Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Moosilauke Grand Tour 7/10/14

Working title: Soooo... how exactly do you pronounce Moosilauke?

Peaks: Mt. Moosilauke (4802'), Mt. Blue (4529'), Mt. Jim (4172')

Trails: Tunnel Brook Trail, Tunnel Brook Road, Benton Trail, Beaver Brook Trail, herd path, Asquam-Ridge Trail, Gorge Brook Trail, Hurricane Trail, Glencliff Trail, Appalachian Trail

Mileage/time: ~20.4 miles, ~5800' of gain, book time of 13:05, actual time of 9:34

New red-lining miles: 17.7

The remnants of Hurricane Arthur, and the rains associated with it, turned last week into a non-hiking week. Checking the forecast during my work-week showed much improvement, so I set off to do what I had planned on last week. The Moosilauke section of the White Mountain Guide, is by far my weakest area, so this trip served a couple of purposes. With the exception of a few short links, most of this hike was on all new trails!

The never-enough-sleep blues descended as my alarm went off at 2:45. Packing up, I headed out around 3:15. The biggest deterrent to the Moosilauke area, for me, is the drive. That speaks volumes as to why I haven't hiked much in the area. The morning was mercifully cool, and some nice pre-dawn shots presented themselves roadside, during my drive.

Along Rt. 25

Grassy field along 25B

Colors over Squam Lake

Arriving not long after I planned to (apparently taking 25 from Portland is the long way), I suited up and headed up Tunnel Brook Trail, which starts out on an old road. Some further inquiry (after the hike), lead me to find that there had been a rough road built through Tunnel Brook Notch in the 1920's, to connect Warren/Glencliff in the south, and Benton/Easton to the north. The road in the notch itself was obliterated by landslides, and never reopened. Both ends of the trail follow this former roadway in spots, and the grades are very manageable throughout.

Being on the west side of the mountain, I was in the shadows, and therefore coolness prevailed. Rising with Slide Brook, the trail makes a couple of crossings, with some nice cascades, and a small gorge. A smooth footbed, very much free of rock and root, makes its way up to the height of land.


A nice slide on Slide Brook

A trailside gorge

Tunnel Brook Trail

The trail is somewhat grown in, as it reaches Mud Pond, at the south end of Tunnel Brook Notch. A chain of beaver ponds extend northward, sometimes submerging the trail, but there's always a well beaten track around these areas. Being morning, lighting was less than ideal in here, leading to sub-par imagery of Moosilauke itself. The slide-scarred east face of Mt. Clough had the morning sun, its scars laid bare over 80 years ago.

Mud Pond

Looking north through the notch

Mt. Clough

Passing through another thick section on the northern end of the notch, the trail reacquires the road, and follows it down to a small, brushy clearing. Pushing through some prickers, I came out at the end of Tunnel Brook Road (FR 700). A quick 0.8 mile roadwalk brought me to the Benton Trail, where my work for the day really lay.

Benton Trail starts out on an old logging road, and sticks with it for quite some time, as it climbs up to a ridge. Reaching the ridgecrest, a herd path lead left to a nice viewpoint on the edge of Little Tunnel Ravine.

Benton Trail

Looking north toward the Kinsmans

Little Tunnel Ravine

A nice ridgewalk, in the sun-dappled woods, and the junction with Beaver Brook Trail was soon before me. Here at elevation, the chill from the morning persisted, and I could see my breath at times. Popping above treeline, it was somewhat windy from the northwest, and it was downright cold. Summer?! Ha!

Hitting the summit, I ran into the first person of the day, a gentleman (who's name I neglected to get) that I chatted with about all things red-lining. Come to find out, he was finishing up his last section of trail on the mountain, and has about 588 miles left to do. He soon departed, and I had the summit to myself for about 20 minutes, a rarity on such a nice summer morning.

