Winds of a changing season.

Part of a Nordic trail that leads to the Bretton Woods system. 
The conditions in Crawford Notch have been dynamic to say the least.  Spring is just around the corner...or so we thought.  Earlier in the week the sun was shinning, they air was warm and the birds were chirping.  We had some beautiful days of clear skies with no wind and excellent views of the Notch.  Finally, the first signs of spring had come.  With daylight savings giving us an extra hour of sunlight that has been very much missed, people were out and about and cars lined the road to trail heads.  There's nothing like seeing the cobalt blue sky against the snow-caped mountains (especially the Presidential range), and the feel of the warm sun after months of cold, grey weather.  The trails were great the first cloudless, sunny day; not too cold, and as I said, excellent views. but as the week progressed, we started seeing  other signs of spring with temperatures in the mid fifties and a whole day of non stop rain. The beating of warm air and rain caused the packed trails softened and post-holes began showing up all over.  They valleys were becoming increasingly mucky and there were whispers of mud season.  The once snow bridged rivers broke open, full and flowing from snow melt.  It was nice to see the clear water and colorful stones of our rivers but the crossings became increasingly challenging as the warm weather dragged on.  The flow of some crossings were high and mighty, but others, guised by only a thin layer of ice and snow, were much like booby traps as you could fall through especially if snowshoes weren't worn.

Leaving the messy trail conditions  behind,  the staff here at the Highland Center took advantage of this warm spell and got to tapping our maple trees!  We have an active sugar bush here at the Center with a total of seventeen sugar maple trees currently taped.  The flow was great earlier this week and the staff and some school groups collected quite a bit after only a few days. But come mid-week, the temperatures dropped significantly and by the next day the rain had turned to snow and the mushy, post-holey trails froze up as well as the sap in our buckets.  
This is a sensitive time of the year for dynamic trail conditions as were progressing from winter to spring.  As it becomes warm, the trails soften and floatation is needed but then as the night rolls in and the air cools, the trails freeze up and patches of ice appear and for these instances traction such as spikes or cramp-ons are recommended especially for steeper terrain.  

Checking the buckets on some of the maples.
As the week progresses, the weather's bi-polar patterns continue and temperatures dropped significantly again; freezing the rivers over again and it looks like the temperatures for later this week will remain below freezing so they will become less difficult as the week progresses.

Stefan Shapiro hiking up to Crawford Cliff.
Friday morning was a phenomenal day.  We had a few inches of fresh powder in the last 24 hours which helped the Nordic ski conditions a good bit and helped to even out some of the bumpy terrain of the trails.  Friday, I hiked up Crawford Cliff via the Crawford path and boy way a spectacular view.  Crawford Cliff has some steep sections with one particular section that's not for the weak of heart but once your up there, you get a great view that's comparable to Mt. Willard.  I hiked up with spikes since the trail was hard and frozen and as you go up, your going through a beautiful forest with eastern hemlocks, red spruce, and yellow birch that all looked well alive in the sun.
View of the Highland Center from Crawford Cliff
Now, once again the weather is changing and we are expecting a snow storm with quite a few inches of accumulation! Possibly up to 10 inches! Those who were ready for spring will be disappointed as winter is going out with a bang.  The good news is that you can come on up and get your last winter hiking and skiing in for the season before spring decides to get serious on us.  So come on by to the Highland Center to enjoy what might be winter's last shebang.
Stefan enjoying the clear skies and gorgeous view.

To make reservations at the Highland Center or any of the AMC lodges you can call reservation at (603)-466-2727 and for more information on current trail conditions or activities here in Crawford Notch you can call us directly at the Highland Center at (603)-278-4453. Hope everyone enjoys this snowstorm! Happy hiking!

Mitra Karimian
Adventure Guide