January 1, 2017: Piper & Belknap Snowshoe

Presented with such a beautiful, sunny New Year’s Day, and nearly a foot of fresh snow just a few days ago, today was meant for snowshoeing. For some amazing views and reasonable mileage, I headed over to the Belknap mountain carriage road and headed up Piper.

Today was also the day for trying out new equipment. With an Amazon gift card I received from Mom and Dad for Christmas, I ordered a pair of Outdoor Research Huron high gaiters. They’re perfect for snowshoeing, because they cover my toes! Which means I can actually wear my trail runners for snowshoeing – which is perfect, since my LL Bean boots give me blisters, and my Cabela’s boots are a little too small and hurt my toes on steep downhills. The gaiters worked great. Even though my trail runners are well ventilated, my feet weren’t cold at all and stayed nice and dry. These are definitely winter-only gaiters, though – I don’t want to lose the traction on the soles of the shoes due to the covered toes. (Plus, I drove to the trailhead wearing them, and the cover actually popped off of my toes. The snowshoe straps hold them on just fine.) Also, even though these are the “high” version, they’re not very high – they come up to about mid-calf on me, and I have short legs. But they’re just the length I need. What I needed more was the toe coverage they provide.

Heading up the red trail from the Carriage Road to the summit of Piper was relatively easy. The trail was well broken, with no postholes. Once at the summit, it was a bit windy with some blowing snow, so I only stuck around long enough to take a few pictures, eat some cheese, and drink some green tea.

Taking the Old Piper trail (blazed orange), I headed over toward Belknap Mountain and followed the white trail to the summit once I reached the junction. There were beautiful views all along the way, whether looking up the trail or down into the valley from the overlooks. There were some very fresh coyote tracks on the Old Piper trail, and some spectacular snowshoe hare tracks on the Belknap white trail.

At the Belknap summit, someone had apparently celebrated something with a can of Miller Lite – which they left behind at the base of the fire tower. (Insert favorite swear words here.) Fortunately, I had a spare plastic grocery bag in my pack, so I dumped out the leftover beer (who leaves leftover beer, anyway?!? oh wait, it was Miller Lite…), wrapped up the can and packed it out.

Heading down the Belknap red trail, here’s where the well broken trail ended. Someone had bare-booted their way up, and I did a lot of sinking and stumbling on hidden rocks the whole way. But I managed not to fall, so it’s all good.

I soon reached the bottom of the red trail and headed the rest of the way down the mountain, following the Carriage Road. Here’s where I saw the first people I saw all day. There hadn’t been anyone else at the trailhead when I arrived, but on my way down the Carriage Road I saw about six people ascending in groups of two. There were also more people getting ready to start their hikes as I was getting the Jeep packed up to head home.

I maintained a pretty good pace throughout the hike, completing the five-mile trek in a little over three hours.

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