It was another cold day in the north country on Sunday 2/15, but I find that if you choose the right activity, and location, you can be comfortably warm. Cross country skiing is a physical activity that I can do, even in the coldest temperatures if I stay out of the wind.
The route I chose Sunday was the Short Swing Trail in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. The first quarter mile is tough on skis. Once you cross Paragon Brook on a little foot bridge the trail widens out on an old road and although you begin to climb, it is easier.
I found it to be a joy to ski the first 2.4 miles to the Tubmill Marsh lean-to, although two downed trees at the bottom of a pair of downhill glides provided for a little excitement. 0,3 miles past the lean-to, the trail begins to climb again, this time 380' in a mile. I was able to climb this without skins, but I did a couple herringbones and relied on my arms and poles to help get me up this section.
|Tubmill Marsh lean-to|
At 3.4 miles, I reached the trail junction with the Tubmill Marsh trail and I turned right to head SW towards Horseshoe Pond. I was still following an old set of snowshoe tracks which provided a nice consolidated base that was now covered with a couple inches of powder.
|The old snowshoes tracks provided a welcome base for my skis|
Very quickly after my turn on the Tubmill Marsh Trail, the grade turned steep enough that I stopped to put on my climbing skins. At the top of the grade, there was a short downhill stretch before Horsehoe Pond, but i left the skins on the skis because it was too cold to fool with taking them on and off.
|Potter Mountain from Honey Pond|
I passed Honey Pond along the way and enjoyed the view of Potter Mountain which is a nice open summit that I bushwhacked to last year.
|A zoom view of Potter Mountain|
Rev and I reached Horseshoe Pond and I skied out on the frozen lake to the point located inside the horseshoe.
|Leaving Horseshoe Pond|
Horseshoe Pond was my turnaround point on this day so I did an about face and enjoyed following my ski track back the way I had come. I removed my skins at the place I had put them on. There were several nice downhill glides that took me back to the Tubmill Marsh lean-to. The uphill grade after that was steeper than it seemed while going down, but I managed to climb it without skins.
Even though the windchill was below zero all day, I had my gloves off quite often. It's amazing how warm I stay while backcountry skiing. I just don't stop for long because within a couple minutes that warm feeling can disappear.
Ski Distance: 8.5 miles
Ski Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Total Vertical Gain: ~ 1300'
|The out and back profile (9x exaggeration)|
|The route on the Nat Geo map|