Merry merry to those of you who celebrate Christmas ❤️🎄 I hope you all had a wonderful day!
This year, Christmas was a day for getting outside and adventuring with a gal pal, Alyssa.
I don’t have family or many friends in the area as I just moved in early October and my parents are in Florida currently (they are heading West soon!) doing the whole full-time RV life shindig. So, why not spend the day doing something that fulfills my soul and that I’m mega grateful to have in my life – hiking! I’ve found my Christmas tradition. As someone who will likely (never say never) always live alone, doesn’t love social gatherings, and won’t have family nearby for holidays, it’s fitting. It’s more than fitting, it’s perfect.
Alyssa and I decided to hike Willey, Tom, and Field and I think we were both very happy with this choice throughout the day and post hike! There are a few different route options for these mountains and we decided to do an out and back starting at Crawford Depot station and used Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, the Tom Spur Path, and Willey Range Trail.
This out and back route is a nice 10.2 mile hike, and for most of the day, the trails were hard packed highway status.
Over the summer, I did this hike with my friend Jo and instead of taking the Willey Range Trail from Mt. Field back to A-Z trail to Avalon Trail, we added Mt. Avalon which was a fun addition! No hike recap for that day, but it was a misty and humid one!
Back to Christmas…
I felt pretty festive myself as I wore green leggings and a maroon colored jacket, sadly no Santa hat. Apparently the hat didn’t make the move North with me, because I did used to own one. Throughout the day we must have passed close to a dozen other hikers, which Alyssa and I were both surprised by! A couple we passed were much more dressed up and festive than myself and I’ll surely be upping my game for 2020.
Avalon Trail starts off as a mellow walk in the woods. There’s a branch off for Mt. Willard right at the start, which was one of my first hikes as a child. We talked about how amazing the trail conditions were for the first time out of what would probably be fifty times by the end of the day. I love winter hikes that you can do car to car in microspikes and not think twice about that decision. It’s easy walking, the noise of the spikes is practically walking meditation for my brain, and I’m not tripping over myself in snowshoes. Win, win, win.
There are two small water crossings on this section, both were a mix of ice bridges and easy rock hopping. Watching the water flowing under the frozen rocks and ice at crossings is such a peaceful experience. Nature truly is an amazing thing when you take a step back and really take it all in and think about it.
After about a mile on Avalon Trail we branched off to the A-Z trail to head towards Mt. Tom. This would make my fourth trip to Mt. Tom (Willey and Field too, although fifth time to these trails as I hadn’t hiked all three mountains together each time!). I forgot the steady climb of this section of trail. It’s just up, and up, and oh some more ups for your pleasure too.
On the return trip back to the trailhead, we really noticed how up the trail had been earlier in the day as coming down steeper sections in winter always seems more noticeable than summer. Mainly because all that crosses our minds is butt sledding and how that would be the most efficient way down. Having not ever hiked any of these trails in the winter months, everything felt much different as the entire landscape and external feeling is so varied from summer.
The spur to reach Mt. Tom is a quick 0.6 miles and nothing steep. There were MANY Gray Jay’s, more than I’ve ever seen at one time. On the way back down the spur path Alyssa and I decided to do a little game of “chase the elf”, apparently I’m an elf. Alter ego? I vote yes.
Next it was time to head toward Field and then Willey via the A-Z and Willey Range Trails. There are some hikes where more conversation is had with hiking buddies, and some where there is a lot of silence throughout the day. Christmas was a quieter day, and I used the time in the quiet woods to allow whatever wanted to come up to come up.
One thing that came up was how the different parts of my being find their “home” so to speak in different areas or during different activities. For example, my competitive/ex-competitive athlete side thrives in a gym setting (which I have to wrangle on occasion), my creative self thrives writing/painting/during solo dance parties in my apartment/during deep conversations/joyful movement, my intellectual (and neuroscience background) side really digs learning and being a mega-nerd on the science and the WHY, my intuitive side lives off synchronicities, and my soul lives off being in the mountains.
There are obviously other “self ingredients”, but these are ones I was pondering as I walked.
The trail to Field is a “casual” climb and between Field and Willey is a bunch of rolling terrain, ups and downs.
I recalled a few areas between the peaks that offer some views, and the views on Christmas did not disappoint. Honestly they never disappoint, even when it’s dense fog, it’s still beautiful.
We didn’t stay on any of the summits for too long, 5-10 minutes I’d say. I love hanging out at summits in the warmer months and sprawling myself out on a rock, but in winter I tend to get chilly rather quickly. While I do have a decent set up from a gear perspective, I’m slowly adding to my collection of *extra* warm layers and especially mittens with now working in the outdoor industry part-time (which is low-key dangerous for my wallet).
After summiting Willey, the trek out was just following the same path back. The trails were overall in good condition, some blow downs which are always fun to crawl under/over and you kind of feel like a kid again. We considered adding on Avalon (which really isn’t adding because it’s actually slightly less mileage to take that route out), but opted not to on this particular day. The steeper sections coming down were fun to run down and then challenge yourself to slow back down again, because momentum and gravity are totally a thing.
All in all, it was a wonderful day with great weather and stellar company. I’m giddy to have now hiked these three mountains in the Winter and to see the differences between snow covered vs. rocks and roots for these trails. The more I Winter hike, the more I fall in love with it.
Cheers to many Christmas hikes to come!
“We stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ― Herman Hesse