Mother nature, you're so fickle. Thursday night into Friday brought heavy rains to Portland, and sound of hundreds of rain drops, pounding on the air conditioner, filled my room. There was a plan in place to play disc golf on Friday afternoon, and when the appointed time came, it had just stopped raining. However, where we were playing, wasn't in Portland. On the way, it of course started to rain again, and heavily. To kill some time, we went to a bar in Richmond, The Old Goat, because what good disc golf outing doesn't involve beer? To make a long story short, we played two rounds in the fog and drizzle (and had a lot of fun doing it), before returning to Portland to drop my friend off.
After drying out a bit, and packing up, I drove to Oxford, where another friend was having a party. I didn't stay long, as they'd already tapped out one of the kegs, and were working fervently on the second. Besides, isn't this supposed to be about hiking? From the party, I drove to Berlin, and made the turn onto Success Pond Road. I easily found the trailhead for Success Trail, and then set myself up for a very uncomfortable nights sleep (see: a few hours) in the passenger seat of my car.
Hike #1: Mt. Success
Trails: Success Trail, Outlook Loop, Mahoosuc Trail
Mileage/time: ~6.4 miles, ~2073 feet of gain, book time of 4:15, actual time of 2:40
The alarm on my phone went off at ten minutes after 5, but I was already awake. Rain during the night had woken me up several times, and no matter how I contorted my body, I could not get comfortable. I changed up, and awaited the arrival of my partner for the day, Bill Cronin. He's a fellow Grid hiker/redliner/peakbagger, who had contacted me a month ago, after I had bailed on summiting Success from the south. This was the day we had planned on. In my rush on Friday, I managed not to forget my camera, however, I did manage to leave the SD card in my computer. There's some weight I wouldn't have to lug up the mountain, unfortunately, I only have a few crappy cell phone pictures from the day. It's going to be text heavy.
Bill arrived as he said he would, we exchanged greetings, and set off up the trail at 5:30. Success Trail leaves from the right side of a grassy log landing, marked with a white sign that points in both directions. Pay no attention to the sign, just follow the path into the woods, and the trail becomes readily apparent. Drips and drops, the pitter-patter of sky-born water filled the green woods around us. The trail was damp, and the rocks slick as we ascended the first easy sections, warming up quickly. Not far in, Bill stopped and pointed ahead, a moose was up on the trail in front of us. We'd see it a couple more times as it ranged along the corridor, along with the tracks of its brethren. The grade started to steepen as we neared the Outlook loop, with dangerously slick rock faces, deep mud, and evil bog bridges. In retrospect, we should have taken the loop on the way down, but that just means I'll have to come back. Along the western portion of the loop, I found a bucket hanging from a tree.
|A bucket for monsieur|
Descent was a repeat of the ascent, without the Outlook loop. We carefully picked our way along, avoiding mud, shuffling along bog bridging, and praying we didn't slip off the rocks. Even with the adverse conditions, we fairly killed this one. We could see through the trees, there was an undercast in the valley to our west as we descended, curses to my memory card! Once back at the cars, we discussed our plan for the "afternoon", even though it was only just after 8. Instead of doing a loop over Moriah and Shelburne Moriah, we opted for an up and back on Stony Brook Trail. Back on the road, myself barefoot to dry out my feet, we headed for Gorham.
Hike #2: Mt. Moriah
Trails: Stony Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, Mt. Moriah Spur
Mileage/time: 10.1 miles, 3426 feet of gain, book time of 6:47, actual time of 5:16
After driving back out to Berlin, passing several vehicles on their way in on Success Pond Road, we arrived at the Stony Brook Trailhead. Changing into a dry shirt, socks, and shoes (!!!), we got on trail at 9:04. We expected to run into someone along the way, as there were two other vehicles in the lot. The skies were starting to show some blue spots as we drove in, and the sun came out at times, making the woods quite warm as we climbed. This was the first time that I've ascended this trail during the daytime, in non-winter conditions, and it was pretty great. Very easy grades in the early going, and moderately steep heading up toward the ridge. Bill had dunked a boot on the crossing, and we stopped so he could wring out his sock. The climb resumed, and in what felt like no time at all, we were on the ridge! Having the signage not at ankle level was a nice change of pace. It's amazing to see how tall the signs actually are, and knowing they were basically buried a few months ago is humbling. Nature is awesome.
The ledges leading up to Moriah were slick, and we took care to ascend them. We stopped on a dry section so I could mess with one of my shoes, clouds were racing through the Imp/Moriah col from the east, and we started to get some views, however fleeting.
It was here that I was introduced to bacon jerky. Food of the gods? I think so. Some more slick bog bridging, areas of ponded water, and more wet rocky areas later, we reached the junction with Kenduskeag Trail, and the scramble up to the summit. Just below the summit, Bill saw an American flag next to the trail. There was a card attached to it with information on it, about an Armed Services member who was killed in Iraq. The other side had further information from the man who placed the flag, a disabled veteran who is hiking the 4000 footers this summer to commemorate those from New Hampshire killed in Iraq. Very cool.
|RIP Sgt. Randy S. Rosenberg|
Just before the Stony Brook junction, we ran into the first people of the day, going where we had just been. Hopefully they had views! The rocks on Stony Brook continued to be slick, the sun just not being able to penetrate the canopy enough. We still made good time, and I stopped to filter some water at a small trailside cascade. Mountain water is delicious. The rest of the descent was uneventful, we passed another couple on their way up, and saw several groups with dogs on the lower stretches of trail, near the brook. Once we arrived at the cars, we could see dark clouds building in the notch, and were glad to be off the trail.
Our shortened itinerary, and speedy hiking, made it so Bill could get home to have dinner with his wife, which I'm sure she appreciated! We parted ways, with plans to hike again very soon. He also provide me with a list of the New Hampshire 100 Highest (which I couldn't seem to find an official list of), and on checking it out, I've done 64! Another list to add to the... ugh... list?
Thanks for a great day Bill!