Working title: What better way to spend my birthday, than hike with a bunch of people I barely know
Peaks: North Moat Mountain, Middle Moat Mountain, South Moat Mountain
Trails: Moat Mountain Trail
Mileage/time: 9.5 miles, 3500 feet of gain, book time of 6:30, actual time of 8:02
Birthday options, I had them in spades. There were offers to go skiing, hiking, and drinking... two things I love, and one that I merely find enjoyable from time to time. After spending all day Wednesday in my ski boots, I decided against skiing, for the sake of my feet more than anything else. So hiking it was! Inna had suggested the Moats, and since I "needed" them for my 52 With a View list, I was into it. I suggested a traverse, south to north, but it ended up that we went north to south. A plan was in place, now all that was needed was the execution!
I was somewhat early, as is my wont, and soon was greeted by Cat and Ed, whom I'd never met before. We chatted and waited for Inna and Jayne to arrive. Once everyone was assembled, everyone followed me to the southern trailhead, which I consequently blew right past. Apparently my eyes need work. We then piled into Inna's van, and headed to our start point. Everyone suited up, and donned spikes, as the first section of the trail was a skating rink.
The flat hike to Diana's Baths went quickly, and we admired the beautiful waterfalls for a few minutes.
Onward we continued, gaining elevation now, past a couple of confusing old skidder roads, and stream crossings. Then we hit the junction with the Attitash Trail, and the real climb began. It was 2 miles (according to the signage) from the junction to North Moat, and it was a long 2 miles! Steeply up through the woods we wound, coming out on open snowfields, then diving back into the woods. That's how the whole section went!
|The Sandwich Range|
|South Moat looks a long way away|
After celebrating, we pushed onward, most everyone in snowshoes now. There were some extremely steep parts that required care to get down, and one that required an impromptu bushwhack. The trail wasn't very well marked, but as long as you kept your eyes on the old track, and looked for cut branches, it was fairly easy to stay on course. There were tracks of a very large bird that seemed to follow the trail for a long time, not sure if it was a turkey or what! The snow in here was still very deep, at least 3 feet in spots, as we were walking in the canopy for a fair amount of time. The open portions of the ridge were fantastic, this is definitely a hike that I'll be doing again.
After taking the snowshoes on and off a couple of times, thanks to lots of bare rock, we reached the summit of South Moat, and the end of the ridge. The views continued to be fantastic.
The snowshoes came off, and we began our descent, which was tricky at times, thanks to the mixed conditons. We managed it well, but the group started to spread out a bit. We'd wait until we heard voices, or made visual contact, then continued. Upon reaching the wooden bridge, Cat told Ed and I to continue on, and she'd hold up for Inna and Jayne. Ed and I reached the parking, after a bit of slipping and sliding on the ice rink that is the lower elevations at this time of year. After changing out of our boots, we were standing around chatting, when Inna and Jayne came into the lot from the road. Very strange indeed. What I figured out is that they had run across the National Forest boundary, and where the actual trail was sparsely marked, had followed it out to a field, and the road, about 1/2 a mile from the trailhead. Cat then came from the trail, very worried that she'd lost them. We shouldn't have gotten so far apart, in hindsight. Ed and Cat took off, and I shuttled Inna and Jayne to the other end.
I want to thank all of you for making this the most memorable birthday in all my 32 years!!!