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Old 03-23-2021, 02:36 PM   #18
DSettahr
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Join Date: May 2007
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By next month, do you mean April? You'll almost certainly need to be prepared for snow and ice, especially up high. Microspikes and even snowshoes very well may still be necessary (remember snowshoes are required by regulation in the High Peaks). Even down low may still be no walk in the park if you're trying to find easier options for the family you're staying with.

Spring is a hard time of year to prepare for, especially well in advance. How quickly the snow and ice melts depends on a ton of different variables, and it is different from year to year. Some years, snowshoes are still necessary in the High Peaks even as late at Memorial Day weekend. It's also worth pointing out that the snow and ice often finishes melting from the trail surfaces themselves last (since hiker traffic has been packing the snow down into a solid ribbon of ice all winter long).

Spring is very much the season of "hope for the best, but go prepared for the worst."

Keep in mind also that after the snow melts is mud season- and this is the time of year when hiking traffic can cause extra damage to the trails (soil erosion). The DEC will often issue a hiking advisory for this time of year, asking hikers to stay off of steeper trails in the High Peaks to help minimize the potential for added impacts.

My advice in any case would be to plan a stop into the Mountaineer shortly after your arrival in the area, to get updated backcountry conditions info and to rent any necessary gear for hikes if needed (snowshoes, etc.).

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In terms of answering your questions specifically:

The Brothers is definitely the more direct route to- and from- Big Slide. Coming down over the Brothers does mean some elevation gain but not a whole lot, and it's definitely the easier retreat than taking the longer way out via Johns Brook. I would say go up via the Brothers, and then see how you're feeling- if you're up for a longer hike out, take the loop. If you're feeling a bit tired and want to err on the side of caution, return via the Brothers.

In terms of easier hikes for the other family- I think a lot depends on their willingness to deal with snow (rent snowshoes at the mountaineer?) as well as just what the snow conditions are during your visit (and again, it's hard to say this far out exactly what those conditions will be). JBL is an OK hike but it's still a solid 6 miles round trip and if there's still snow and ice down low- that could be a lot for someone not used to hiking on snowshoes. Plus there's also even easier trips in the vicinity.

Some other easier options include:

Round Pond: It's a pretty short hike into Round Pond via the Dix trail. This is a beautiful little pond that escapes a lot of the "chaos" of the Keene Valley/St. Huberts region despite being pretty close to the road.

The Ausable Club: The East and West River trails provide access along the Ausable River with nice views. Plus there's a number of crossover trails so they could temper the distance as needed pretty easily. (Just gotta remember there's the added road walk from the parking area to the trailhead, and no dogs.)

Giant's Washbowl: It's a steep (but relatively short) climb up to the Washbowl but the trail ascends a south facing slope and the Washbowl isn't that high up, so it's possible that the trail could be free of snow and ice by the time you visit. (If there is still snow/ice, this may not be very beginner friendly at all.)

Shingletree Pond: This one is down near exit 30 on the Northway. There's a relatively short hike that starts at Courtney Pond off of Rt 9, continues through a culvert under the Northway, and ends at Shingletree Pond. This one is also even lower in elevation so it's more likely to be snow/ice free.

Clements Pond: This one is up north of Keene. It's a 3 mile round-trip hike to a secluded pond in the Wilmington Wild Forest. Despite not being far from Keene, this hike also escapes much of the high traffic that plagues many of the other hikes in the area.
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