The trail was in good shape and it appeared there had been a lot of xc skiing activity on the trail recently. The skiers had carved a neat 15-18 inch wide track though the soft powder and compacted the snow to some degree. The early going was a little rough as the track was very uneven, almost lumpy in spots. We soon approached the Route 93 overpass that spans the Merrimack River. In trail shoes we would have gone under the overpass running over the huge stone blocks that support the bridge and retain the earth in place. On snowshoes this was not an option since doing so would do serious damage to our snowshoes. We instead descended the river bank and ran onto the frozen riven. This sort of wigged me out a little and I stayed as close to the bank as possible. The ice creaked and cracked with each step and I was relieved when I got passed the bridge and back up on solid ground. Geez, I'll have to do that again on the way back!
I began to tire fairly quickly due to the trail surface and the fast pace being set by the more experienced shoers. I decided to slow down or else I would have no chance or making the 6 - 7 miles planned for the run. Once I backed off to a manageable pace, I started to feel more comfortable on the shoes and got into a good rhythm. I settled in near the back of the pack and enjoyed the views of the river and the surrounding trail. I had never seen the river in winter. It appeared that ice that formed on the river must have thawed and then refrozen. The river current then must have churned up chunks of ice making for an uneven surface on the river. These jagged surfaces were then covered with a layer of powder making the river resemble a lunar landscape. Pretty awesome sight!
About 3 miles into the run the lead group took a break to let everyone else catch up. There was some discussion about going on to the power lines before turning back. I knew that was about another mile up the trail and I wasn't sure about going that far. My previous, long run on snowshoes was 3.3 miles. I was already looking at a 6 mile run from this point so I was fine with going back now. It was decided we would go on another 5 minutes or so and then turn around.
I maintained a steady pace and was feeling pretty good on the way back. I was expecting to fade at any moment but it never happened. I'm sure wearing the lighter snowshoes helped a great deal. After doing this run today I think I am ready for the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Race next weekend. Sure, I know I wont be fast but at least I know I can go the distance.
Total Miles: 24
# of Runs: 5
Avg Miles: 4.8
Trail Miles: 42%