December 29, 2012.
Short hike for today mileage wise but with the snow will take some effort as it will be an all snowshoe day, the first of the year. So in order to get re-acclimated to snow shoeing and not knowing if the trails have been broken out yet I'll keep the mileage in the moderate zone. Returning to a recent favorite stomping ground area, Squam Lake, I'll be heading up to Mt Morgan first then over to Mt Percival.
Parking across the street from the Rattlesnake parking lot at the Mt Morgan parking lot. Arriving at the trailhead at 8:45 AM and all equipped and on trail by 8:55 it is kind of a gloomy morning with snow expected later in the afternoon. This part of the trail has seen some activity on it in the last day with come barebooters and a snowshoer.
It is a relaxing walk through the woods even though the skies are gray and the silence is broken by the sounds of my snowshoes. The trail does not gain much elevation for most of the way until the final push to the ridge to meet up with the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail. From here the trail climbs again to a small viewpoint and a shot of the neighbor next door, Mt Webster.
Up the trail some more and I reach the junction with a spur trail that leads up through, yes, a cave and over some ledges to a great viewpoint. The problem is it is all covered in snow and probably not the greatest path to take today. No one has been up this way as there are no tracks leading to the ladders.
Standing at the ladders and I start the debate in my head on whether to tackle this or not. Leading up to the cave doesn't look too bad but what is beyond I can not see from this vantage point. Taking off the snowshoes and leaving them at the bottom of the 3 sets of ladders I head up. Nothing too difficult making the transition from ladder 2 to 3 the problem is what is beyond the tunnel of a cave and looking down the way I came I am not so sure I want to retreat.
Looks like it is going to be down on all fours and crawl through and see what is there. At the end it is a lie on your stomach squeeze though the rocks to the left and out of the cave up to the next set of ledges.
Pausing at this spot to take a few pictures and then it is time to continue on. In front of me is a step over a 6-8 inch wide crack that runs the length of the ledge and is a covered in snow step down from where I am standing. One slip and all I can think about is falling into that crevice and getting stuck or breaking something. This is definitely not one of my smarter or brighter moments in hiking. But I made my choice and pressing forward is the better option and at least the rest of the climb is not that long, I hope. Making it slowly and carefully across the crevice and then up to the next level of ledges I stop and time to pull out the microspikes as the last push is quite ledgey and steep. Feeling a little more comfortable and minutes later I am on top of the cliff and the views are outstanding. Could only be better if it was a clear day. A panorama from the top of the cliff.
Some more pictures and time to head down the trail and over to the true summit which is just a short distance away. An awesome shot of Franconia Ridge off in the distance is on the offering.
Time to move on and head down to retrieve my snowshoes. Down the trail, not the cliff trail I just came up, and back to the ladders to put my snowshoes back on. Retracing my steps back up the trail to the junction with Mt Morgan Trail and Crawford_Ridgepole Trail and off towards Percival. The snow has begun earlier than predicted and along the way the views are also diminishing with the weather.
Making quick work of the 0.8 miles between summits and I am at Percival which is an exposed piece of rock.
There is an arrow pointing towards the cliff and as I wander over to look I hear the first signs of another hiker with their snowshoes coming up the Mt Percival Trail. Not wanting anything to do with the cliff trail, especially heading down it, I make my way towards Mt Percival Trail and start the descent. This section is a tedious little part of the trail and with snowshoes on all senses are on high alert. I carefully pick my way down to where the trail and the cliff trail meet.
Making a smarter decision this time I opt out and know that I have to come back this way another day when I do the northern portion of Crawford-Ridgepole Trail. Onwards and downwards, the trail is rough and steep, still not enough snow cover on the rocks and in between. Each step you don't know what is underneath and every once in a while the ankles twist as I hit a side of a rock. Eventually the trail starts to level out and begins an easier walk in the woods. It is after noon as I am heading down and I meet quite a few groups just heading up for the day. Conditions worsening and late in the day but whatever. I make it down the trailhead for Mt Percival and there is a huge foundation still exposed, another story to look into someday.
Back up Mt Percival Trail to the junction with Morse Trail, this trail connects Mt Percival and Mt Morgan Trails. A left turn onto it and then a left turn onto Mt Morgan Trail and very quickly back at the car. A good snowshoe breaking in for the season and something to go back for at a later date, the Percival Cliff Trail.
Final numbers: 6.1 miles, 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.7, Total to Date: 280.9