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14 January 2012

A Cold, Crispy and Colorful Day on Cherry Mountain

At last!  Perhaps, just maybe,  our "winter of discontent" is coming to an end!  There were wintery conditions from trailhead to summit.   From start to finish, the temperature was in the single digits, and we enjoyed hearing the crunch, crunch, crunch of our snowshoes for our entire journey.

My friend Marty and I got a late "crack of noon" start on this 14th day of January, but this just so happened to work to our advantage.  As we drove to the Rt. 115 trailhead for the Cherry Mountain Trail, we could see a shroud of cloud on the high peaks.  However, the clouds were beginning to lift by the time we completed our 1.9 mile trek to  the Mt. Martha peak on Cherry Mountain (see photo below).

Despite our late start, we figured we still had ample daylight hours to make the short side trip from Mt. Martha over to the Owl's Head peak.  The Martha's Mile Trail runs along Cherry Mountain's ridgeline for 0.8 mile and provides a connection between Owl's Head and Mt. Martha.  It's an easy 1.6 mile round-trip trek.
There is something you need to know if you've never done a winter hike to Owl's Head via the Martha's Mile Trail.  The final approach to the Owl's Head summit is nearly always very icy.  Although we had Microspikes with us, Marty and I opted to work our way up the steep icy precipice with the traction provided by our MSR snowshoe crampons.  It was a bit dicey!  It would be a good idea to bring your crampons or Microspikes in case you need them for this final approach.
Once we arrived at Owl's Head, the cloud cover had lifted even more (snapshot below).

The clouds continued to lift very quickly, and by the time we'd finished eating a late lunch, the clouds over the mountaintops were really starting to move out.

Our return to Mt. Martha was uneventful . . . well sort of.  Along the way, we spotted something odd.  There must be quite story behind this.  A rope was hanging from a tree branch which I'd guesstimate was about 25 ft off the ground.  Hanging from the end of this rope was a hand mirror.  Go figure!  A snapshot of this odd site is shown below.

By the time we got back to the Mt Martha peak, winter's evening sun was beginning to cast a glow over the mountains.  This is always such a picturesque site!

Adding to the picturesque beauty of this day were the lenticular cloud formations.  There might be a proper term for the particular type of lenticular cloud shown in the next photo, but I'll just call it a "stacked lenticular".

As we headed back down the Cherry Mountain Trail toward the trailhead, the setting sun provided quite a colorful display of light.  We were treated to multihued scenes such as shown in the next photo.

And one of the more unusual scenes is shown below.  It appeared and disappeared all within a matter of 3 minutes or less.  We just happened to be at the right place at the right time to photographically capture this colorfully-illuminated spot along the trail.  No photo-shop tricks were used here.  It is what it is!

To sum it up, gheez . . . it's terrific to have Old Man Winter finally drop by to pay us a visit.  Sure hope he knows that he is appreciated and is most welcome to stick around for awhile!


Mark Truman said...

Beautiful images John! Love the changing light - particularly in the woods on the way down. Nice to see the new frosting on the mountains. Looking forward to visiting them soon!


Summerset said...

Oh, WOW! What amazing the photos, the light was just right! Your late start and shorter hike wasn't such a bad idea - the clouds lifted later in the day, and probably made for much better views all around. We hiked Eisenhower and boy, was that an experience! Full report coming soon.

SurfSkiWeatherMan said...

Goregeous 1Happy Hiker!
Those smooth 'flying saucer' clouds are Lenticularis. The wind blows
through the cloud, the cloud does not move. So it's always a new
Cheers, SurfSkiWeatherMan

Anonymous said...

did the same hike last sunday, very little snow then - microspikes were perfect especially on the ice at owls head. cloudy and snowy last sunday so did not get the views that you had. very pretty pictures.

OPW5000 said...

John, you've outdone yourself! Outstanding photos...I can only image how incredible a sight it was in person. The sunset colors are unbelievable.

Steve Smith said...


Those are some fantastic photos from your "home mountain"!


1HappyHiker said...

Sincerest thanks to each of you for your kind comments about this Blog report and the accompanying photos!

Not to be overly modest, but whenever I happen to get a nice photo, it probably has more to do with the incredibly beautiful scenery, plus being at the right spot at the right time, rather than any skill on my part.

Thanks again . . . greatly appreciated!

Rita Wechter said...

These are gorgeous photos, John. I think you could make a living selling your New England mountain scenes!
The rope with the hand mirror—someone signaling for help, perhaps? It could be the plot of a novel.
And those lenticular clouds—indicators of bad weather approaching? Hope it's more snow.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Rita for posting such terrific comments!
And regarding the strange case of the “hanging mirror”, I agree, it does indeed have the makings for the plot of a novel! Hmmm!:)


Ryan Linn said...

Absolutely spectacular, John! I can't say much more about it. This weekend was the first I was able to get out and play in the snow as well, and what a weekend it was. There's nothing more gorgeous than the mountains in winter :)