Round Top Maintenance

camera32gps_pictalltrailscaltopomapmyhikeOn Monday, March 5th I wanted to get out to hike before the 18 inches of snow that had fallen on Friday disappeared as had happened with other snowfalls. I wanted to go across the street to Round Top and hike the complete lower trail to see if it was blocked in any way by trees and bushes heavy with snow. When Cindy and I had hiked on Saturday, we had found several blowdowns that we had to walk around. I wanted to get started early before the temperature rose above freezing and made the snow soft. Under these conditions the snow often clings to the snow shoes forming clumps and making the experience less than enjoyable. As it happened it was after 10:00 AM before I was ready to go. It was around 30 degrees but actually felt warmer. I did not bother with tights under my Columbia Omniheat Pants but put on a baselayer on top under my Mammut pullover. As always I put on my Mammut Ultimate hoody and wore a hat and gloves. I wore my Salomon B52 winter boots and put on OR Crocodile gaiters to deal with the deep snow. I wore my Tubbs Alp Flex VTR snowshoes. They are a little smaller than some and have the BOA binding system. I knew I wouldn’t need the flotation since the snow depth was only 6 to 10 inches. The BOA system uses a dial to tighten a thin but strong wire and seems to evenly tighten the binding around the foot. Sheila was happy to be going out in the snow as she loves to run and jump through it. She is mostly Yellow Lab but also has some Siberian Husky. Her longer coat keeps her warm in all but the coldest weather. We went outside, I put on my snowshoes and put Sheila on her leash. I decided to leave my pack home since I had taken quite a few pictures on Saturday right after the snowfall. We headed out the driveway at 10:15 AM and crossed the street. Once in the field, I released Sheila from her leash. I followed the faint trail we had made with the snowshoes on our last hike and was surprised that the packed track supported me quite well. This made walking much easier. A few forays off the packed track convinced me to stay on the track. We walked through the field next to the church with some effort and then started the walk up the steep but short cemetery hill. The snow on the road up the hill had drifted away so only a few inches remained until we got to the top of the hill. There were several tracks down the hill which showed that someone had been enjoying a slide down the hill on the snow. I was glad toy see this since often there are no tracks after it snows as kids tend to stay inside and use their electronic devices too much! Much of the snow that had piled up on the branches of the trees had fallen off due to the slightly warmer weather and the wind. We turned left and entered the trail stepping around one small blowdown across the trail. We worked our way around some bushes in the trail and I looked ahead to see a massive set of trees blocking the trail. Three or four large trunks had fallen from high to low across the trail completely blocking passage. I walked off the trail to the right to bypass the blowdown on the uphill side following the track we had made on Saturday. The bank was steep as I headed up toward the yellow trail. This was the trail that we normally take by turning right at the first trail junction. It wasn’t long before we hit the trail where I turned left toward the trail junction. At the trail junction I turned right and we headed up to the lookout.

The blazes on the trees were much more evident than they had been on Saturday when the blown snow covered most of them. At the lookout I took a quick peek and the town and the school below. We turned right following the trail through the woods toward the junction with the blue upper trail. I continued to follow the track that Cindy and I had packed and had no problem sinking further into the snow. Where I could I widen the track a little on made sure to step on and snow in the track that was not packed. When we came to the junction, we turned right on the lower yellow trail which was still covered in unbroken snow. Walking on the unbroken snow was more difficult than in the packed track. There were quite a few bushes and small trees leaning over into the trail. We came to a spot where a rather large tree blocked the trail so I walked around it to the right. Back on the trail I continued toward the next junction and found another spot where a tree was down across the trail. This one I was able to step over with a little difficulty. When we arrived at the next trail junction, we turned right to stay on the lower yellow trail. I wanted to walk this trail since I had lost it coming from the other direction on Saturday and wanted to see why. Not very far down the trail we came to an area where the trail passes between some bushes and small thorn apple trees. These had been loaded with snow and as a result were leaning over completely blocking the trail. I walked around the blockage and got back on the trail. At this point I knew what I wanted to do. I decided to go back to the house, get my hand saws and clear these obstructions. We followed the trail and woods road back to where we had entered the trail from below and turned left. I followed my track back to the trailhead. We walked down the hill, across the field to our driveway and back to the house. I grabbed my pack and added my two Silky saws although I knew the KatanaBoy would be overkill for the jobs I had planned.

Sheila and I walked back across the street, across the field and up the hill to the trailhead. I noticed that walking with the pack was more difficult than without it. We turned left into the woods on the trail and followed the track we had made before to the yellow trail. Once at the yellow trail we turned right and followed the trail to the left turn up the hill. We came to the area where the trail was blocked. I put down my pack and got out my camera to take some “before” pictures. After taking the pictures, I got out my smaller Silky saw and cut each of the small trees and bushes. After cutting each tree or bush, I pulled it aside and out of the way. I found that snowshoes do not turn quickly and that it is impossible to backup with them on. I almost took them off while working but decided to keep them on and modify how I worked. I had to be careful working with the thorn apple since they are aptly named! It wasn’t long before I had cleared the area. I took some “after” pictures and then picked up my gear and continued up the trail. At the trail junction I turned left and followed the yellow trail to the next blockage. I took pictures of the blowdown and then took out my saw to begin the process of clearing. The cutting was easy but dragging away the branches was harder. Many of the branches were still covered in snow and moving them was difficult. Eventually I finished cutting and dragging away all the branches. I took some pictures and then picked up my gear to move a short distance down the trail to the last blowdown. I repeated my process of clearing the area. I took “before” pictures and then got out my smaller saw. I carefully removed any smaller branches that were in the way and then started on the larger branches. I cut each branch and dragged them out of the way. Some branches I cut twice which made it easier to maneuver them off the trail. Even though this was the largest blowdown, clearing it went quickly. I took some “after” pictures and then picked up my gear to continue the hike. I was able to clear a few small branches from the trail. At the trail junction we turned left to follow the yellow trail downhill toward the lookout. At the lookout we turned left and walked down the steep section of the trail toward the first trail junction. It was nearing noon and it was clear to me that the temperature had risen as the snow was changing consistency. At the first trail junction, we turned left and walked up the trail to where we had entered earlier. We turned right and walked back down toward the trailhead. Near the trailhead, I stopped one more time to lift a small tree out of the way. I also cut and removed a small tree trunk that was across the trail. We walked out to the trailhead and won the cemetery hill. The skies which had been blue were now a little overcast as we crossed the field by the church. We walked down the driveway to the house arriving home at 12:45 PM. We had spent a total of 2 and a half hours hiking and clearing the trails for others to enjoy.

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