Tuesday, March 8

Part I, Day 2 – The Tote Road North…

Day 2
Start/end/time    7:55 – 3:45 7:05 (+:30 waiting for food drop)
Distance/ascent/pace 20.1  +1031/-1137 2.6 mph
Food & water   2L; 2 millennium & mainstay; Spanish rice (nasty!)

A cold start to a long day started with a double breakfast for me.  Oatmeal and eggs washed down with 3 cups of tea to round out a 600 calorie jumpstart.  I had pre-waxed my skis after dinner and cake with special green expecting temps around zero.   The actual air temp was -10* with a light breeze from the NW. 

I was smarter today with my hydration – bite valve tucked in my shirt and back drain the tube after each drink eliminated all icing issues.  Trail conditions were good, well for a snowmobile trail.  Typical of sled-heads, the first 2 or 3 ride straight down the trail and leave a nice ski surface…. Except the guy in the back is bored and slaloms back and forth for miles and miles… to make it worse, he has these super deep grooves in his front skis that are impossible to deal with on XC’s…. You either follow his track back and forth or look for untracked snow and break you own trail…. I did that for 2 miles just for a break.

Pace was moderate and steady.   We had a lot of miles to cover.   Breaks were short, usually less than 5 minutes.  The first part of the day was generally flat to uphill so I spent most of the time in the rear.  It is really hard to keep up with foresters who spend their days snowshoeing up and down hills and I sit behind a desk …. Eventually we got to the height of land – after a few really long uphill grinds.  Now is were my skinny skis shine!  Downhill baby! Yee Ha! 

One of the new things I tried this trip was different energy bars from Emergency Essentials.  One kind were called Millennium, a 400 calorie bar in cherry, orange and blueberry flavors.  Texture is like cross between a hard candy and graham cracker.  Taste OK, not great but certainly tolerable.  The other bar – Mainstay – those were awesome!  They had a softer texture and a nice butter cookie taste.  Mainstay come as 3 bars in s single foil package.  Each 400 calorie bar is only 2”x2”.  Takes no time at all to finish – good for fast calories on short breaks.

About midway thru the morning the grade increased.  There were several long steady climbs, one forced me to clip out and carry my skis.  At the top I took a moment to put on a long patch of blue wax – I really needed something sticky – blue did the trick.  The rest of the climbs were more manageable (read not all arms).  Eventually we got to the height of land and were treated to a couple of mile + long  screaming descents along with another 6 miles of fast and easy downhill striding.  

Within a few miles of Trout Brook Crossing, we could see the Traveler range to the ESE.  It gave a good perspective of were the bridge was and hopefully our food drop.  I felt like a horse smelling hay and just kept pressing…. Bart and Jim were close behind but I didn’t want to stop.  I was in the zone and was determined to make the crossing by 2PM @ 3 mph for 18 miles.   We did it.  Every one arrived at the bridge in just about 6 hours.  The sky was a deep azure blue, the air had warmed to the upper teens and no wind.  What an absolutely beautiful day!

Downstream view of Trout Brook

So, where was the food drop?  We looked about but no sign….. uggg!  We had to wait… and wait….and wait some more.  Eventually Andy’s sled could be heard in the distance.  Not too late ~ about 45 minutes…. Not to bad.  We divvy up the rations and head the last 2 miles to South Branch pond.

When we get there, 3 Rangers are hanging out talking about a moose.  They say it’s been hanging
around camp for 3 weeks.  That’s when I see him(her) – standing right in front of the cabin!  We actually had to walk around him to get in or out of the cabin – but the poor guy never moved.  Seemed to be suffering and not willing to use any energy to do anything.  He just stood there – munching on the few branches the little red pine had left. 

We were sharing the cabin with 3 others.  Their plan was to follow us to Russell in the morning and share the cabin there too.  Big difference was they had 2 sleds plus their backpacks.  We only had backpacks.  Jim and I knew they were in for a big surprise on the trail to Roaring Brook. 

Forecast for tomorrow had been for rain and sleet but the Rangers said it changed to 6” snow with strong gusty wind… We’d be smart to get an early start.

Sunset on North Traveler from  South Branch Pond

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