Hiking Trail Conditions Report
Peaks Firescrew, Mt. Cardigan, Mt. Cardigan (South Peak), Rimrock, Orange Mountain, NH
Trails: Manning Trail, Mowglis Trail, Clark Trail, South Ridge Trail, Hurricane Gap Trail, Skyland Trail, Vistamont Trail, Woodland Trail
Date of Hike
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Parking/Access Road Notes
Parking/Access Road Notes: Plenty at the lodge @ 8:30. Spots still available @ 3:00. Shem Valley Road was very bumpy to take it easy. 
Surface Conditions
Surface Conditions: Dry Trail, Snow - Trace/Minimal Depth, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Ice - Breakable Crust, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Snow - Wet/Sticky, Mud - Significant, Snow - Spring Snow, Leaves - Significant/Slippery, Snow/Ice - Postholes, Slush, Snow/Ice - Small Patches 
Recommended Equipment
Recommended Equipment: Snowshoes, Light Traction 
Water Crossing Notes
Water Crossing Notes: The crossing of the Clark Brook on the Vistamont Trail is a bit of a challenge. No issues at other various tributaries today. 
Trail Maintenance Notes
Trail Maintenance Notes: Trails are signed and blazed well enough. There are a handful newer looking felled trees along this route which are simple step-overs. It seemed in spots - especially in the area of Orange Mountain - there were a lot of smaller branches and sticks down which caught my poles and/or got in between my feet tempting me to do a face plant. It didn't happen...but almost. 
Dog-Related Notes
Dog-Related Notes: I saw a couple running around on their way up from the park side with their owners. 
Bugs: A couple buzzing around on the summit of Orange Mountain...just enough to interrupt my nap. 
Lost and Found
Lost and Found: Nothing. 
Comments: I noticed on AMC's backcountry conditions page that low around the lodge was bare but higher up spikes may be needed so off I went in search of a non-snowshoe hike. From the lodge up to Firescrew, Cardigan, South Peak and Rimrock there were stretches of dry or muddy trails which could be barebooted and other stretches of soft snow and slushy ice. I opted for Spikes and just left them on until I got to Cardigan, not sinking too much in the snowy spots - take them and make your own decisions. Then I barebooted to Rimrock and the descent via Skyland Trail greeted me with some running water over ice so on went the spikes. Getting to the Orange Mountain col is when it got challenging as I postholed frequently sometimes up to a foot or so. After my nap on that summit I woke up to a nightmare as shortly thereafter, descending the Vistamont Trail as I started postholing up to my knees at times (I feel awful about chopping up the trail like this but there has not been much recent traffic here and conditions will likely change very soon). On the steep descent to cross the Clark Brook I did an unintentional butt slide on soft snow, only catching myself on a couple of trees. After getting on the Clark Trail heading east I took the gaiters off, zipped off the pantlegs and had no regrets: this segment and the Woodland Trail were a mix of mostly stable monorails with some sinking, muddy/wet spots and patches of dryness.

During the day I only saw one person at Firescrew, two at Cardigan's summit with a few other coming up as I left and three folks having lunch at the Clark/Vistamont junction. The skies were blue, the temps were high and the winds were light making for fantastic views and a mostly enjoyable loop. Snowshoes are probably the best bet on these northern slopes of Orange Mountain and nowhere else...but the rapidly changing conditions will likely negate this report anyhow. However....if you want to leave the snowshoes at home, love to posthole and are tempted to cuss every few seconds go visit Orange Mountain NOW :)  
Name: HMJ 
Date Submitted
Date Submitted: 2017-04-15 
Link: http:// 
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