NECE 3, Day 5 – snowshoes up Cadillac Mountain, running from The Blizzard of the Decade

The Big Hike up Cadillac Mountain

The main event for the trip, in many ways, was the snowshoe hike up Cadillac Mountain, and we had hoped to do it as to see the sun rise in the morning (as we were in one of easternmost points in the US, so the sun also rises there, but first).  Sadly, 1) the 6am sunrise means we would have either needed to do a dangerous night hike up OR spend a night sleeping illegally atop the mountain; and 2) the weather told us the morning would be very overcast starting 30 minutes before dawn.  As brief introduction, Acadia National Park in general, and Cadillac Mountain in particular, I took scans of a handful of pages from a great book, included here as a PDF for those who are interested in its educational fair use:

History of Acadia

So our sunrise hopes were sunk, but not our hiking intentions.

Cooking up the breakfast of champions: 3.5 lbs of hickory smoked bacon, and 7 potatoes worth of home fries :D

Cooking up the breakfast of champions: 1 lbs of hickory smoked bacon, and 7 potatoes worth of home fries 😀

We started the morning with the above healthy breakfast, and then tried to get used to snowshoes:

Rebuilt snowshoes, borrowed from Mark

Rebuilt LL Bean snowshoes, borrowed from my new friend Mark

This pair of snowshoes, shown above, were meant for mountaineering – the pad underneath the ball of the foot has a SERIOUS metal crampon built into it, and that made the climb a lot easier.

The damnable winds off the Atlantic managed to catch the lid of the Thule box while driving in the colds the night before, and cracked it

The damnable winds off the Atlantic managed to catch the lid of the Thule box while driving in the colds the night before, and cracked it

On our trudge towards the parking lot and thus the base of the mountain trail, I got a better look at the damage down to the roof box on my car, from the frozen temperatures and high winds the night before.  As best I can tell, the severe cold on our drive into town (we forgot the Graham crackers for S’mores) first made the locking mechanism fail to catch, and then allowed the wind to catch the rigid plastic like a sail.

Rigid plastic in severe cold doesn’t function well as a canvas sail, it turns out.  So a hard knocking sound heard in the cabin of the car turned out to be my beloved Thule box being damaged 😦

Stay tuned in the next few weeks or perhaps months – once it warms up, I am going to carefully repair and also modify the lid for better rigidity and strength.

The long and fairly straight and icy road (the first draft of the Beatles' song wasn't very catchy)

The long and fairly straight and icy road (the first draft of the Beatles’ song wasn’t very catchy)

Gear misadventures aside, the snowshoe adventure continued.  For people who haven’t used snowshoes, the foot of the snowshoe has a hinge to allow the flattened majority of the setup to remain as close to the ground at all times, as to increase stability (I suspect).

Candid shot by John as I carefully maintained my footing in showshoes while clutching the camera... which eventually broke :/

Candid shot by John as I carefully maintained my footing in showshoes while clutching the camera… which eventually broke :/

Things which were less apparent from the test run with them on – it can be rather strenuous to hike up an incline with snowshoes, and this is rendered more difficult by the wildly varying levels of snow and/or ice we encountered.

Upon reaching the first of a handful of progress signs up the mountain, we were already tiring from the strenuous snowshoeing

Upon reaching the first of a handful of progress signs up the mountain, we were already tiring from the strenuous snowshoeing

We overheated early on and lost some of our layers, but as we got farther up the mountain, we regained them – the Atlantic and its winds mean business.

One of the gorgeous shots possible on the way up through the woods

One of the gorgeous shots possible on the way up through the woods

Just going to have a bunch of photos now, please enjoy them:

The Wintersun (time fades away, as it were)

The Wintersun (time fades away, as it were)

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At this point, the left snowshoe (stock) had fallen off several times, while the right repaired snowshoe (with a snowboarding binding) was rock solid. Weird.

At this point, the left snowshoe (stock) had fallen off several times, while the right repaired snowshoe (with a snowboarding binding) was rock solid. Weird.

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Shot by John that begins to capture the scale of our hike (given I am basically as tall as the sky, look how small I am here!)

Shot by John that begins to capture the scale of our hike (given I am basically as tall as the sky, look how small I am here!)

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As we eyed the ice and rocky plains of the mountaintop, we decided to get a photo prior to scaling those treacherous slopes

As we eyed the ice and rocky plains of the mountaintop, we decided to get a photo prior to scaling those treacherous slopes

.