Benton Trail

Benton Trail

Beaver Brook Trail approaching the summit

Alpine flowers in bloom

Looking down Gorge Brook Trail

Looking down Moosilauke Carriage Road

The entirety of the Sandwich Range

Kinsman Ridge and Franconia Ridge

The cool temperatures got me chilled, and instead of being a smart person and putting on a layer (that I was carrying), I got moving again, and started down Beaver Brook Trail. Descending and ascending, rolling along the ridge, I began to run into several solo hikers and groups of two, all enjoying the day.

Passing a couple of viewpoints, I came upon a well-worn herdpath, and a small cairn on the side of the trail. Instead of looking at the map, I checked it out. The path wound around for a while and soon ended at a highpoint, with a glass jar for a canister. Upon opening the canister, the bagged contents were soaking wet! I was able to glean that the register was for Mt. Blue (a Trailwrights 72 peak), and that the last entry was from 7/5 or thereabouts. Needless to say, you can't (effectively) sign in on wet paper!

Continuing along, I soon reached the junction for the Asquam-Ridge Trail, and the next leg of my journey.

Moosilauke from Beaver Brook Trail

Looking out the Baker River Valley

Beaver Brook Trail

Mt. Blue summit canister, and its sopping wet contents

The headwall of Jobildunk Ravine

The Asquam-Ridge Trail provides a longer, more scenic route, from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge to the trails on the upper part of the mountain. I found a short herdpath to what I believe was the summit of Mt. Jim, but there was no canister, or really defined highpoint... that I could find. Descending, the trail was decent, not super rocky or rootbound, though my feet had started to ache.

Reaching the first junction with Al Merrill Loop, the trail started to become eroded, and the lower I got, the worse the erosion. Come to find out, the worst of it was caused by a recent (June) storm, washing away the dirt, leaving only rocks and roots.

A portion of the upper Asquam-Ridge Trail

One of the very eroded sections of lower Asquam-Ridge Trail

While I got near the lodge, I never came within sight of it, as I followed the signage to Gorge Brook Trail, and on to the Hurricane Trail. Finding a nice spot next to the Baker River, I took a break, for what lay ahead of me, my body was not going to be happy about.

All further crossings were bridged as such

Flow in the Baker River

For the first mile or so, the Hurricane Trail was great, as it slabbed to meet the Carriage Road, with a soft footbed and easy grades. This was not so for the next three miles. After coinciding with the Carriage Road for about 0.3 miles, the Hurricane Trail branches right, and begins to climb. It's never steep per se, but after many miles, and more than 4000' of gain for the day, this last 900' of sustained climbing didn't do me any favors. I'll have to come back here when I can enjoy it more.

The horror didn't end when I reached the col between Hurricane Mountain and Moosilauke's South Peak. What had been a climb on a trail in reasonably decent shape, degraded into a descent on a wet, muddy, grown in, sometimes eroded, slippery, mess. This isn't to say that there weren't decent sections, and the bad sections weren't REALLY bad, but the lack of sleep and the miles had done a number on me.

Me: You're so nice Hurricane Trail, and yet you're so mean. Why?
Hurricane Trail: Because f**k you, that's why.

When I had just about had enough (figuratively speaking), I heard water, and saw a clearing to the left through the trees. Out on the Glencliff Trail, into the hot sun, nice to finally see this spot without snow! Ducking back into the woods, I followed the AT down to High Street, and walked the roads to Town Line Trail, and shortly to my waiting car.

Into the sun

Hurricane Mountain

Mt. Mist and Webster Slide Mountain

Two trails remain for me, by which to ascend Moosilauke, the lower part of the Carriage Road (which I'm sure will be skied), and the lower part of Beaver Brook. The beatings will continue in this area, as there are a lot of trails (and miles) left unaccounted for. But for now, here's to chipping away at it!

So, how do you pronounce Moosilauke??


  1. Jackie and I echo your comments regarding the Hurricane Trail. Nothing about it is really bad until you stik it at the end of a hike. Were the blowdowns cleared?

    1. I couldn't agree more! Next time, it goes at the start. As far as I recall, there were a couple blowdowns, but nothing major.