I set out on this walk after a pleasant morning at church and a filling brunch of pancakes, home fries, and strong coffee. This was my first time attending a service at the church and I was left with a comfort and motivation that community often gives you. Welch and Dickey peaks are a 10 minute drive from my dad's, where I'm staying at the moment, a gem right in my backyard. The trail was hard packed for the entire 4 miles and icy only in spots, my microspikes were more than enough for traction. No need for snow shoes today. Setting out I ran into a couple coming down from the Welch ledge, only 1 mile up the trail, but they looked like they were packed for a week in the wilderness. I'm glad to see people take the dangers of winter hiking seriously. I choose however to pack light and comfortably and be prepared to manage any issues that may arise. On this short walk, there is a very slim chance that I would need anything I wasn't carrying. The beginning of the trail presented plenty of beautiful pictures of the resting forests and relatively raging stream. I found a 30ft slide that a few others had enjoyed down a few short drops and threw myself down it feet first. At the bottom of the slide I continued down to the stream where I wandered for the next hour. Ice sculptures crowded the short drops in the river where the water throws it self into mounding micro-pillars of ice with rolling walls buffed smooth by the warm air. These were beautiful from a distance, but as I continued to wander up stream and look closer at these forms I noticed the mesmerizing patterns playing out inside these icy windows created by the water passing behind them. Some showed rapid flashes, others shared slow expanding rings of blue and white, and a few seemed to simply vibrate with light. A moving kaleidoscope of river colors. Becoming further captivated by these patterns I begin to notice a faint break in the colors along the edges of these flashes, rings, and ripples. The colors peel out into a slight rainbow and as I slowly move my head I find the ice projecting the captured light into patterns as beautiful as any stained glass window I've seen. Moving my head every so slightly these patterns transform shape and color and I realize there is infinite enjoyment to be found laying on the ice by this stream and staring into the ice encased light. There's no point in trying to capture these views. I imagine that the only way to see this spectacle is to lay yourself on the ice until your mind settles into the simple beauty. I don't even try to capture the moment on camera and instead selfishly choose to keep this moment to myself, at least the visuals.
After what feels like an eternity of enjoyment I set back out on the trail and quickly make it to the Welch ledge over looking the road to Waterville Valley. A cold breeze had swept up the slope as I lay staring into the ice and I decided to push ahead to finish the hike up and over Welch and Dickey. Across the valley I pick out Jenning's Peak, Sandwich Dome, and Black Peak. The Tripyramids are obscured by clouds, but my imagination reveals the three peaks and their snow covered rock slides. Climbing up the snow covered open rock faces to Welch I reach the peak quickly and look out over an array of artwork spread across the sky. Tendrils of snow and fog are reaching down from the clouds to the south, sweeping their way towards me. Across the valley beyond Jennings and Sandwich, peaks peek out of the haze beyond Squam. To the north I see Green peak and the fain outline of south Tri blanketed in snowy clouds. The western sunset is blocked out by thick cloud cover, but the colors reach around this front to reveal a soft peach to the south and east under the blanket of dark clouds. To the West I look across the saddle to Dickey, where I continue my hike. A quick down and up to Dickey where I'm graced by a light and windy snow squall coming in from the west. The snow is fine and develops into fat fluffy flakes as I descend. I take my time to catch a few fresh snow flowers in bloom in my fleece gloves trying to catch a glimpse of the rumored beautiful crystal patterns they hold. Slowly the air clears and a screaming red sunset breaks through a crack in clouds just above what is likely the Kinsman ridge. I stop and hide behind a thick spruce on the open rock to take it in. The raging colors warm me through the quickly dropping temperature. Continuing on I find a wall of ice along the trail that I imagine would have glowed with the colors of the sunset only shortly before I had passed by. The light dims, I keep my headlamp in my bag and let gravity carry me flying as much as I can in my boots down the trail and back to my car. At the final trail junction only a hundred yards from the parking area I notice the trail sign points to Tripoli Road 8 miles up the trail to the right. I didn't know that I could make it all the way to Tripoli Rd from here. This opens a whole new world of long runs out of this lot into the Osceolas, Tris, and beyond. Oh the places I could go along this trail!