There are a lot of mountains in New Hampshire. Mount Washington’s summit is 6,289 feet above sea level.
There are hundreds more that are at least 2000 feet high. Well, actually there are as many as 471 peaks that are 2000 feet or higher in New Hampshire (and meet the minimum prominence of 200 feet). Of these 471 peaks only 48 are higher than 4000 feet and that AMC 4000 footer list is quite famous.
This past weekend I accompanied my friends Bryan and Jeremy to bushwhack to the summits of a couple of these smaller peaks.
This day wasn’t much different than most of our other outings. I met Bryan at the park’n’ride in New Hampton and Jeremy met us at the Walmart parking lot in Plymouth.
We parked near a gated old logging road and shouldered our packs and headed up the logging road. The morning air was cold. The ground was hard and firm, still frosty. At a fork in the road we went right and then we turned off of it and headed up through the woods. Thankfully the woods were mostly hardwood and the walking wasn’t difficult. Soon we came to another logging road and followed it right to the summit of the first peak on our agenda.
Ames Mountain’s summit, elevation 2,070 feet, had a mostly open summit. The view from Ames’ ledges didn’t disappoint with big views of Carr Mountain’s ridge right close nearby, a good peek at the Tenney Mountain wind turbines and a good view of Mount Cardigan.
The sun was starting to warm the air and it was beginning to feel more like a spring day. We followed the logging road down to near the col between Ames Mountain and Currier Hill. Again we entered the woods and picked our way across the forest floor through hardwood trees. I found a deer shed, a single antler with a few points on it. The mice had gnawed off some of the points. I decided to carry it up to the summit.
As we gained elevation blocky rocks and ledge poked through the forest floor and soon we approached a steeper rocky ridge that would take us to the summit.
Jeremy said, “See that?” I saw it as soon as he said “that.” It wasn’t far away. I ran a few strides beating Bryan to the prize.
I dropped the little antler and I bent over and hefted the prize off the ground. It was heavy. I looked at Jeremy and asked him if he was sure he didn’t want it since he really saw it first. He declined, I knew he has no interest in carrying this beast of a moose head off the mountain.
Two giant antlers still attached to the moose’s skull, a real European mount without the work of cleaning the hunted. Bryan pointed out that the teeth look really good. This winter, way up north, we found a moose skull and the teeth were worn right down thin. This unlucky fellow had nice teeth indicating that he was young and didn’t die of old age.
Finding a moose shed is nice but finding a complete skull with attached antlers is extra-ordinary! This one was a season dry and it wasn’t chewed up. This was quite a find! We left the antlers behind and we’d pick them up on our way down.
We explored Currier Hill’s summit, elevation 1,958 feet. I gave Bryan the deer antler and he tied it above the summit jar register for other future visitors to enjoy. We scouted around for summit ledges and again we were not disappointed. Currier’s ledges weren’t as large as Ames but they offered another grand vista for us to enjoy. Bryan found an old campsite complete with old pots and pans and a stone fire ring that had not been used in a long time.
We made our way back down to where we left the moose. Bryan’s and Jeremy’s eyes were on me as I tried to figure out a way to tie it on to my backpack. I once carried a heavy moose fresh shed and it just about did me.
Thankfully Bryan came over and gave me a hand. Luckily I was still hiking with my winter pack that is designed to carry skis and boots. We tied the straps meant for skis around each antler near the skull. Bryan had an extra strap that he tied around my pack and the skull to help steady the load. Then he lifted the moose and my pack and I attempted to slip into my pack.
“Stand Still” Bryan cursed after I almost took him out by turning quickly causing the antlers to come about swinging like a baseball bat. With his help I was able to clip my waist belt and chest strap and start my way off the hill.
I connected the strap of my hiking pole to the tip of the left antler and I could pull it to straighten the load like a moose would turn his head to thread through tight spots. Oh and there are lots of tight spots in the woods.
My pack weighed close to 50 pounds anyway. I haven’t had a chance to weigh the antlers yet but I will soon.
Every step was deliberate. Climbing over a few blowdowns was quite challenging. I concentrated on not falling down. When we reached the logging road I was giddy. But since I wasn’t working hard not to get caught in the trees I began to notice the heavy weight of my load. I willed myself back to the car.
I had carried the load less than two miles and all downhill. This was a lucky find.
Wrestling the moose head in to the back of my car was no easy feat. Again I was thankful for assistance from Bryan and Jeremy.
We pondered what had killed the big moose. Perhaps he fell from high up on the ledgy slope and didn’t survive the fall. Or maybe he was shot by a hunter but not killed right away and was never found. Or I would hate to think that maybe he was one of the many moose out there getting their life’s blood literally sucked out of them by thousands of ticks. We’ll never know.
In the meantime I am going to keep my eyes peeled while bushwhacking. I would like to find a moose head or a matched set of antlers for Bryan to lug out of the woods.