December 26, 2016: Mt. Rowe Snowshoe

With two days remaining of my long weekend, and after Friday’s fun in the snow, I decided to head out to Mt. Rowe for a nice wintry view of Gunstock. And since school is out this week, I knew it would be easy to park at Gilford Elementary School for trail access.

I was a little extra prepared today. Since my slightly larger LL Bean hiking boots gave me a big blister on my toe on Friday (as they usually do), I decided to wear my older and slightly smaller Cabela’s boots – they’re fine with snowshoes or microspikes, but the tread is just awful any other time. They’re also a bit too small for descending steep trails, since my toes constantly jam against the front of the shoe. But today, wearing snowshoes/spikes on a gentler incline, these boots were just fine. Just in case, though, I carried my LL Bean boots in my backpack – but didn’t need them.

I was also glad to have my microspikes in my pack, in addition to bringing along my snowshoes. Shortly after starting out on the trail, I realized the snowshoes really weren’t necessary. Though the trail was snow-covered, it was packed down pretty well from the weekend’s foot traffic. Still, the snowshoes stayed on all the way up to the summit – I had already fussed with them too much, putting them on, tightening everything, walking several yards and realizing my feet were too far forward in the bindings, then loosening and retightening everything all over again.

On the way up the blue trail, there was just one stream crossing, easily done by carefully stepping on rocks and balancing on my trekking poles (since the snowshoe crampons can be a little wobbly on bare rock). Fortunately, there were also some snow-covered rocks in the stream, so I didn’t have to worry about the rocks dulling the crampons.

Just below the summit, on the white-blazed Ridge trail, I could hear the snow guns blasting over at Gunstock. I followed the trail along the ridge and sat down on some rocks near the EarthScope station, taking in the spectacular view over Gunstock ski resort as I munched on my snacks and took off my snowshoes.

It turned out to be pretty easy to strap a snowshoe to each side of my pack, using the side compression straps to hold them in place. I easily descended the trail on my microspikes. Initially, I had planned to take the North Spur trail (orange) to the Weeks trail (purple) for my descent, but the North Spur trail hadn’t been heavily traveled so I didn’t want to bare-boot through there. So I continued back down the same way I had come up, following the blue trail back to the parking lot.

The entire hike amounted to a little over four miles in a little under three hours. The extra-slow pace at the beginning of the hike was largely due to fussing with my snowshoes, but I nearly made up for it with a faster descent on microspikes.


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