Even with a winter storm brewing, the views were just amazing

Even with a winter storm brewing, the views were just amazing

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Beautiful

Beautiful

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At a certain point, I gave up on the snowshoes and put the MicroSpikes back on... which slowed me down in snowbanks

At a certain point, I gave up on the snowshoes and put the MicroSpikes back on… which slowed me down in snowbanks

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It was freezing, as the winds off the ocean sped up along the slopes to the barren peak

It was freezing, as the winds off the ocean sped up along the slopes to the barren peak

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The skies got even darker, as THE ICEDEATH storm approached

The skies got even darker, as THE ICEDEATH storm approached

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The final photo taken by my beloved Fujifilm, before the damnable winds grabbed it and spiked it down to the rocks, destroying it.

The final photo taken by my beloved Fujifilm, before the damnable winds grabbed it and spiked it down to the rocks, destroying it.

It really bummed me out (and still does, after the fact), that the wind caught and destroyed my camera.  I am glad that the SD card managed to survive (which is how you’re seeing all these photos), but I figured I would let Walter Sobchak cover my grief for me:

Good night, sweet camera prince.

Good night, sweet (camera) prince.

Running (VERY slowly and carefully) from The Blizzard

So we were at the top, I was starting to bemoan the loss of the camera but still soaking in the gorgeous views from the top.

And then we started to feel a few snowflakes, and saw it was 3:30pm.

Given that 1) it gets dark by 5pm; 2) the rangers had warned us of 26 or more inches of snow; and 2b) that only 2 rangers were on duty for the weekend, so we were crazy if we thought we might be getting rescued.

Well.

We *BOOKED* it down the hill – what took 3.5 hours to ascend, took us an hour and 10 minutes to rocket down.  We didn’t want the snow to cover our tracks, or the dark.

We eventually got down and thought to ourselves “well its not snowing THAT hard.”  We were quite wrong.  We made S’mores and then it started something like 3 inches per hour, just dumping snow on us.  We began to tear down camp, and I promise you, we simply put Things into Cars, to get out quickly.

Neither time nor inclination to roll up and properly stow the tent in THAT much snowfall... just grab and cram into a car

Neither time nor inclination to roll up and properly stow the tent in THAT much snowfall… just grab and cram into a car

We went into Bar Harbor, and on the suggestion of several area locals tried our dining luck at Side Street Cafe.  Besides DELICIOUS food (have you ever had half an avocado with salsa baked into it, and corn chips? I now have, and love it), we got good advice about finding a hotel.  Most of the venues were closed for the season, and Bar Harbor was charging more than $100 per person per night.  25 minutes away in Ellsworth, at the Eagle’s Lodge Motel, we got the “Winter Storm Discount” and a two bed motel room for a total of $66.10.  Good deal.

After dinner, as the snow continues to fly, I look so happy with the cold... because I had not yet had to lay on the snowy ground in my belly to get the problematic tire chain into place... :(

After dinner, as the snow continues to fly, I look so happy with the cold… because I had not yet had to lay on the snowy ground in my belly to get the problematic tire chain into place… 😦

We got out of the cafe and started to put the Thule tire chains on the front wheels of my car (no way John’s car, an auto transmission, was going to safely make it):

Excuse the crappy phone photo as the blizzard raged, but Thule tire chains in work

Excuse the crappy phone photo as the blizzard raged, but Thule tire chains in work

As pairs of gear always encounter, I had no problems with the passenger side chains, but a BEAR of a time with the driver’s side.  Like, I was laying on my stomach in the snow, while already soaked through, and VERY cold… but eventually got the chain on.

Even with the chains, my fog lights, and a manual transmission, it was 1 hour and 35 minutes to do the 25 minute drive.  The fact that the 4×4 Dodge Ram pickup trucks with plows that went by us were fishtailing tells you how bad the weather was… but those chains were worth every penny of $80.  The car didn’t slip a single time, not on hills, not while starting or stopping, not on turns.  Simply fantastic.

Even though I was soaked through and shivering, I had to turn around before going into the motel and get a photo of our chariot to safety, the MFALCON

Even though I was soaked through and shivering, I had to turn around before going into the motel and get a photo of our chariot to safety, the MFALCON

After getting to the motel, I got a very hot shower to raise my body temperature back above 45 degrees or thereabouts, and then passed out in a bed NOT frozen solid with ice (making it slightly different than my sleeping bag).

A memorable day, and I am glad for having had the opportunities, even with the various gear damage or destruction (as a friend told me after the fact, “to be fair it WAS northern Maine in the dead of winter’s destructiveness” – which is quite fair, I should be glad I didn’t lose more stuff!)

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