Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 2014

There was a lot of excitement in Meredith Village this weekend with the New England Pond Hockey Classic taking place.  This year there were 223 teams participating from as far away as Golden, Colorado, though most were from the New England area.  We visited on Saturday when the weather was perfect - everybody must have had the same idea, as it was packed.
The traffic in Meredith was as bad as a busy summer weekend, even though it seemed most of the cars were out on the ice.  I hope someone knows just how many trucks can park next to each other on 15 inches of ice. 

You could find just about any food you wanted out there on the lake.  It was quite the scene with helicopters flying overhead and every known form of winter transportation buzzing by on the surface.

This is the same plane we've had land on the ice on Lake Wicwas

Pond Hockey Zamboni

Oh, and there was hockey too - over 20 hockey rinks with games taking place on all of them simultaneously.

Back in Meredith Center it was much more serene, and with the pleasant weather I took a leisurely snow shoe to see what was happening around the lake.  I went to some common deer hideouts, but didn't see any tracks at all; I expect the deep snow and thick, sharp crust is keeping them to very local areas.  But I did find the New England Porcupine Classic.  Deep among the hemlocks there were tracks everywhere and the tell-take sign of a porcupine zone:  A carpet of cut hemlock boughs on the snow.
Hemlock Litter from Careless Porupines

Looking around it was clear that they've been using this forest for a long time, as there were many hemlock trees denuded and grossly stunted in their growth by porcupines feeding on the same tree year after year.
Hemlock devastated by Porcupine
Porcupine Cuts

Porcupine are like that - they find a tree they like and they will feast on it almost exclusively until there's nothing left.

I also came across a long, meandering trail of a Bobcat!  I didn't follow the tracks, but along my walk I must have crossed its trail a dozen times.  Bobcat tracks are often distinguishable by the toe drag they leave in snow.
Bobcat Trail
Bobcat Print

Here a bobcat and a fox followed the same path for a few yards before going in different directions, which provides a good contrast of the different tracks;  the fox to the left, the bobcat heading to the right.
Fox went left, Bobcat Right
I saw a few mole tracks in the snow too, which would be a nice snack for either of these efficient predators.

There were several other animal tracks along my journey, but this one was rather interesting:  A fox that was trekking straight across the lake suddenly decided to stop and leave its mark right in the middle of the lake, then continued on its way.

One must always be on the lookout for surprises on Lake Wicwas!

Another activity taking place in the Lakes Region this weekend was the Winter Wild at Ragged Mountain.  This series of events held at several ski areas in New Hampshire involves getting up to the top of the mountain using your choice of transportation:  running shoes, microspikes, Yatrax, snow shoes, telemark skis, cross-country skis, alpine skis or snowboards.  Then you have go back down again using the same method.  The only exception is snowboarders and downhill skiers who can hike up in their boots and ski/ride down.  Each class has their own category so they don't compete against each other, but it is really more of an event than a race.  Callum and I used Yaktrax for our first attempt at this event, and we both had a great time.  We'll do it again next year!  There are four more events this year if anyone's interested, at Pat's Peak, Sunapee, Black Mountain, and the finals at Bretton Woods.
Winter Wild Start at Ragged Mountain

Up:  The hard part
Summit:  The pretty part
Down:  The scary part

There's never a dull moment in New Hampshire in the winter!

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