This past weekend was Mike's birthday. We headed up to Maine on Thursday night with PK/Nanyee and Wayne/Jean joining us there for the weekend on Friday. We had an AWESOME time filled with way more activity than you can imagine, and enough food for a small army (which will come as a complete shock to those of you who know me well).
With between three and four feet of snow on the ground, Mike went out early in the morning to check the condition of the snowmobile trails (he was actually scouting for an activity later in the weekend). On returning, the report was that there was A LOT of snow out there, with some of the road crossings being a bit difficult with the size of the plowed banks. His reward for the ride, however, included freshly groomed trails and a moose sighting!
After I finished up with work, we both went over to the Sunday River Inn for some skate skiing. We had never skied in this area before, but the trails were really nice - excellent views of Sunday River, and most of the trails were in the woods. Unfortunately, with some warmer temps, the snow was a bit soft, causing the skis to sink with almost every push in the snow. We still managed between 10 and 12 miles in under two and a half hours - my longest skate ski to date!
Last year, Mike and I ventured up into Grafton Notch for a snowshoe on the Eyebrow Trail. While Nanyee opted for some downhill skiing at Sunday River, the rest of us set off to repeat our adventure, and add a summit of Old Speck into the mix, depending upon the conditions. Everyone was all smiles as we stood at the base of the hike - no one but Mike and I knew what they were in for ;-).
The hike starts off gradually heading uphill, and it wasn't long before we were all shedding layers. Thankfully, someone had already been up that way before us, so at least we weren't having to worry about breaking trail. It wasn't long into the hike before we hit the first steep section of the trail - a section where they have installed a handhold. Successfully conquering that, everyone was happy - until we hit a STEEPER section, this time with no handholds. We literally were on hands and knees to get up the slope! Mike had thought to bring climbing rope, which both Jean and I used to help us here. Wayne and PK ended up taking off their snowshoes to get up the steep pitches (they claimed it was easier, we claimed it was cheating ;-)), but Mike, Jean and I soldiered on with the shoes, conquering the ascent.
Up and up we went, stopping at a point where the views opened up to the parking lot and Notch below. We were all careful not to get too close to the edge though - it was a LONG way down! At the trail intersection, we decided to head up further, and see how far we could get on the Old Speck trail. With all of the snow still on the trees, it was a beautiful hike. Unfortunately, having tired ourselves out on the Eyebrow trail, our hike quickly turned into a trudge. We stopped to refuel (which, in hindsight, wasn't too smart since we all cooled down), and decided to head back down the trail. As we hiked and slid our way back down to the parking lot, more than one of us started dreaming about slippers and a fire in the woodstove.
Once we reached the bottom, we were pleased to find out that we had been out for almost 3.5 hours, and climbed 2400 feet in just about 5 miles.
Back home, the slippers went on, and the fire was started in the stove! We also cooked up some delicious pizzas to celebrate Mike's birthday - veggie, sausage & onion and prosciutto & onion were all delicious! Unfortunately, my brand new pizza stone cracked in two! We filled ourselves up with dinner, delicious champagne that PK brought for the occasion, and of course, CAKE! It wasn't a late night for anyone though - tired from a day full of activity, and knowing we still had another full day ahead...
We scattered in separate directions on Sunday. Nanyee returned for more downhill skiing at Sunday River and the boys headed out for some MTB riding on the local snowmobile trails. It was pretty cold (about 8 degrees), and they said the going was pretty tough, but they still managed to be out for about 2.5 hours before returning home for a quick lunch, and then heading back out for a x-country ski at Carters. Whew!
Jean and I made our way up to the Bethel Inn where the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) was having its annual women's ski day. It was amazing to see 200 women participating in classical and skate clinics on the Bethel Inn trails. Volunteer coaches led Beginner and Intermediate-level clinics as well as an Uphill/Downhill clinic, giving tips and pointers on technique, which I desperately needed! I picked up some great learnings that I will apply to my skating technique - especially for getting up those darned hills!
The day also included a lunch and raffle (I ended up winning a coffee mug and hat, but Jean came away with just lunch). There was a lot of standing in line (to register for the day, to sign up for clinics, to get the buffet lunch, to use the bathroom...), but I would still call the event a success. In the afternoon, Jean and I opted for a ski on the trails vs. participating in another clinic, and went out for over an hour. At that point, we were both exhausted, and headed back to the house.
We ended the weekend with homemade veggie lasagne (thanks Jean - it was delicious!), and then all left to head home. We were all tired and sore, but it was definitely a great way to celebrate Mike turning another year older ;-).
Additional pictures by PK can be found here.