Putting the “cool” in Cooler Lake Season!

Our journey began this morning on one of my favorite kind of days…the coldest ones!  We are welcoming in 2013 with some true Maine and NH weather.  We started driving to our destination at a whopping -5°F and by the time we arrived it had dropped to -8°F!  Our trip today brought us to the edge of Province Lake on Route 153 near Butlerfield Road.

We began our journey traveling up some snowmobile trails as the road to trail the head is not plowed.  A nice easy warm up on packed powder before reaching the gate that separates Butlerfield Road and Wilkinson Road.  This is where you actually start gaining some elevation.

Left: Gunnar ready to lead the way at the gate.  Right: Looking up through an American Beech and Oak hardwood stand in the direction of the summit.

Staying warm was no longer an issue as we began our ascent.  The uphill climb was quick to the trail head as I used micro-spikes with the snowmobiles doing a lot of the packing work before I got there.  The trail head pops up on the right about a half mile from the gate.

Before we got to the trail head, we got to experience a neat phenomenon when you’re standing around in subzero weather.  A small brook was still flowing despite the weather we have had.  While most open waters have frozen, at least a few inches, running water continues to fight the temperatures well below the freezing mark.  Water has so many wonderful properties that are a main reason why life on earth exists.  In order to freeze, water gives up energy to its surroundings by conduction (contact with colder solids), convection (contact with colder fluids, e.g. air), and/or radiation (into colder surroundings).  Running water has a much higher tendency to transfer heat with objects it passes over, thus delaying its freezing.

Left: Beautiful snow crystals in the bubbling brook.  Right: A small culvert under a side trail.

Once the trail was reached, it was time to switch to snowshoes as the trail was only packed by a lone set of snowshoes sometime after the first snowstorm.  The trail is pretty easy going at the beginning and starts in a hardwood stand of Ash and American Beech trees with some Pines interspersed.  I even found a Red Pine a little ways up, all alone. After a quick push we were climbing along a ridge line that is filled with Pines and Hemlocks.

Unfortunately, there was no wildlife to speak of.  This wasn’t too surprising factoring the temperature, time of day, and an Australian Shepherd/Human pair tromping through the woods.  However, there was plenty of evidence of wildlife.  Mostly squirrel tracks and some deer tracks as I moved through the hemlocks.  There were also signs of woodpeckers finding some sweet little bug snacks in toppled and dead trees.

The trail meanders a little along the ridge before exiting onto the final ascent.  The woods open up into another hardwood stand of American Beech trees.

Left: opening up to the Beech tree stand toward the summit. Right: Beech tree with Beech Bark Disease.  Unfortunately these days in the northeast, it is very near impossible to find a healthy stand of American Beech trees.  Most have what is known as Beech Bark Disease.  Beech Bark Disease (BBD) is a complex that affects the health of Beech trees through both a fungal and insect component killing the trees in 1-19 years.

After a final push of about 250 yards, the summit pops into view, and despite its altitude, provides a clear view of Province Lake, the White Mountain Range, and on a beautiful day like today, Mount Washington.

Province Lake from the summit of Province Mountain.

A snow covered Mount Washington from Province Mountain summit.

360° panoramic of the Province Mountain summit.

The actual trek took us about 45 minutes to summit and another 25-30 to descend.  It was a great hike and worth the short trek for the views from the top.  I hope this gives you some perspective about our beautiful winter scenery and a view you are not used to seeing of our beautiful lakes.

DISCLAIMER:  winter hiking should NEVER be taken lightly.  There are even more things that can potentially go wrong than in summer hiking.  Always dress appropriately, pack dry, warm gear, use appropriate footwear and gear, and always bring extra food and water.  It is also recommended to have a contingency plan when winter hiking and let people know where you are and how long you expect to be out.

Province Lake Watershed
Aerial view of Province Lake showing the towns, the watershed boundary, roads, and the surface waters around Province Lake.

About Province Mountain
Province Mountain (probably more of a hill) has a 1,176′ summit.  The mountain sits on the border of Maine and New Hampshire.  There is only about 486′ in vertical to gain to the summit as the parking area sits at about 700′ on Wilkinson Road.  However, in the winter all the roads are closed and the hike gets a little longer starting right off Route 153.