Mt. Hale, therefore, was the perfect pick for today's hike. All the trails to the top are situated within the trees, and the giant summit cairn stands in a large clearing surrounded by nice-sized pines. Granted, the temperatures would still be cold (negative 5 to 0), but as long as we kept moving, we'd be okay.
In the summer, Hale is a short, 4.4 mile hike. In the winter, Zealand Road, the road to the trailhead, is closed and one must therefore walk 2.5 miles to the trailhead before starting the actual ascent; the total winter mileage of Hale is 9.4 roundtrip miles. (There is another way up the mountain using an abandoned fire warden's trail, but I'm not yet familiar with that route).
We arrived at Zealand Road's winter parking lot about an hour after daybreak and began the short trek to the beginning of the road.
Then came the 2.5 mile road walk. We had a few inches of fresh powder to push through...
The trailhead! We were now more than halfway finished our one-way mileage...even though we hadn't yet started our ascent.
Alex forged ahead...
...up a very snowy trail.
Larisa (LRiz in my forthcoming memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure) and Tim C. overtook us near the summit. They were here as part of Larisa's 48-in-one-winter Stop Northern Pass project.
Here, Tim approaches the summit.
On the top of Mt. Hale!
Larisa asked if we'd help hold her banner; we happily agreed.
We didn't linger on the summit, as the frigid temps necessitated constant movement. Tim and Larisa began their descent while I packed Alex's snowshoes and adjusted some odds and ends.
We got down Hale Brook Trail quickly (though not as fast as Larisa and Tim). For the first time this winter, Alex was able to use her sled.
Back at the trailhead!
From here, it was a fairly easy 2.5 miles back to the car. A lot of folks had been on Zealand Road while we had been on Hale Brook Trail; we were therefore able to walk out on a nicely packed snow-sidewalk.
From here, it was a short walk to the parking lot.
31 down, 17 to go. Those remaining 17 can be consolidated into 9 hikes, so we're still on track to finish this season.