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The good news is I got there.  The bad news is you can't get there in
winter with a 2WD rental car.  I was well armed with info, but not this
info.  The route from Burlington is long and torturous.  I went through
one small town with a single business establishment.  The sign said (I
swear) "auto body shop and computer specialist"; I'm only surprised that
he wasn't the general store, gas station, and undertaker.

The car began to skid 100 ft. from the top of the hill.  Knowing the
futility of gunning the engine, I backed off on the gas and let it stop
but it didn't.  It went past GO and slid backwards, turned sideways and
backed into a snowbank.  I started shoveling with the avi shovel.  An hour
later and several failed attempts to get out and somebody rinally else
came by, two vans with a bunch of teenagers on an adventure program.  The
boys literally begged to be allowed to push me out.  They did get me aimed
forward up the hill and then as instructed quickly got out of the way and
I backed down in control for about 1/2 mile to where it flattened out.
There was a small side drive leading to a trailer and a small cabin with a
sign, again I swear, "hand carved canes", in the middle of nowhere.  The
thought occurred, you came here to ski right, get out of the car, pick up
your equipment and walk up the hill.  By the time I got there the two vans
were stuck crossways, a little higher than I had been and 25 people were
unable to get them out.

I spoke to the hutmaster and got a quick courtesy tour of the lodge, kind
of like Joe Dodge Lodge in pinkham Notch, but a lot more personnal.  It
looks like a great place to spend a couple of midweek days climbing &
skiing, you get bed, breakfast & dinner for about $40/.  It's on my list,
a long list, of things to do when I retire.

It was 1:30 PM when I started up on on Trak Bushwackers, waxless, scaled
XC skis with a light edge, since one of my Stocklis had a ripped out
binding screw, see post on Never take a demo in the woods.  I wanted the
easy way up, the Duke's Trail.  It was quickly apparent that the
Bushwackers were not the optimum tool, but I was there.  The trail twists
& turns, rolls & drops.  It is never steep, narrow, and the drops are
never sustained for long.  It is very reminiscent of Rattled Snake at Mad
River.  Snowdepths were huge and it varied from incredible glop that
clumped 6" thick on the ski bottoms, to powder in the shade, to crust.
There was a stamped out path right up the center with many snowshoe tracks
in it.  I believe Goodman's book says thet foot & snowshoe traffic is
forbidden but I was grateful for the relatively easy upskiing in the
track.  Easy that is until the grade got 1 degree too steep for the scales
and then the sidestepping was downright arduous.  Just as at Woodward Mtn.
3 days before there were many wind ripples 3-5 feet high of loose powder
sometimes with a windcrust.
I was beginning to think that the successive flats followed by yet another
upgrade would never end when I heard voices.  Around the corner came the
first of 5 snowboarders with snowshoes strapped to their backs.  Cool;
they had earned it.  Obviously the snowboard was the tool of the day,
bigger skis with skins would not have been.  They could glide the flats
with enough momentum to reach the next drop and whooped & hollered as they
rode the roller coaster twists, turns, & drops.

Minutes later I broke out onto the summit snowfields (actually this is
Firescrew Mountain, Cardigan is a short distance SW on the summit
ridgeline.  It was now chilly as the sun began to sink behind the shoulder
of the mountain.  I ate some fruitcake (great calorie dense stuff) and
drank the rest of my water, took in the views and the silence, then
started down.  Two attempted turns revealed that the skis would barely
glide even in the fall line.  The snow was wind packed styrofoam with a
peculiar stickiness that I have never seen before.  I stopped, scraped
considerable ice off the bottoms and swabbed on some F-4.  Better, but not
much.  Going down was occasionally fun in shaded powder, mostly an ordeal.
 I would mange one or two of those crust ripping turns and then run out of
speed on the flat, often falling over at that point.  Getting up out of a
3 ft. deep crater on the flat in snow that is bottomless if you put down a
foot or a pole is not easy. I did it many times.  The sun was almost gone
and the bottom 1/3 of the descent was now badly crusted where it had been
glop a few hours before.  The final descent through the Duke's Meadow, was
so bad I had to resort to traverse & kick turn.  I enjoyed it, but I was
also wasted.  I signed out at the lodge and walked to my car; it seemed a
good deal longer even though I was going down now.

My car was parked in an alcove made by the snowplow with a high plow berm
on 3 sides.  I had a change of clothes in the car and was pretty sure I
could talk the hutmaster into a free shower, but of course the hut was a
30 min. trudge back uphill.  What to do?  The trailer appeared to be empty
and was hidden by the high berm so I decided to just strip down and put on
my dry clothes right there.  While standing there naked I heard the car
coming up the hill.  Just as I struggled to pull my shorts up over my
sticky sweaty butt the guy stopped next to me and asked, "May I help you
sir?"  In the passenger seat was a little girl about 9 years old starring
wide-eyed. "Thank you very much, I am just getting into dry clothes after
a ski and I don't need help."  "You realize of course that you are on
private property?"  "No, I'm terribly sorry, I didn't."  "It's OK, how
much time do you need?"  "Five minutes, and thank you very much."

I learned that if the flight isn't full SW airlines will reserve 3 seats
across for backcountry skiers, so you can stretch out and take a nap.  You
just show up with a 4 day beard smelling like a flock of wet sheep.

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