Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mt. Moosilauke - Moderate Hike for Major View

View from Summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Approaching the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
It's been far too long since I wrote a post.  I partly blame the long winter that kept me from my traditional early spring hiking, but I also blame this wonderful spring weather we are currently experiencing.  The long-awaited spring weather caused me to fling myself into outdoor adventures and I've been reluctant to sit inside writing.  As a result, I've had quite a few hiking adventures this month and find myself having to "catch up" on sharing them.  Where do I start?  How about with last weekend...

Over the past couple months, I've been mostly hiking small, close peaks to my house - Pawtuckaway, Mt. Major, Mt.Cardigan, and Gonic Trails, but last weekend I told Matt I needed to get up to the White Mountains and tackle a 4,000 footer.  To ease into larger hikes, I decided to go with one of the easier 4,000 footers - Mt. Moosilauke.  I haven't done this peak in probably six years, but I remember it has a wide open summit and multiple choices for ascents - ranging from moderate to very challenging.  Read below on how to replicate my adventure...

The trail is well signed
Adventure: Mt. Moosilauke via Gorge Brook Trail

Getting There:  The Gorge Brook Trail leaves from the Dartmouth Outing Club's Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.  To get there from Boston, take 1-93 North and get off at exit 32.  Turn Right onto Rt 112 West.  This will take you into the town of North Woodstock.  After 3 miles, take a left onto Rt 118 South (we missed it the first time - so if you pass Beaver Brook parking lot you've gone too far). Rt 118 winds up the mountain. After 7.2 miles, turn right on Ravine Road.  Take the dirt/gravel road to the end and park along the road. Parking is free. Once parked, walk down past the lodge toward the river.  Here you will see signs for Gorge Brook Trail.  The drive took me two hours from southern New Hampshire (2.5 from Boston).

Trail:  Although there are multiple ascents up Mt. Moosilauke, we chose to go out and back on the Gorge Brook Trail because it is one of the easiest approaches as well as the shortest (3.7 miles each way).  The trail leaves from the lodge, crosses a bridge over the brook, and meanders up through hardwood forest. Due to it's high
Crossing Gorge Brook Trail
elevation start, the forest soon turns to evergreens.  The trail is easy to moderate as it climbs near the brook.  We discovered that it was re-routed onto the Snapper trail for a short piece but then reconnected with Gorge Brook Trail.
     Along the hike, you get a few peaks of views where the trees have been cut back.  As you climb, the evergreens get shorter and shorter. We were surprised to still have snow and ice on the trail over 4000 feet on May 17th!  Once above treeline, you can see the summit for the last quarter mile of trail.  Unlike most other White Mountain 4,000 footers, there was no slab hiking or bouldering near the summit.  It was a smooth hike (with some rocks and roots) but nothing technical.
     The summit is beautiful!  At 4,802 ft, you get 360 degree views of the surrounding valley and White Mountains.  The wind whips over the bald peak, but thanks to rock shelters, we were able to sit and enjoy our lunch with a view.

Difficulty:  Moderate

Distance: 3.7 miles one way.  7.4 miles out-and-back

- This is a perfect way to start back up on big hiking in the Whites.  The distance is substantial but the hike is
Still snow in mid-May!
only moderate difficulty.  If you had plenty of time, it would also be a great way to introduce a child or teen to big mountain hiking.  What's more, is that with relatively easy hiking, you get a top-notch view!

- Surprisingly, there was still significant snow and ice over 4,000 feet in mid May!  We were not prepared for this - and as a result got some wet ankles when we post-holed through the snowy trail.  It also made the trail slick.  In retrospect- trekking poles or microspikes would have prevented my three falls on the way down.

- The summit is completely exposed - bring multiple warm layers/windbreaker to stay warm.

- Before heading back home, stop in at Woodstock Inn and Brewery in North Woodstock for a beer and bite!

Lunch break on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Although it had been a few months since I tackled a 4,000 footer, I had no problem summiting Mt. Moosilauke.  Just as I remembered, the hike was pleasant and the views amazing on this beautiful New Hampshire peak!

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Summit loved our hike!

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