We're now into the second week of April and the transition to early spring's variable and fickle conditons in the mountains is underway. As I write this high winds and sleet are pelting Crawford Notch and the temperature is 26 degrees. Nasty conditions to be sure, but the weather changes quick this time of year and temperatures will rebound to the 50's by early next week according to the National Weather Service.
"..., mauvais temps, n'est pas installé pour longtemps."
"bad weather is not settled for long"---French saying
For those of you not familiar with April in the White Mountains, spring comes late here! None the less the days are getting longer and the longer daylight conditions allow for longer excursions before darkness falls. There is light enough to see on trails till about 7:30pm now! Speaking of trails, all of the popular hiking routes out of Crawford Notch and the Highland Center
Crawford Notch in a April storm
Mount Willard on April 12th
Ice Covered trees at the Highland Center during a sleet storm (4/12)
are packed hard right now with the cold temps. By the weekend though, trails will be softening in the afternoon, making for tiring hiking without snowshoes, so even with packed trails, snowshoes are highly recommended! Microspikes could come in handy at the higher elevations and may be necessary above treeline depending on the temperature. In a nutshell, April is a month of change and unpredictable weather with wild fluctuations in conditions. Be prepared for anything this time of year and don't forget that when people are mowing lawns and playing golf in Southern New England the peaks and notches of the Whites can be in full winter conditions. The good news for hikers right now is that there is still a foot of snow in the woods of Crawford Notch and much more up higher, so mud season is still not here yet. Most stream crossings are open now though, so use caution when snowshoeing.
Although April can be a challenging month as far as conditions go, it is a peaceful time in the mountains. Outside of the spring skiing scene in the eastern ravines of Mount Washington, hiking traffic is very low this time of year. In fact April is probably the least crowded time of year on the White Mountain's trails, here in Crawford Notch and elsewhere. The Highland Center is a great place to experience that quiet this time of year. For those of you who are skiers, although the cross-country trails at Bretton Woods are not in great shape any more, Bretton Woods downhill area is still open for skiing through this Monday. Enjoy April on the mountain trails if you get a chance!
"April is the cruelest month,
breeding lilacs out of the dead land,
mixing memory and desire,
stirring dull roots with spring rain."