I knew that the snow would not be gone from the trails when I picked this day to go up to the Mt Clinton Trail, and that deep soft snow would likely make it hard to work on the trai. I chose the day because I wanted to get up there early in the season to retrieve my tools from Mizpah Spring Hut's basement, as I hadn't made it back there last fall before the hut closed for the season. I was hoping that they'd still be where I had left them, especially since I had forgotten to bring the tool's storage bag with my name on it last year.
There wasn't any snow around the Highland Center or on the lowest stretch of the Crawford Path, but patches of ice and snow, mostly remnants of the monorail left by hikers packing down the middle of the trail, gradually began to appear between the Crawford Connector and the side path to Gibbs Falls. By the time I reached 3000 feet, there were also patches of snow in the woods, while later, at the Mizpah Cutoff junction, the snow cover was more pervasive.
No one was around when I first reached the hut, but the caretaker had left a sign that she'd be back around 4:00 PM, so I went down to the basement and thankfully managed to find all my tools. And then, since I wanted a souvenir tee-shirt, I picked one out from in back of the counter and filled out a sales slip. Less than five minutes later, the caretaker showed up, back early from her hike. Of course, I told her who I was and what I had done, and she had no problem with that. We talked for a little while as I rested, after which I headed out to work on my trail. I had worn my microspikes on the upper part of the Crawford Path and Mizpah Cutoff, but decided to put on my snowshoes at the start of the Mt Clinton Trail. There would be no packed monorail here as the Mt Clinton Trail sees little, if any use, in the winter.
I was anxious to see whether the Nauman Tentsite caretaker from last summer had managed to make any headway in clearing the large tangled stand of blowdowns that were blocking the Mt Clinton Trail between Mizpah Springs Hut and the Dry River Cutoff junction. I had asked him to see what he could do with his axe because my bow saw had been woefully ineffective. Luckily, he had managed to clear quite a bit, but not all, of the destruction. I worked at clearing what I found as best as I could, which was particularly difficult due to the deep snow, as I was constantly breaking through into tree wells, even with my snowshoes on. Back at the hut again, I stashed my tools in my bag (which I had remembered this year), hung the bag in the basement, filled up my water bottle, and headed up the Webster Cliff Trail to climb Mt Pierce.
The weather was near perfect and the views from the summit were excellent in all directions, but I didn't linger as time was passing and I wanted to get back down and get home at a reasonable hour. After taking a couple of pictures of Washington, Eisenhower, and Monroe, I headed down the Crawford Path, making it down to the Highland Center in about an hour-and-a-half.