February 20, 2016

A Warm Winter Day at Great Bear

After last weekend was miserably cold with subzero temperatures that limited our outdoor time to a few brief hours of yard play, I'd been watching the weather forecast desperately hoping for a chance to get out this weekend.  Today was forecast to be rainy with mild temperatures.  However, throughout the week, the likelihood of rain in the forecast kept decreasing, and there was also my desperation factor... I was pretty much determined to go no matter what.  I convinced Erin the rain wasn't worth worrying about, and offered to meet her somewhere out her way.  We settled on Great Bear.

Since Erin was planning to try the external frame pack with Alden for the first time, we decided throwing snowshoes in the mix might be too much, so I left Frankie's and my snowshoes in the trunk out of solidarity.  Great Bear is well enough used by dog walkers that I felt certain the main trails would be packed out, and that hunch turned out to be correct.  A few parties were leaving as we shuffled boys and gear at the parking lot and none were in snowshoes, so that eased the last of those concerns.  Erin brought her poles because of the ice, which was bad along the main entrance road where it had been plowed, but wasn't an issue in the woods. 

It did rain, in the parking lot as we were setting out, and a few more times along the hike, but it was always a half-hearted affair.  And there was sun, too, and blue sky mixed in, enough to make the dull melting snow and drab browns of winter bloom in a landscape rendered suddenly cheerful and bright.  We hung out by the river for quite some time as Frankie played in the snow, Erin rested her back, and both boys snacked.  I helped Frankie build a wee tiny snowman, it's size hampered not by lack of snow, but by my lack of mittens.  I had three pairs of gloves for Frankie AND his big snow mittens, but it was 50 degrees and I didn't bring gloves for myself.  Somehow I failed to anticipate the need for building snowmen.  How very foolish of me! 

That is a piece of gear I need to invest in actually.  I have glove liners and wool gloves and thick non-waterproof gloves and monster mittens, but no waterproof mid-weight gloves.  Hmm.  Something else to research and add to the pack. 

Alden loved riding in the Kelty backpack carrier!  He was looking around and smiling constantly, and babbled more than I've ever heard him talk before.  It was delightful to see, especially given that I was not carrying the heavy burden, haha!  I offered to take a turn carrying it, of course, but Erin was determined to sort it out, knowing she has a lot more carrying in her future.  I certainly did my time with that thing!  I found it almost painfully heavy and not super comfortable most of the time, but it was worth every minute of happy outdoor time.  

We were trying to squeeze the hike into the window between Alden's morning and afternoon naps, so didn't go far, just down to the river and back.  No matter... it was a great time and Frankie and I are both so much happier when we get out.

Setting out along the first portion of Great Bear Road, which is plowed
It was mostly just one big sheet of ice
Alden enjoying his first ride in the big Kelty pack
We turned off onto Alec's Trail to get deeper in the woods

I love how the leaves on beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees persist all winter
Excited to have finally spotted the river
The Oswego River, looking downstream (northwest)
The Oswego River, looking upstream (southeast)
The hole in the ice was a great target for throwing snow
Snowpants were definitely a good choice despite the warm temperatures

The weather was ever-changing, volleying between rain and sun.  We haven't seen the sun much lately, so every fleeting patch of blue sky was welcome
Alden had a snack while Frankie played in the snow
This snow bear waiting on the river bank inspired Frankie to start rolling his own balls for a snowman
Frankie and Pooh eventually took a break for a snack, too
Then they finished building a smiley little snowman

Frankie's newest hiking buddy

The old pumphouse

The unplowed portion of Great Bear Road.  A narrow footpath was packed out, but snowshoes would have been useful here.

Back on the plowed road
Kiosk with trail maps