Chuckles and I met at the AT trailhead near the Flume Visitor Center to begin our hike up Mounts Liberty and Flume. The parking lot was empty and we had to climb over snow piled high by the plows to get to the trail. We started in snowshoes up the Whitehouse Trail, but soon switched to spikes since the trail was fairly packed down there and about halfway up the Liberty Spring Trail. It was snowing lightly and felt so quiet and insulated.
Either there were less and less footprints in front of us, or the snow was drifting more, but we started postholing occasionally a little bit before the Liberty Spring Tentsite. The postholes quickly got deeper and more frequent, so we switched to snowshoes again right before hopping on the Franconia Ridge Trail. We were only exposed a little bit at the summit of Mount Liberty but it was fairly windy at 4459′. There was no view as we were in clouds.
It took a little while to find where the trail went from the summit since the terrain was either icy rock or drifted snow, with no more footprints to see. The trail is blazed, but on the summit, the blazes are on the rocks and generally covered by ice. On the trail, the snow was so high, the blazes were frequently below my knee level. Chuckles had done the hike before though, and she found where we were supposed to go back into the trees. It was a long, steep hike down the other side of Liberty, and all I could think about was how I’d have to go back up it when we turned around. Well, that, and how my steep downhill snowshoe technique is crap. I fell four times, and lost a snowshoe once, which I didn’t realize until my leg postholed up to my hip on the next step.
We made it to what we thought was the summit of Mount Flume at 4328′. Again, it was exposed, but there was no visibility. The trail started going down, and the map contour lines did not indicate that it should, so we decided we were at the top. It was kind of a narrow, sketchy ridge of trees, two feet of snowy path, and then rocks straight down. Fortunately, the wind was blowing into the mountain, so we had no chance of being blown off.
We turned around and headed back across the ridge and into the trees. Going back up Liberty did not take as long as I thought it would and we soon popped back out onto its summit. We switched back to spikes at the tentsite and made good time down to the Whitehouse Trail. Part of that trail is a snowmobile route so Chuckles and I talked about how cool it would be to hitch a ride on a snowmobile back to the parking lot since I’d never been on a snowmobile before. None came by, and we kept walking, making it right before we would have needed to get headlamps out. 10.6 miles total.
Instead of driving straight home, I turned on my gps to get to some friends’ house for dinner. Pretty much any road that’s not highway up here is usually covered in snow even after being plowed. I’m also used to driving on back roads, which are not plowed as often. So when I came to a sign that said “This road not maintained for winter use,” I kept going. I was driving a 4Runner, the road was plowed and had plenty of tire tracks on it, and I live on a road that’s not maintained for winter use, but a neighbor plows it and it’s fine. The houses were getting very far apart but the numbers were still moving in the right direction for where I wanted to go.
I made it a few miles, and the snow kept getting softer, until I finally just drifted a couple of inches to the side and got stuck. My cell signal had been going in and out the whole drive, and of course it was out where I stopped. I had my avalanche shovel with me so I tried digging out the tires, but it was a no go. I put my headlamp on and hiked about a half mile back up the road until I found one bar of signal and was able to call the house where I was headed. The signal was still going in and out but I finally was able to get across where I was stuck. I was told a snowmobile or a dog sled would come get me.
I started hiking back down to the truck, and a snowmobile appeared before I even got there. It turned out not to be my ride but he tried to help me by pushing the truck. My snowmobile rescue showed up next, and even the two of them could not push it out. I hopped on the back and got a very short ride down to the house. It turned out I was only about 800′ from where the road switched back to Class V from Class VI, and it was less than a mile to the house. Almost made it! I should never have talked about wanting a snowmobile ride earlier in the day.
Later, a bunch of us went back out to get the truck. The Jeep with a winch on it could not make it up the hill in the soft snow, but an even bigger truck eventually made it up. We strapped the vehicles together, and with more digging out of tires, and some pushing, the 4Runner was pulled out. The bigger truck almost got stuck going back down the hill, but we all made it back to the house.
I figured I had to get the truck stuck on snow at some point this winter. If this is it, it’s not too bad. Although I have never been on a dog sled either, so I may take this road again next time.