One last hike to mark winter’s end

Posted March 11, 2011, at 8:51 p.m.
Last modified March 12, 2011, at 8:14 a.m.

The winter of 2010-11 has been one to remember. If you had a list that determines the measure of a winter, every item on it would have been checked off halfway through this season.

  1. Low temperatures? Check.
  2. Short days, long nights? Check.
  3. Major weekly snowfall? Check and double check.

As much winter as we’ve had this year, though, I almost hate to see it melt away. I’m probably not the only one. Anyone who has skied, snowshoed or performed any other activity to which the checklist applies, probably feels the same way.

So, last weekend, in an attempt to wring out one more season-ending snowshoeing hike before winter gets completely away from me, I took a short little day trip to one of my favorite spots, The Bowl in Acadia National Park. Round trip, the hike is no more than a mile and a half. In that short hike, though, I discovered a way to say goodbye to this, the winter without apparent end.

Last Saturday was an ugly day. A huge, warm storm front had been blowing dark clouds in swiftly, since the night before. It hadn’t started to rain, but the sound of pounding surf on Sand Beach didn’t retreat from earshot until I had hiked from the parking lot to the trail head a few hundred feet.

The trail was packed from those who had gone before, but to either side of the trail was a good 1½ -2 feet of untouched snow that smoothed out all but the most obtrusive rocks, boulders and ledge. The trail wound up through the bare hardwood forest around the base of The Beehive, elevation, around 400 feet, which rises prominently next to the trail.

In a couple tenths of a mile I arrived at the first of several intersections along the route to The Bowl. This one led right to the rungs and ladders up the steep cliff face of The Beehive. I went past it toward the direction of the valley between The Beehive and Gorham Mountain; after I slipped into the snowshoes for traction on the gently rising slope.

Another couple of tenths brought me to Kief Pond off the trail on the left. From there the trail led through bare hardwoods of beech, maple and aspen. The paper-bag textured leaves of the beech trees rattled in the ever present south wind. The wind was strong enough to reach the protected valley. A few hundred feet past the pond I came to another intersection. The trail to the left led south to Gorham Mountain, visible through the trees.

I pressed on up the increasingly steeper trail between Halfway Mountain and the back side of The Beehive to the west. On the right I could see prominent ledges that looked like they would be fun to explore on the way out. Topping out on the gap between the two small mountains, I was soon heading downhill through spruce and fir toward The Bowl. Next thing I knew I was there.

The frozen pond was starting to show the gray, blotchy look of the season’s impending change. I didn’t cross the pond, I was pretty sure it was safe thicknesswise. But, even though the water is only a few feet deep and I could probably stand up in it, I still didn’t want to walk back to the truck a sloppy mess. So I stayed on the shore and walked around the edge of the little pond that is nestled between Champlain to the north, and The Beehive and Halfway, to the east and south.

I walked the shore, hoping against hope to see any wildlife, all the while keeping an eye on the dark gray clouds that continuously streamed across Cadillac Mountain and blocking the summit from view.

It was time to leave, but not before checking out the ledges. I climbed to the top of a big boulder and jumped, “hucked” to nondudes, into the snow. It was a load of fun, and the snow at the base was still soft and deep enough, like it used to be when you jumped, uh, hucked, off the shed roof into the snow as a kid. Soon, though, I ended the fun realizing that it was starting to sprinkle. I made it back to the truck in time for the sky to open up.

The hike was meant to wring out the last of winter, and after the rain that deluged the coast on Monday, it won’t be long before it might just prove to be a turning point indeed. We lost about a foot and a half of snow in Ellsworth, probably more in Acadia. Soon, bare ground will show more than snow-covered ground on the coast.

But wait, this just in? They got how much snow out of that same storm in The County? Winter’s still not done? Awesome, dude.

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