Crashing through the snow with each step I thought about how much I despised coffee with sugar in it. Smashing my shin repeatedly against the icy crust of the snow, I thought about how much I hated having to go to work on Mondays. Falling into a snow covered dry stream bed up to my waist and I started to wonder why was even putting myself through this.
It seemed like well concocted idea when my friend and I were discussing it in her well heated living room. Hike 21-miles in one day, because it was there and we could. Sure it was the dead of winter and the start of a cold snap. Sure it wasn’t just 21-miles on a nice level road, but instead 21 miles up and down seven assorted peaks. Why couldn’t we hike it now with it covered in two plus feet of snow and only a skimpy 8-9 hours of daylight in a day? We weren't deterred.
At 4:30 in the morning we left the comfort of our warm cars at the trail head, powered up our headlamps, finished off our coffees and headed off on this one way 21-mile throughway along the Wapack Trail in southern New Hampshire. We decided to keep it as light as possible and not bring snowshoes. From the small sections we had scouted the week before, the trails were previously packed by snowmobiles. Things were looking great with the temperature sticking around the high teens.
We began our decent down Watatic Mountain just to see the sun rise through the trees. Things took a sharp turn at around 10:00 when we discovered that the little used middle portion of the trail had yet to be broken. Already approximately five miles from our cars, we figured we would soon hit a section that had been packed down. I’m sure we would have too, but the snow conditions had crusted the snow top with just enough ice so that you would almost not crash through and then--smash-- you would. With each step our shins nailed the hard ice. We couldn’t keep this up, it had taken us twenty minutes to cover less than a quarter mile. We needed to bail.
And bail we did, down the side of some little known foothill. We managed to get cell reception to call our ride and arrange a pickup five and half miles from our car and 15 and half miles from our goal.
Sidenote: While I didn’t manage to complete the Watatic Trail in one day on this particular outing, I did manage to with a male hiking partner of mine that same winter. Ironically we didn’t even have to take our snowshoes off our packs.