Working title: How many Moats can we hit today?
Peaks: North Moat, Middle Moat, South Moat
Trails: Moat Mountain Trail, Red Ridge Trail
Mileage/time: 11.1 miles, 3770 feet of gain, book time of 7:26, actual time of 6:00
Now that I've made some time to get caught up, it's time to do just that! My hope is that you'll see no reduction in the quality of the following reports, as I've kept copious amounts of notes of the last few weeks happenings.
It's (still) hard to believe that I had not hiked with Mike since June. Now that he's all settled into his new place in Conway, and working as a guide (living the dream), he let me know that he was planning to do the Moats as part of hiking all the mountains around his new place. Having done them in April, on my birthday, I was more than willing to do them again, without snow cover. I asked if we could take the Red Ridge Trail, because I'm selfish (and need it for redlining), and Mike being the obliging guy he is, agreed to it.
We met up at his house a little after 7, and I was legitimately late, a black mark on my record. No worries though, as we rolled down to Passaconaway Road, and spotted Mike's truck. My preparations commenced at the northern trailhead, and I was soon ready to roll.
The first 1.3 miles passed very quickly, and we climbed up next to the various falls along Lucy Brook, known as Diana's Bath. I'm less than impressed by the photos I was able to get, but you win some, and you lose some.
We kept on, and as the slope increased, the conversation decreased. It happens when you get in the zone. Turning onto the Red Ridge Trail, the grade increased. Time to gain some elevation! There was also appeared to be a new system of attaching trail signs to trees, that neither of us had seen before. Cost cutting?
Up we went, through some open conifers, then the woods closed in for a stretch. The trail gains elevation at a pretty good clip, and breaks out into the open several times, before diving back into the woods. Fall colors were showing themselves, though things still had a ways to go. Clouds skimmed the high peaks.
Pretty quickly, we broke out in the open for good. Red Ridge is bare rock, and low scrub from here on out, and was a wicked fun climb, with expansive views at our backs.
Reaching the high point of the ridge, rejoining the Moat Mountain Trail, we started the out and back portion of our day, to North Moat. Dropping slightly, we climbed over a small bump, then started a sometimes steep climb to the summit. I recalled descending this bit in April, it was super icy and treacherous, but now it was a joy, some short scrambling fun. After passing beneath a section of near vertical ledge, the trail breaks out and reaches the summit of North Moat. 360 degree views presented themselves.
A short break later, we were ready for the return leg, and the outbound leg over the remaining two Moat peaks. The ridgewalk is gorgeous, with many nice scenes presenting themselves along the way, especially as you climb out into the open on Middle Moat. These peaks possess some of the best views in the state.
Pausing for a while on Middle Moat, we reluctantly pushed on towards South Moat. We had only run into one other person in the course of the day, and we were soon to run into several more. More busy that I expected, but still not bad for a Friday in late September. Gotta love non-weekend hiking! The walk over to South Moat was quick, and we dropped off the south side to hang out in the sun for a while, before dropping back down into the trees. There are also a few specimen of Jack Pine here on this slope, one of only a few places in the state that they grow.
Now all we had was the exit hike, and I knew it would be a quick one. My knee only occasionally bothered me, as we hopped down the slabs and even ran some flattish sections. Even after not hiking with Mike for a while, it was good to see he hasn't lost his touch. We arrived at the trailhead just before 2pm, exactly 6 hours after we started. A classic finish, in classic style.
Shuttling back to my car, we decided to hit the Moat... for what's more fitting after hiking the mountains, than hitting the bar named after them? We met up with Stefanie there, and had some lunch and beers. It was great to get out with Mike again, and I've got to say, I'm proud as hell of him. I hope to someday be able to break free from my job, and do something I love. For now, my current existence suffices.
Oh, and how many Moats... were you keeping score? Technically, there were four.