Moosilauke – 12/12/2015

Hikers stand at the summit sign on Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire

Last weekend, I attempted to answer the call of the Moose, but was thwarted by my own poor planning – a closed road.  I ended up having a great day, but did want to make sure I visited Mt. Moosilauke in the near future.  When Rich suggested we head up the Moose this weekend, I was obviously down.

Rich had done the Beaver Brook Trail a few weeks ago solo – I was at REI for Wilderness First Aid training all weekend.  He sent some pretty cool pictures and told me it was a fun one that would become one of his short-on-time or solo defaults.  He had a Christmas party this night, so we filed today under short-on-time, and headed for Beaver Brook Trail.

Beaver Brook Trail doesn’t mess around.  After a nice, flat, scenic 2 minutes in the woods near Beaver Pond, it starts to climb.  Steeply.  For a long time.  The good folks at Dartmouth Outing Club (a huge presence on Moosilauke – the school owns part of the mountain) want you to enjoy the trail, but don’t want you to die, so there is no shortage of signs, rebar hand rails, and stone and wooden steps throughout the steeps.

A sign by Dartmouth Outing Club on Beaver Brook Trail warns of dangers ahead
DOC sign on Beaver Brook Trail

Why is the trail “extremely tough”?  It follows Beaver Brook very closely, and Beaver Brook is basically one giant cascade.  Lots of trails follow streams, brooks and rivers – some trails actually coincide with them (Kinsman Pond Trail, anyone?).  This one follows right along the edge, and the edge is often a slippery, steep, long drop down to the water.  And it’s so nice to look at, you’re going to want to be balancing on that edge – a lot.

The Beaver Brook Cascade on Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire
Beaver Brook Cascade – the whole brook is a cascade, but this is the largest I suppose

So, be smart.  Despite all the warnings, there were several groups who were clearly out of their element.

If you’ve been on a handful or more hikes in the Whites, you’ll be fine.  If it’s your first time, try something else.  Learn how your boots hold on wet rocks when you’re using them correctly – gain confidence in your footwork – it won’t take long.  Then check this one out so you can enjoy it.  This was a MICROspikes all the way day, lots of ice on the trail, making things even more sketchy if you weren’t wearing them, as several people weren’t.  That puts you more in the danger zone than the uncomfortable zone IMO on this trail on this day.

Anyway, you also get some nice look-back views on the way up, don’t forget to check them out!  Mt.’s Liberty and Flume showed up at one point to say hello and that they’ve missed me since last weekend.  I’ll be back soon you beautiful things, don’t worry.

Mt.'s Liberty and Flume from Beaver Brook Trail, Mt. Moosilauke
Liberty and Flume from Beaver Brook Trail

Eventually, the trail rounds off over the top off the steeps, and things get much easier and faster.  I love this zone on Moosilauke, somehow the dead trees make me feel alive.  I’m weird.

It did start to cloud up at this point, and cool down quite a bit.  It was 50° in the parking lot, and not forecast to be much cooler on the high summits (crazy for December).  But once that sun got covered up and the wind started blowing… cold.

Mt. Moosilauke is a big beast (4,802′ and a big, wide mountain) – but from most approaches, once you’re up on her shoulders, the climbing is almost completely done.  It’s a magical place up there, as many veteran NH hikers will tell you.  Many people call it their favorite mountain.  Tough to argue with.  So once you’re at the top of the brook/cascades… enjoy.  You’ve got some distance to go, but vertically speaking, it’s easy.

Mt. Moosilauke from Mt. Liberty, New Hampshire
The Moose from Mt. Liberty – she’s a big girl

We were in pretty thick cloud as we approached the summit – we knew we wouldn’t be getting any views, but the light was interesting and I was hoping for some unique photo opportunities up there.

A hiker approaches the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire
Rich heads for the summit

I failed on a few rime ice shots (there wasn’t much and I was lazy and hungry), but got some interesting silhouettes of hikers reaching the summit, and some structures in the cloud.

Hikers on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire
Hikers on the summit
Windbreak on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire
A windbreak on the summit of Moosilauke
Rime ice on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire
Rime ice photo fail

There was a cold, strong wind here, gusting to probably 35/40 mph at times.  The walk from the summit back to the trees had my face and contact lenses angry.

A few years ago, I finally broke the habit of waiting longer than I should to put traction on my feet.  I need to do the same with face protection (this is a problem for me on short stretches of exposure only.  If I’m worried about frost nip or frostbite, I don’t hesitate).

Note to self – it only takes about 1 second to pull your buff up to protect your beautiful face – so do it!

The trip down was uneventful, which is good, as anything qualifying as an “event” on this trail so close to the brook with so much ice would probably not be pleasant.

Stepping out of the trees onto the summit dome of Mt. Moosilauke in cloud is what I imagine it would be like to be on the moon, or maybe a comet, or even better – walking around on that big sphere thing at Epcot.  Wait, that wouldn’t be better than being on the moon or a comet.  Either way, make sure you give it a try sometime.

If you hear the call of the Moose – answer it!

 

 

 

 

 

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