Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Wonderland on Waumbek - Jan. 25, 2015

Route: Starr King Trail
Peaks: Starr King (3900', 52WAV), Waumbek (4006', NH4K)
Mileage: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2800ft
Book Time: 5 hours (actual: 4hr 20min)

After a long day on the Bonds the day before, Theresa and I were still looking to do one more hike on Sunday. But after nearly 24 miles, it was not going to be a long or hard one. Mount Waumbek fit both of our various list goals and fit the bill on being fairly short and easy. With a sub-8 mile hike on the docket, we slept in and met at the parking lot around 8:30. We found out that the summer parking lot, while not plowed (it is not normally plowed in winter anyway), had so little snow in it that it was actually accessible, which allowed us to save a short roadwalk. Also, from trip reports from the previous couple of days, we knew that the trail was well-packed and so we left the snowshoes at the car and put on the microspikes instead. Aside from a minor bit of drifting along the ridge where there were ~3" of loose snow on top of the trench, the trail was well-packed and so leaving the snowshoes was a good call.

It was a cold morning, but there was sun in the skies, and it was looking like a fairly nice day overall. We were sore from the day before, but steadily made our way up the steady grade to Mount Starr King, passing one or two groups and being passed by many others. I had hopes of getting nice bluebird sky views from these 2 peaks for the first time ever (this was my 6th trip now), but reaching the old cabin clearing near the summit of Waumbek, we found nothing but clouds at the viewpoint. Oh well.

Sunny, though chilly, with a nice packed trail to walk on.

The packed trail continued, the clear skies did not.

The trip across the ridge, with a short drop off Starr King and then a short ascent to Waumbek, is always a very pleasant walk in the woods, and this time was no exception. It is also an easy mile to the wooded summit, and number 30 on the 4000-footer list for Theresa in winter! We walked the extra couple dozen yards to the blowdown patch just past the summit where there is a nice if restricted view, but it too was in the clouds.

The view from the blowdown path near Waumbek's summit. The skies were trying hard to clear, but couldn't manage it yet!
Waumbek Summit. The cairn is mostly buried.
Returning to Starr King, we arrived to an empty summit, aside from the 3 gray jays hanging out. One was one of the fattest gray jays I've ever seen! We played with the jays for a few minutes while eating our own snack, then headed off on the descent back to the car. After an uneventful descent, we arrived to the cars, changed into more comfortable driving footwear, and hit the road for our respective homes and work the next day. While driving South on Route 115A, I noticed that the summit ridge was now completely in the clear with blue skies all around. I've lost track of how many times I've had that happen on various hikes, but really this one was all about the hike, not the views. The woods were nice, the conversation and company was nice, and we were back home before dark!

Gray Jays!

This one was especially fat.

The skies are clearing even more during the descent as we near the cars.

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