As Emma has grown older we have been revisiting many of the lower hills with less mileage and elevation. This has allowed us to return to many old favorites and Mount Pemigewasset is one of them. Once in the mountains Emma is determined to prove she is still the White Mountain Trail Dog she has always been, and always will be. For the past couple of years she has been willing to share the job of leading Judy and I along the trails with her good friend Blue. Their last winter hike in the mountains was nearly a year ago, so they were happy to be out together in the deep snow again.
Having done little hiking in the past couple of months always makes us feel as though we need to warm up on some smaller hills before heading back up to high country, especially in winter. Mount Pemi is a perfect fit for us in this sense because it gets us out on the trail and up in the mountains where we hope to be able to spend more and more time again soon. We parked at the northern parking area and made the short walk to the trailhead and we were off. The night before had brought an inch or two of light powder which covered the evergreens and enhanced the overall good feeling of being all of us in the snowy woods together again.
The northern half of the loop does a good deal of winding and stream crossing to turn the trail into a mile and a half. We moved along the trail well with snowshoes and full winter packs for the first time this winter and took it slow while the bones and joints remembered their old burdens. In the powdered snow with filtered views of Franconia Ridge, our minds awoke with the realization of why we do this, memories which had laid dormant for long months since the last winter trek. Like the old dog at out feet that comes to life again on her beloved mountains trails, we felt the well of spring in our hearts there in the woods in the dead of winter.
We soon came out to the junction which lay just below the ledges. The other half of the loop wasn't broken. Emma led the way through the tunnel of snow-dusted spruce that brought us to the ledges where we could get our first clear views. The dogs burst out into the open as eager as we were to have a look around. We continued easterly along the ledge to where it bears northeast and you can get a nice view of the Franconia Ridgeline. We know there is a better ledge for viewing a short bushwhack from there, but had to consider tiny dogs in deep powder. No problem for Blue who spent most of the rest of the hike chasing imaginary rabbits through deep powdered snow. Emma will have nothing to do with such nonsense and finds it better to conserve her energy for the long haul.
At the south facing ledge we had some lunch under gathering clouds. The dogs ate as though they would never be fed again. Emma spent a good deal of her usual time on the edge of oblivion staring out over the open forest below, growling and snorting at ghost moose that we could not perceive. The trip back down went uneventful. Blue gives himself a good workout while Emma trots along at her own pace, it works out well, and the younger Blue treats his older mentor with utmost respect. They have grown to be great trail buddies.
Soon back down where we started it was decided to add a few more miles by hiking the loop around the Flume Gorge area of the notch, it is a favorite winter hike when looking to just have a nice walk in the mountains. We went in a clockwise loop unlike most previous trips, and so visited The Pool and crossed Sentinel Pine Bridge before arriving at the Flume Gorge. The Pool and the bridge were their beautiful scenic selves on this fine winter day, but even though we knew beforehand, we were surprised to find Flume Gorge void of any climbable ice at this time of year, so void of climbers as well.
With the added hike around The Flume we estimated the day at 6 easy miles, and the dogs seemed satisfied as they settled back into the car and began to chew ice-balls off their paws and bellies. Despite being only a few chapters in to Forest and Crag I stopped in at The Mountain Wanderer on the way home to pick up some more books, always good to stop and talk with Steve! Soon Judy, Emma and I will be able to spend more time back doing what we love in the mountains, hopefully we will get in many more enjoyable days like this before any of us have to make that last inevitable hike. Soon too, a new chapter will open in our lives as Judy joins me in retirement. Whether this will result in us pulling up roots for a life in the mountains is yet to be determined, but we are looking forward to the possibilities.