Mt Tecumseh, hiked from the Waterville Valley ski area, was Lilo’s first 4,000 footer and I remember at the time being so happy that I’d brought her with me because it meant that I would never have to hike that fucking mountain again.
I felt a little bad about how much I disliked the trail, especially since part of the reason was the endless flights of beautiful stone steps that some trail-builder(s) had clearly poured immense quantities of time, effort, and love into. But the effect of climbing an endless stride-regulating staircase through mostly nondescript forest was just not my favorite.
When I adopted Titus, I resigned myself to hiking it one more time. I decided that we’d do it in winter, all three of us together, so that it would count for everyone’s winter list if I ever decided to pursue that and so that the snowcover would smooth out all those stairs.
But then Titus got hurt. I missed the higher summits. Tecumseh from the ski area is a short 5-mile round trip without too much elevation gain (it’s only just barely a 4ker) and a relatively short drive from my house. And so Lilo and I found ourselves in a parking lot full of skiers and snowboarders putting our hiking gear on.
She actually found the trailhead before I did. We had to walk up through the lot a bit, occasionally stepping between parallel-parked cars to allow another to pass, and one time she refused to step back out again. When I looked over, she had her nose to the ground and when I followed, she footstep-tracked right up over the snow berm, across the shuttle bus lane, and up to the trail sign that I had thought was still a little ways further up. Good bull!
I was legitimately cheerful for the first part of the trail. Winter Tecumseh definitely beats summer Tecumseh! Everything is prettier under a blanket of snow and everyone we met along the way — this is a very popular winter route — was in high spirits. There was even a light snow for the first half of our ascent: not enough to obscure visibility, but very pretty and festive.
Of course, once you turn away from the outlook onto a ski trail, you’re on the staircase and that section is Rather Steep even when smoothed by the snow. You’re also in nondescript pine forest for nearly all of it and I can’t help it: I’m a forest snob. I loved those pines near the top where they were covered in an elegant layer of ice, but mostly if I’m climbing, I want to be rewarded by changes in the forest that I’m climbing through. So I spent that stretch having determinedly upbeat conversations with Lilo about, “Seriously, this fucking trail.”
Lilo did bonk pretty hard two-thirds of the way up. I’m not the only one who’s a little underfit right now, alas. I had promised her in the car that we didn’t have to summitif she didn’t want to, but she brightened right up after a kibble break and happily led me the rest of the way to the top. Sorry, girl! Nutritious snacks earlier next time out!
Unlike last time, we did have a pretty, moody view from the (artificially cleared — another strike against this peak!) summit.
And a nice peekaboo view from the trail not too far below.
Trail conditions were pretty excellent — well-packed but not slippery — and the wind never kicked up as I’d feared that it might. I ended up using my snowshoes for all but the first and last mile, not because I needed flotation to go with my traction but because I wanted the televators for the slog of a climb. I saw plenty of folks doing well in just spikes, though, and some who were barebooting happily.
We did step out onto the ski trail outlook on the way back down to enjoy the view and watching the skiers and snowboarders go by. It reminded me of last spring’s trip to watch the skiing in Tuckerman Ravine — we’ll have to get one on the calendar for this year, too.
Of course, now I’m stuck hiking this mountain yet again when Titus is ready. I hear the approach from Tripoli Road is a bit more interesting — maybe we’ll try that!