It was a chance to bask in the pleasure of walking in powder snow one more time, and was our best little hike so far this winter. Ryan and I decided to take advantage of the clear skies and head for the hills, the Camden Hills State Park, that is, where we ended up bagging two peaks and covering a 4.5 mile loop last Saturday.
We went in from the Route 1 side, where we met at 2PM in the parking lot at the base of Mount Battie ( 800’). There were dozens of cars in the lot, where Ryan spotted two others than mine that had AT thru-hiker stickers on them. I strapped on my Stablilicers and Ryan slid into his his Kahtoonas as we walked up the ice-covered apshalt road to the top, stopping to talk with several friends who were one their way down. We took photos near the tower overlooking Penobscot Bay.
Back down we went, backtracking another half-mile where we found the Tableland Trail on the left, minus the sign. Time for the snowshoes. The trail was now in the woods, where it dipped down some 200 feet, then went up, up, and up. Some of the ups were loose and steep, whih made it hard to ascend. Even the big aluminum claws on my shoes sometimes slid backwards, required repeated lunges to walk and eventually grip. It was work, for sure. Some 1,000 feet of climbing later, we got to the ridge leading past Ocean Lookout up to the top of Mount Megunticook ( 1385’) .
It was at this point that Ryan exercised leadership, by suggesting that we curtail our original plan to descend the 1.1 mile Slope Trail to the Ski Lodge, where we planned to have a boil up and snack. Yeah, we had to get down, but that would leave us close three more miles on the Multiuse Trail to reach the cars, and the sun was starting to set.
Ryan looked around for a ledge to set our stoves on, but the snow was too deep for that. Instead, we packed down sitting places with our snowshoes, and set right down and fired up the stoves for hot drinks. We both had extra jackets that we put on. Ryan struggled with generating a decent boil with his Caldera cone alcohol stove. I had my own challenges with keeping my Bushcooker LT1 upright as the fire melted the snow beneath, causing the stove to tip. Next time, I’m packing a 1 quart paint can lid, which fits the base of the Bushcooker perfectly and would enable me to keep it stable on packed snow. I think I remember that any alcohol stove requires some type of insulation from the snow to get it up to speed. I was able to hit a rolling boil after throwing in a Coghlan hexamine tablet that got the wood burning in the LT1, and warmed my hands near the flames, then cradled the cook pot of tea. I had some chocolate from Christmas that went down just fine.
The temperature was dropping rapidly and both Ryan and I decided to keep fully dressed as we slipped, skied, and slid our snowshoed way down the 1.5 mile Mt. Megunticook Trail.
Two days later, the Camden Hills was hit with 47 degree temperatures and three inches of rainfall, a combination that would dramatically reduce the snow cover, and make snowshoeing history. However, the deep freeze coming tomorrow ( single number temps) will coat the trails with ice, which may set things up the next sporting event- mountain biking with studded tires!