by Amy Patenaude
This winter my friend from Maryland told me she wanted to climb Mount Washington with me this spring. I laughed.
I quickly suggested perhaps a less challenging peak would be a good idea before heading up the highest peak in the Northeast United States. The best thing you can say about spring weather on Mount Washington is that it is erratic and a trip up Mount Washington is to be taken seriously any time of year.
I really enjoy taking my friends hiking. I want the hike to be fun and I want my friends to come back to hike again.
Sue and her husband Tom arrived in New Hampshire a few days early before they had to pick up their son at Proctor Academy. Our window for a hike was small and thankfully we had one wonderful warm clear day between all these rainy days.
I decided to hike Mount Moosilauke. We could make a nice loop over the mountain. The trails are moderate and since the peak is a bit further south it would have little to no snow and ice. Another plus is that Moosilauke has a super big broad summit all above tree-line and has one of the finest mountain vistas in the Whites.
I picked up Sharon in New London and began our fun drive to the mountain–we grabbed yummy breakfast sandwiches at the Danbury Country Store, enjoyed the view of Cardigan over Newfound Lake, scratched our heads at the sight of Warren’s Redstone Missile and all the while we watched for moose.
We arrived at the new “angle parking only” on Ravine Lodge Road promptly at 9:30 and Sue and Tom were already waiting for us. We booted up and packed up and started the road walk to the trailhead.
The new Dartmouth College Ravine Lodge is well under way and they hope to have the new Lodge completed this fall. In the meantime hikers have to park a mile away to make room for all the necessities of construction. We followed the trail signs around the hardhat only area to just below the Lodge near the Baker River.
I just love the bright orange and black Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) signs! They are so easy to find and to read. I told my friends to read the signs
and to know what trails we were hiking. I want them to be prepared and to know what to do if I wasn’t leading. We then spent a lot of time talking about what was in my backpack as we hiked up the Gorge Brook Trail. Headlamps, yes two headlamps and a flashlight. You just never know. Sharon had her headlamp. We discussed the ten essentials and I wasn’t surprised they didn’t have most but next time for sure.
The DOC trails have nice bridges over fast flowing waters and even the small streams have set steady steeping stones. The Gorge Brook Trail follows along the cascading water before heading more steeply up the mountain. The grades are mostly gradual and the footing was good. Another fine thing the DOC has done is that there were at least three wide areas of cut trees that opened the trail up to marvelous views.
We passed by a couple of patches of snow, just enough snow so we can say we hiked on snow!
Nearing the summit the trees get scrubby and then we popped out above the trees. There is a sign that reads “To Ravine Lodge” and just below a little after thought sign that reads “Not the AT”. We can see someone standing next to the famous summit sign.
In just a few more minutes we scrambled to the summit. We snapped photos and felt the chill of the wind. It is always windy on Moosilauke, must be the reason it is bare. The alpine flowers will be blossoming in a couple weeks. The Franconia Range, Bond, Hancocks and Loon Mountain’s ski trails are filling the view, the panorama is grand but clouds were blocking the Presidentials. Vermont’s Green Mountains are easy to see to the East. We were lucky to have hit a super day.
There are a handful of people on the summit. The first two rock wall wind breaks are filled with people and we claim the last one furthest north. We eat our lunches and watch people arrive on the summit coming up from the Carriage Road and a few on the Gorge Brook Trail. Only one person passes us by coming from the North. I think everyone poses with the summit sign and snaps a photo.
After we ham it up for a few more photos we head down the trail to the Carriage Road and South Peak.
A mile away is South Peak and to reach South Peak there is a short and often skipped spur trail at the junction of the Glencliff Trail that leads to its wonderful bald summit with improved vista (cut trees, thank you DOC). Don’t skip it.
On South Peak we enjoyed looking back at where we had been high up on Moosilauke’s summit. I especially liked looking down at Mud Pond and into the Tunnel Brook drainage between Mount Clough and Moosilauke.
We continued down the Carriage Road that was more like a brook in many places. We also found a few more patches of snow. We turned left onto the Snapper Trail and followed it back down to the where it intersects with the Gorge Brook Trial about a half a mile above the Baker River.
The mile road walk seemed longer than it had on the way in and the black flies had arrived to greet us. The bugs escorted us all the way back to our cars and we made our “so longs” quickly and jumped into our cars.
Sharon has only 8 peaks left to complete the 48-four thousand footer list and this warm-up has her roaring to get back on track to finish the list.
The next day Sue and Tom visited The Basin in Franconia Notch and hiked the loop over Artist Bluff and Bald Mountain and then for more fun they hiked up to Lonesome Lake. Maybe I should have led them up Mount Washington?
Sue and Tom now only have 47 peaks left on the list. I bet they’ll be back for more soon.