Having known of this abandoned trail for many years and having it on our to-do list for at least that long, we decided it was high time to check it off. Of course we had seen on the various hiking forums that many people have hiked it this winter, and I must admit it was a great alternative to the boring road-walk along Zealand Road that leads to the Hale Brook Trail. So, exactly eight years to the day since our first winter hike of this mountain, we set off. This time we would approach the mountain along some very popular bushwhacks, first along the Little River from the Seven Dwarfs Motel, then along the east bank of the river which has become the popular route to North Twin. Neither of these "whacks" comes close to being a whack anymore, and seem to be accepted trails.
We followed the obvious snowshoe track from just across the bridge. The track had an inch of new snow from two nights previous, and as we rose through the forest the depth increased to between two and three inches. We wore micro-spikes for the entire hike and they were adequate for the entire hike. We were not concerned about leaving our tracks over the smooth snowshoe tracks as we knew there was an impending storm which promised to obliterate whatever minor damage we may cause. We soon found ourselves at the well advertised notched tree, climbed up the bank and were immediately struck at how obvious the trail was once we stepped onto it.
As we rose up along the trail I continued to follow the track, and although it was hard to see in some places the corridor of the trail through the woods was almost always obvious. Though we had followed one set of bootprints to the beginning of the trail, they continued along the river towards North Twin and we were the first to hike the trail since the recent snow. Down low we crossed coyote tracks several times, but up higher we saw only mouse, squirrel and snowshoe hare tracks. after a mile or so we entered what may be the most beautiful birch glades we have ever seen, rivaling those on the Engine Hill bushwhack. As we passed through the beautiful, open woods we were again struck, this time by the abrupt turnover from open birch glades to thick spruce forest. Up here the snow had stuck to the trees and made for some stellar winter scenery.
Further up the mountain we reached a ridge that would lead us gently up to the summit. Here the conifers were draped in flowing beard lichen sporting the frozen look of a man's beard when hiking in mid-winter. We soon approached the summit where fog and sleet were wind-whipped across the open expanse. We took some quick pictures of each other standing on the large summit cairn, but then retreated to the northwest corner of the opening where we were sheltered from the wind. We had a quick lunch and soon began our descent. The trip down was quick and easy, and the rainy/sleet that had been light but dogged us all day had given up. We stopped at Woodstock in for a Pig's Ear, a Woodchuck's a burger and fish & chips. We were safe at home before dark. Thanks again mountain gods!