North and South Hancock

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Got out with a couple good friends whose schedule is, or will, get tight and may be hiking less. After far too many texts, we boiled down the plan to the Hancocks given the rainy start and blustery afternoon. We met up and drove north on 93, then taking the Kancamagus Highway to the hairpin turn where the Hancock Trailhead resides. There was a fresh 4-6 inches of snow overnight but it was drizzling now.
We booted and layered on weatherproof shells and began on our way. The first few miles of the Hancock Notch Trail are relatively flat. The snow depth was low and soft, no need for traction as each step was going through to the ground below. Of course, we packed our microspikes just in case, we left snowshoes in the car. The prior nights snow clung to the trees, the rain filling the white pillows weighing down the branches. Always beautiful in the ‘white’ mountains in winter(not yet) conditions.
The mild trail elevation gains make for an easy walk, but there are a couple often tricky water crossings. We were able to carefully rock hop, but the snow/ice covered rocks made us pause and take care. The trail steepens on the Hancock Loop Trail at the last split between North and South sides. The .7 mile up to North Hancock is steep, but has decent footing. Neither of us opted for traction still. Just as the trail begins to level off nearing the summit we were greeted with rime covered trees renewed our energy as we bounced up to the summit.
No views from the lookout today, but we were accompanied by an eager gray jay pleading for some snacks. I provided a few pieces of my pineapple bits and took some video.
We left the north summit and crossed over the ridge to the south summit. The coverage was a bit deeper and we could have used snowshoes to make it easier, but we still managed fine without. Additionally the depths and type of snow did not pack enough for us to consider this damaging to the trail. The ridge was beautiful and always an easy traverse between summits. Once at the viewless south summit, we paused for a bit, altered layers and gloves and snacked. Not for long though as the gusts were blowing up the south trail in our faces. Typically the descent down the south side of the loop trail is tough on knees, but the snow allowed us to boot-ski down much of it and we made quick work of it. maybe 20 minutes down the .5 mile, laughing all the way down.
Now back on the lower section we headed back toward the trailhead. With about a mile and half to the lot, the sun started breaking through the clouds. Would have been nice for us to have an open view, but still a great time in the woods. By the time we made it to the lot, the clouds broke and caught some nice shots of Osceolas.

A few inches of snow fresh this morning
Making tracks on the early flats
Too early for streams to be frozen
Frosty trail signs
Snowy corridor on Cedar Brook Trail
Joel and Jake shed layers. Apparently they didn’t realize its freezing.
Jake making his way up as the trail steepens and we gain elevation
Joel stops for a snack and the gray jay quickly finds him
The trail up North Hancock is a bit steep, some mild care needed with the fresh snow
The early rain at lower elevations was freezing rain up here. The branches covered in rime ice
Nearing the summit the trail levels off for a bit
Joel checking out the rime ice.
The summit of North Hancock
Joel looking looking into the clouds from the summit lookout
Starting across the ridge from North to South Hancock
Still smiling while taking a momentary rest
This gray jay followed us for about 2 miles hoping for snacks, I gave in a bit.
Returning back down off the steeps
“Will you please stop with the photos?”
Continuing our way back out on the flats, the added snow is noticeable
The sun trying to poke out of the clouds, a bit too late, still good times though
Speckled sunlight shining through the snowy trees
Returning to the parking lot, across the Kancamagus Highway, at the hairpin turn.
The sky cleared up nicely just as we finished up

still 47 of 48