Five of us (Spencer, Coreene, John, Melissa and myself), plus two dogs (Abby and Rev) got a 9:30 start from Loch Muller (the southern terminus of the Hoffman Notch Trail). Partial blue skies were retreating and snow flurries were starting, but it ws a comfortable day with temps right around 30 degrees.
Spencer had a good route itinerary, and we pretty much followed it. We took the Hoffman Notch Trail north, 1.2 miles, to the junction with the Big Pond Trail. We then turned east onto the Big Pond Trail and followed it about 1 mile (almost to the height of land) before beginning the bushwhack up the slope to the ridge. The snow had a crusty surface with a few inches of powder beneath it. We were going to have to stomp our way to Texas.
The woods were open hardwoods for a while, and in fact the first part of the summit ridge at the southern end continued to be open hardwoods. All good things eventually come to an end and we found ourselves enclosed in a spruce and hemlock snowy forest.
|Hardwoods at the south end of the ridge.|
|Climbing in the spruce forest.|
Our progress slowed and we picked our way through, not knowing what it would look like on the backside of each pine bough. There were some challenges, but we perservered and finally reached the summit at 2 PM.
|Our view from the last false summit|
|Ah, yes a view. I really do love winter.|
|My only people picture. Sorry Spencer, I didn't capture a better facial expression. It also looks like Melissa is wearing a pine tree, but she was safely behind the bough. This picture was at the last false summit.|
|Rev made an appearance to look for the view.|
I don't believe any of us took a picture at the true summit. We were boxed in like sardines. It was good to reach the summit and we were all in good spirits now.
We continued to follow Spencer's plan by dropping off the west side of Texas Ridge to make a beeline for the Hoffman Notch Trail. Coreene took toe lead and followed a good line down the steep section and out of the softwoods.
I then moved to the front and turned slightly SW and stomped through the crust back to the trail. Upon reaching the trail we found fresh foot tracks and it eased our return to the trailhead. We got back to the cars just as dusk was settling in.
Congrats Spencer on #800!
Hike Distance: 8.6 miles
Hike Time: 7.6 hours
Total Vertical Gain: ~2000'