sound is coming from. With the recent snow we have been getting and this trail seeing no traffic it is coming from me as I snowshoe up. The snow around me settles making the whoosh sound. Sometimes I can see a large area of the snow shifting when it makes the noise. Thankfully this is not an avalanche area but I can only imagine this is the noise one might here at the beginning of one. Working my way up the trail diligently and soon I approach the Eastman Ledges with a look pass the trees to my destination, Mt Cube.
From the ledges a very cloudy Smarts Mt across the valley. Down in the valley is Mousley Brook Road and the farm I passed by two weeks ago with its barn, shed and house in the field.
There isn't much to see today due to the low cloud deck so I continue on up the trail. I'm trying to pace myself so as not to burn out as the snowshoes sink in a foot in the powdery snow. As I approach one spot in the trail there is an indent in the snow and I find it odd as there is no snow on the trees that would have fell causing the imprint. Just as I put my left shoe next to it and my left hiking pole right in front of it a spruce grouse flies up out of the snow scaring the crap out of me. I was within inches of stabbing that thing with my pole. I have never encountered that on the trail before and hope I never do again. They are annoying enough when you hike unknowingly right next to them and they fly off with a ruckus but this one takes the cake.
Regaining my composure and I push on up the virgin snow. The trail has been pretty decent considering that it is unbroken. An hour after starting the Kodak Trail portion of the hike and I have made it to the spur trail for Hexacuba Shelter. I feel pretty good as it is a mile and a half from the trailhead to here and it only took an hour. Forty minutes per mile while breaking trail is really good considering I usually average thirty and under during the normal season.
The spur trail is all uphill and being only two-tenths of a mile it takes fifteen minutes to reach it. There was one spot where the trail was questionable as to where it goes and I stood there for a minute looking at two options before picking the path on my right. Up ahead I make out the unusually shaped shelter and decide it is a good time to stop and refuel before heading on to Mt Cube.
This shelter has six sides hence the "hexa" in the name and originally Mt Cube was known as Mt Cuba so put the two together and you get Hexacuba. Filling up on some snacks and water and it is time to get going and I make my way back down to the trail. Just past the junction is a brook crossing with a bog bridge across it. The brook is frozen but the bridge is a good six feet up above the brook bed. It is snow covered and looks like no problem until I try stepping on it and the snow packs down and not evenly. I can just imagine as I walk across it my ankles rolling with the snow and down I go. I knock off some of the snow and the bridge is no longer as wide as it appears. Too risky for me with the snowshoes so I head off to my right about eight feet and cross the brook there. Shortly after the crossing and the trail starts descending down on what looks like the trail but it just does not feel right. I look around for blazes and see none so I make my way back up to the last blaze. I stop there and scan the area and see where the trail goes to the right instead of down the way I went. From here on out the trail drastically changes as the trees are snow laden and the blowdowns/folded over trees become the norm.
Also at this time the sun tries to make an appearance as the sky clears out a little bit. I reach some ledges and the sun is out around me but across the way Smarts Mt is still hanging onto the clouds.
Ledges are great for views but during the winter and especially when there has been no traffic they are a bitch when it comes to following the trail. Where do I turn? Does the trail go through that opening to the left? Or does it go through the opening to the right? Maybe it's straight ahead. Where are those dang blazes when you need? Buried under the snow painted on the slabs of the ledge! Once in a while there is the snow covered cairn to help but there are very very few of them up here.
It is a winter wonderland up here with the frosted trees but they make the hiking slow. First I am up higher due to the snow pack and they don't trim the tree branches for the winter hikers. The other problem is the tree branches are loaded and leaning over the trail so before moving through I have to knock the snow off the branches so as not to get any down the back of the neck as I pass by.
Try your trail finding skills on this next picture. Looks like a dead end or maybe in that opening straight ahead to the right. Nope it turns to the left just by that birch tree on the left. Thankfully there was a blaze on a tree to the left once I reached that spot. But I had to stop and look around before seeing it.
Reaching the next set of ledges and the trail skirts around the steep part and coming around to the left of it I lose the trail again. Retracing my steps back and I head across the top of the ledge and find this is the way the trail goes. Smarts Mt is still struggling in the clouds and to its right is Dartmouth Skiway in the distance.
Along the way and I find the largest egg, possibly prehistoric, giganticus yolkalus I believe is the species. Just beyond and the trail heads back into the trees in the little opening just past that cairn covered in snow.
About twenty minutes later and I see the end in sight. So close yet still a ways away.
It takes an hour from that spot to reach the summit and it is a painstaking hour. The frosting on the cake is just before breaking out on the last ledge the trail completely disappears. I have no idea where it goes from the spot I am standing at. Between all the blowdowns, duck unders, losing the trail and knocking the snow off the trees this is the coup de grace. There is a massive set of blowdowns straight ahead and of all the options (left and right were really not an option) the trail has to go through that mess. Only problem is the only way around it is very steep and is a struggle getting up it as the snow offers no support as I try to push off. Slowly I make my way up and around and sure enough the trail is on the other side. Three minutes later and I have completed this trail.
So I made it all the way but the trip from the shelter to the summit took just about three hours and it was a mile and a half. Not good time but I made it and feel pretty good about it now that the hard part is done. The sunny skies that was surrounding me on the way up have disappeared just like the trail did behind me. Not wanting to spend too much time up here on the exposed summit I take minimal pictures. Down to the left is the ridge I just came up and after looking at my GPS tracks Kodak Trail and Cross Rivendell Trail share that ridge. Had I kept going when I lost the trail on that steep ledge I would have run into Cross Rivendell Trail fairly quick.
Across the way to the west is Sunday Mt. A small hump and the last trail I have to do to complete all the trails from Glencliff to Hanover. That will be next weeks adventure today I still have to get down off Cube and back to the car. Heading down the Cross Rivendell Trail which was once the AT. The first part is steep and I take it slowly until the trail heads back into the trees. Thankfully this trail is broken out and there aren't any of the obstacles that I incurred on Kodak Trail.
Down the trail and there is another ledge, part of that ridge where both trails pass close to each other, and the view is towards Sunday Mt.
From here on the trail switchbacks as it makes its down off Mt Cube. The trail use to head straight up but was reworked into its current configuration to help with erosion. Not far from the trailhead I spy an old white blaze from this trails AT days that has been painted over blue. From here on it is a fairly easy hike out to the trailhead and another trail is off the list.
Just to make sure I get all of the trail I walk the short distance between the trailhead and where I was this morning when I first checked out this part of the trail. Turning around and back up the unplowed portion of Baker Road between here and where I parked. The only tracks out here are from some deer that use this road as their pathway.
Where the road splits off some lumber roads the deer tracks head off in a different direction. The only tracks now are my own as I look back.
Not far from the end and what I believe are plastic tubing for maple sap cross the road. Underneath and I hit the jackpot in regards to old blazes. On the same tree is the old DOC orange and black blaze and just underneath a scraped white blaze from when Baker Road was part of the AT. Not only are they on one side of the tree but they are on both sides!
A few minutes later and I can see the end with Quinttown Road at the bottom and the mile and a half went pretty fast compared to the trail. Fifty minutes is all it took and all in all a pretty successful day.
Final numbers: 8.4 miles, 7 hours and 40 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.8, Total to Date: 706.6