You can’t blame anyone living east of the Mississippi River for experiencing a little adventure envy. When’s the last time an adventure magazine featured a cover photo of a tiny backpacker standing below a backdrop of sky-high Appalachian Mountains or one of those survival shows displaying the harrowing pathways of the Berkshires?
However, snowshoeing opportunities in the east are no less abundant just because the mountains here are stubby and canyons not as deep compared to the American West. Our vistas and wilderness may not have the same epic quality of the Continental Divide, but they can relax the mind and soul. The mountains softly roll on into a blue oblivion, cradling leafy gorges decorated with white waterfalls.
Add snow and ice to the landscape, and the eastern mountains need not take a backseat to anything in the West.
Here are four ways to snowshoe your way into this winter kingdom.
STRATTON MOUNTAIN, Vt. – Why elbow for space on the mountain’s famous fire tower during the summer months when you can have Stratton’s 3,940-foot summit to yourself in winter? Slip into the birch-dominated forest by way of the Appalachian Trail starting at Arlington-Stratton Road (you’ll need four-wheel drive to travel the gravel road), rising for 3.5 steady miles to the mountain’s peak and its 55-foot fire tower. The tower offers up an around-the-world look at never-ending southern mountain ridges. After gawking at the view, you can either head back to your car or continue for another 2.6 miles to the charming Stratton Pond. Camp on the shore or finish the 11-mile loop via the Stratton Pond Trail and turning left on the Arlingon-Stratton Road back to your car.
For more information about Stratton Mountain, visit http://www.stratton.com/index.htm.
WEST RIM TRAIL, Pa. – Newbies to snowshoeing will appreciate the West Rim Trail’s mostly level pathway as it rides the western lip of northern Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge, dubbed by tourist marketers as the “Grand Canyon” of the Keystone State. It is indeed grand, dropping a thousand feet from the trail into the whitewater of Pine Creek, the walls decorated with hemlocks, beech and red oaks. Day hikers will want to explore the portion of the West Rim Trail in Colton State Park near the northern Pennsylvania town of Wellsboro while backpackers can attempt all 30 vista-filled miles of the north-south trail.
For more information about the West Tim Trail, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/hiking/westrim.aspx.
EAGLE LAKE, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine – Few places in the northeast do snowshoeing as well as Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. When snowfall covers the Yankee landscape, your camera will capture images of craggy mountains and the mirror-like waters of Eagle Lake. Check it out along a pathway that circumnavigates the lake for a six-mile loop popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Start at the trailhead along Route 233 and enjoy the easygoing terrain as you stare at the mountains that ring the more than 400-acre lake, including Acadia’s famous Cadillac Mountain.
For more information about Eagle Lake, visit http://www.acadiamagic.com/eagle-lake.htm.
ASHOKAN HIGH POINT, N.Y. – Deep in the Catskill range is the 3,100-foot Ashokan High Point with ample snowshoeing opportunities through stands of hemlocks and mountain laurel to memorable views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks. You’ll climb about 2,000 feet over a total of nine miles, but the views from the top will make the effort worthwhile. Start from the trailhead off the parking lot on Watson Hollow Road, following the Kanape Creek into the forested valley and up the side of the mountain. At a col after 2.7 miles, bear right at a fork and ascend to the summit with views south and east. The trail loops around through open meadows with more mountain views before meeting up again with the path on which you started. Turn right and return to your car.
For more information about Ashokan High Point, visit http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Ashokan_0000.asp.