Here I will share my travels throughout the majestic White Mountains of NH and also delve into some of the area's rich history and forgotten places. I do this in hopes of getting others excited about exploring these wonderful places.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mt. Moriah Attempt #1 - 2/25/09

As one who enjoys hiking, I spend a fair amount of time reading trip reports and trail conditions online. I frequently read reports of people being turned back during there hikes for various reasons, mostly weather-related, before reaching their destination. Fortunately I’ve yet to be forced to cut a hike short. This lucky streak ended on this particular trek.

I had decided to hike up Mt. Moriah via the Carter-Moriah Trail from Gorham on this crystal clear day. A few days before the hike we had a rather large snowstorm, I thought I would save myself a huge amount of effort breaking trail and give it an extra day for other people to pack out the trail. However, upon arriving at the trailhead I found that it hadn’t been touched since the snowfall. Trail breaking is incredibly strenuous and is usually done in groups, with the leader breaking trail for a while before stepping to the side and going to the back of the line, and the next person in line does the same, and so on. The prospect of breaking out the 4.5 mile (9, round trip) trail by myself was not at all appealing, but it was a beautiful day and I didn’t want to have driven up there for nothing. I decided I’d give it a go.

A lower (not-so-deep) section of unbroken trail

From the start the snow was about 2 feet deep and the indentations from the trail could be seen clearly. While this made for easy route finding, the stomping through the snow was getting tiring quickly. The trail ascends over a minor hump called Mt. Surprise before climbing up the main peak of Moriah. After a little more than a mile, the muscles in my legs where already getting worked heavily. I had almost decided that I would turn around upon reaching Mt. Surprise when I remembered the ”rest step”, and put it into action. The “rest step” is a method of hiking that allows your legs to rest while you walk. This is done by locking the knee of the rearmost leg while the other leg is moving forward. Locking the knee takes all the weight off the muscles and puts it on the bones instead, allowing the muscles to rest for a brief moment. While I find this method too slow and “clunky” for warm-weather hiking, it seemed to work really well in this application. I came to the summit of Mt. Surprise and thanks to the newfound energy I decided to continue. By this point, however, the snow had already become quite drifted, erasing any sign of the trail and was around 4 feet deep. After another mile and a half, my legs begged me to turn around. I had to agree with them after it took around 20 minutes to gain only a tenth of a mile. I turned around and began the painful 3 and a half mile trudge out. Since I was the only traveler on that particular trail that day, it was almost as hard hiking back though all that snow as it was the first time. Needless to say, I don't think I was ever so happy to see my car.

View from Mt. Surprise ledges

While it was a shame to not get to the top on such a gorgeous day, I was still rewarded with some great semi-panoramic views off to the North and to the West to the Northern Presidentials from the ledges around the top of Mt. Surprise. Moriah will still be there the next time. See you then!

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mt. Cabot - 2/17/09

With #46 squarely in my sights, I set off on the drive to the Northernmost of the 48 peaks, Mt. Cabot. It was to be a lovely day according to various weather forecasts,and it was. It was blue skies and sunshine the whole time I drove to the trailhead, with the exception of some clouds over a couple of the higher Presidentials. Shortly after setting off on the York Pond Trail I came to a clearing with a view of Cabot ahead, blanketed in snow clouds. Off I went, a little less optimistic, and withing minutes it began to snow and continued throughout the remainder of the walk. It was pleasantly warm and the snow was thick and fluffy, so it made for nice conditions despite the fact that views were sure to be lacking.

The Bunnell Notch Trail

After a few more miles, and another inch of snow or so, I reached the cabin near the top and continued on toward the summit. After finding the sign at the top, I set off for the cabin once again, to take a break and eat a quick lunch, before returning the same way I had come.

The cabin below the summit

The improvised sign at the "true" summit

Upon glancing back up the mountain again from the same clearing, it appeared that the clouds had moved out. Apparently it was my own personal snowstorm, as I drove home the skies were blue and the sun was shining, even the clouds on those higher peaks appeared to let up a bit.

Looking back

View Larger Map

See you next time!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mt. Waumbek - 1/21/09

I have been meaning to finish up the four remaining mountains on my 4000 footer list for some time. Not that I’m in a rush to do so (although I would like to have them all climbed within a year), but there is a certain hold a list has over you once you decide to take it on. At least in my case. Steve Smith calls this the “Tyranny of the List”, and rightly so. Once I’m finished I can get out to some of the other places I’ve been wanting to visit since falling prey to this tyranny. I still cherish each one of these places and have some great mountains left to go to get there though.

I decided on Mt. Waumbek for the next adventure, and was up early the day of the hike. I packed up the gear and was on the trail on Starr King Road in Jefferson. The beginning of the Starr King Trail is dotted with deer tracks and passes through some lovely forest, and an old well. It also follows a nice grade that never really gets strenuous. Just stay toward the left to avoid getting unintentionally sidetracked on other trails used by the locals.

The lovely Starr King Trail

While it was quite cold, being in the single digits, it was an incredibly pleasant hike. The snow on the trees was so thick, some of them were entirely coated in it. After a little over two hours of leisurely snowshoeing I reached the summit of Mt. Starr King.

Near the summit of Mt. Starr King

Upon reaching the clearing with the fireplace that remains from the shelter that was once there, I shrugged off my pack to have some food and hot chocolate before setting off for Mt. Waumbek, a mile further.

The fireplace atop Starr King

It was on this quick break that a Gray Jay, a small bird native to higher altitudes, landed on a branch right next to me. It seemed to be quite interested, not in me but the Fluffernutter I was eating. I dropped a piece for him and he sat next to me eating it. I snapped a couple shots of him and he flew off, as did I.

The Gray Jay

The mile between these two peaks is a lovely stroll and seems to pass quicker than any other I can recall. After getting a quick view toward the Northern Presidentials from a nice spot just beyond the summit of Waumbek, I set off on the return trip, more than satisfied with this day spent in the woods and looking forward to the three left on my list.

The view from just beyond Waumbek's summit