December 23, 2016: First Snowshoe of Winter 2016-2017

Today was the first of a few days off over a long Christmas weekend, and an absolutely gorgeous day to snowshoe out to Round Pond. At the beginning of this week, Gilford got around eight inches of snow, plus another three or so on Thursday morning.

I headed down Bickford Road to get to the Wood Road parking area for the East Gilford trailhead… and discovered that the driveway to the parking area isn’t plowed in the winter. I made a small attempt to get up the small hill to it (in the Jeep, in 4WD), but I wasn’t getting through and I didn’t want to take a chance getting stuck. So instead I headed over to Gunstock Ski Resort to get on the Round Pond trail there.

Arriving a little after 8 AM, the main parking lot was mostly empty, only about 15%-20% full. I parked and headed over to the Round Pond/Overlook trail (which is shared with the Maple XC trail for a little over a mile). The trail was groomed – there were some ski tracks, but not straight or deep ones. Still, I stayed way to the edge. I noticed lots of animal tracks here – some deer, and something that could possibly have been coyote tracks (unless someone’s dog got loose from a nearby home and went for a romp through the trails).

A little less than a mile in, the Overlook (blazed orange) and Round Pond (blazed red) trails split apart, and I continued to follow the Round Pond trail (still a XC trail here) a little farther, then followed the Round Pond hiking trail off into the woods. There were lots more animal tracks here, too. Mostly deer, squirrel and chipmunk tracks. I could tell that someone had been on the trail earlier in the week; there were footprints that had been mostly filled back in with snow. It looked like whoever had been on the trail was bare-booting, and I tried to avoid turning an ankle as much as possible. I just hoped it would be easier returning in my fresh snowshoe tracks!

It felt like forever until I finally reached the green-blazed Piper-Round Pond Link trail. In reality, it only took me an hour and 48 minutes to hike those three miles. From here, it wasn’t much further to get to Round Pond. As expected, Round Pond was absolutely beautiful, frozen over and covered with snow, sun shining so brightly it was nearly blinding. I continued on the green trail part-way around the pond until I reached its junction with the Mt. Klem trail. Here I stopped, ate my snacks, and admired the scenery for a little while before retracing my steps.

While still on the green trail heading back, I suddenly heard a “good morning” behind me. Lo and behold, there was a guy trail running. I had no idea he was even behind me until he spoke. I let him pass, and soon he was so far ahead of me I saw nothing but his footprints in the snow (mostly following my snowshoe tracks). The return trip was definitely faster. While it took me about two hours to get to Round Pond (not counting the extra walk around to the Klem junction), my return trip only took about an hour and 40 minutes from the Klem junction all the way back to the end of the XC trail at Gunstock’s driveway. I even, um, ran up a couple small hills in my snowshoes. Luckily, there were no hidden postholes to trip me up in those sections.

Round trip, today’s outing amounted to seven miles in just over four hours – a 35-minute-mile pace, not too shabby for snowshoeing, especially considering I was practically breaking trail for part of the trek, where the previous tracks had nearly completely filled in with snow.

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