Saturday was a hike the Hancock Loop kind of day. The morning started out cold. When I left Concord it was 9 degrees and during the drive it hovered between 5 and 10 degrees. It was a high of 14 when I started from the Hancock parking lot on the Kancamagus Highway.
I know this trail so well. I’ve been on it five times already in the last two years. Attempting North and South separately in all seasons. Today my goal was to do the entire loop. In my mind I knew that if it didn’t feel right I would turn around: too icy, too cold, too scary.
All reasons to turn around.
At mile 3 I met my first hiker. A solo, woman on her way back to the trailhead. At 10:00 she had already done the loop – impressive. She told me she had an early start and the conditions on the ridge were amazing: no wind, some soft snow and no snowshoes needed. She warned of icy conditions going up and coming down but said all very doable. Running into her gave me the confidence that I could do this loop.
I’m so glad I did. Going up South Hancock was tricky. Icy spots had me grabbing trees and stumps to get up. Steep. Steep.
The ridge was awesome. Fluffy snow, cool views, no wind. I started to run when I could and felt giddy, laughing to myself at the pure joy of being at 4,000 feet in December. Joy. Joy. Joy.
A little more climbing to North Hancock and then down the steep trail back into the valley.
We hiked 9.5 miles; the most mileage Winnie has ever hiked.
Today, Sunday is a 16 mile run and then a recovery day on Monday.