It seemed to us that Mahoosuc Notch – said to be the toughest mile on the Appalachian Trail – would be a lot more fun if there were six inches of snow on the ground. So with fingers crossed, we headed up to Maine last weekend to attempt it. The Notch, since you’ve probably never heard of it, is a one-mile stretch of trail that must be slowly traversed by climbing over, under and around giant boulders. The snow on the ground in early November made that even trickier by providing lots of places to slip and lots of places which looked solid but weren’t. It took us nearly three hours to get through the entire thing, but man was it worth the experience.
In case you’ve heard otherwise, Northern New Hampshire/Maine is cold in November. The average temperature while we were walking was in the mid to high thirties, making it so our water bottles would start to freeze if we didn’t give them a few shakes every now and then. On Saturday night, we slept in a three-sided shelter near the top of Mahoosuc Arm (3700 ft). When the temperature dipped into the single-digits, not only our water froze but our boots froze as well. When we were getting ready to go on Sunday morning, we had to smash our boots with rocks to thaw them enough to untie the laces and get our feet in. Problem was that it was like putting your foot into a block of ice. Once we got walking, though, our feet and bodies warmed up and it was actually really comfortable as long as you kept moving.
At one point Dan remarked that this trip was continuously teetering on the edge of catastrophe, meaning that so much about our situation could have gone wrong. Luckily, we were prepared for every obstacle we met and everything went fine. Winter hiking is an incredible experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone who thinks they can handle some mild discomfort. I’m not sure I’m ready for multi-day winter hikes yet, but this was definitely a highlight of my 2006!
So that’s it for our hiking adventures this year. Next year will bring more 4,000 footers and hopefully at least a late winter/early spring day hike.