Friday, February 24, 2012

-Trip Report- Evans Notch Road: Black Diamond Driving (February 2012)

I could see a clear line through the bumps.  A quick jaunt left, then a cutback right would be needed to start my run.  Suddenly, however, a large hole appeared out of nowhere.  Without any way to avoid it, I hit it straight on: a jarring thump that made my teeth chatter and my knees buckle.

I was still on my way to the trailhead and facing the toughest line I would see all day.  I was on the infamous Route 113 and my truck's suspension was paying the price.

Route 113 which runs the border between Maine and New Hampshire is a bucking bronco of a road.  As soon as you turn off of Route 302 to head north onto 113 you had better tether down your load, put your seatbacks and tray tables into their upright position and prepare to get worked.

South Baldface
Your reward for running this paved mogul gauntlet is some world class backcountry South Baldface.

So why in the world was I making the drive all the way up 113 just to keep going by the Baldface Loop Trail and up into Evans Notch?

This is the question I've been asking myself all week.  I'd like to blame my friends who would rather go ice skating than backcountry skiing (Gered) or a lack of sleep the night before.  But really, it boiled down to not having ever been up into Evans Notch.  The allure of the unknown was too strong for me not to go check it out.

Upon reaching the trailhead, I was already a little disappointed to discover that although Evans Notch road is closed to wheeled vehicles in winter, it is an active snowmobile corridor.  Thus, the road is well tracked out and on days that you're looking to ski some fresh powder, you'll be competing with snowmobiles.  Having recently watched a video from one of my snowmobiling friends, I now know that snowmobiles routinely go faster than any car would dare go on those roads.

Despite the holiday weekend, there was actually a minimum of snowmobile traffic on the road.  It hadn't snowed in a while, but the hard packed frozen surface warmed in the mid-day sun and made for spring-like conditions.  The approach from the gate up to the Notch is long and slow.  The wide road and gentle grade gives the road the appearance of a green circle groomer. Lincoln Gap road in Vermont is shorter, but has a much steeper grade than anything found in Evans Notch.

View of the cliffs.
At the top I admired the view of the impressive cliffs on the western side of the gap.  Those looking for some mixed climbing terrain will find a great playground of ice and rock within easy hiking distance of the road.

There were some glades, just below the notch, which looked skiable with another 3-4 feet of snow.  Perhaps in a normal winter these would make for decent skiing.  This year they looked like an adventure in face scarring.

As I stood at the top and admired the view of South Baldface, another skier- an elderly man on vintage cross country gear- broke stride to stop and chat a bit.

We lamented the lack of snow, and the noisy snowmobiles, but we were mostly smiling and thankful for a snow covered trail.  We must have been a funny looking pair: me with my  helmet, goggles, goretex, fancy bindings and fat downhill skis, contrasted with his 200cm skinny skis and wool attire.

In the end, Evans Notch is better left to snowmobilers.  If you're going to run the 113, you might as well go get your reward on the ledges of South Baldface.  After all, your suspension is paying for it.

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