Peaks: Table Mountain (2675'), Big Attitash (2900'), North Moat Mountain (3196'), Middle Moat Mountain (2805'), South Moat Mountain (2760')
Trails: Attitash Trail, herd path, Moat Mountain Trail
Mileage/time: ~14.5 miles, ~5500' of gain, book time of 10:00, actual time of 9:34
New redlining miles: 7.2
Since Ashley and I hatched this plan last week, the Wednesday Sleep Deprivation Special (WSDS) was scheduled to be in full effect! A rougher than normal week at work, led me to a Wednesday morning drive (full of caffeinated beverages) up to the Moat Mountain trailhead on Passaconaway Road. While I was changing up, Ashley arrived, and after a fashion, we piled into her Jeep for the ride around to Bear Notch Road.
Once at the trailhead, which is a very small dirt lot on the side of the road, we finished our prep, and started up the Attitash Trail, new territory for the both of us! The trail offered up a lot of good walking, through some pretty woods, in its initial stretch up to the ledges on Table Mountain. Following a couple of gravelly, and steeper sections, the trail broke out onto a series of ledges, offering great views into the Albany Intervale, and out to the Sandwich Range.
|A different perspective on Chocorua and Paugus|
|Paugus, Passaconaway, and the Sleepers|
|A section of grassy border|
|Looking out over the Swift River|
|The heart of the Sandwich Range|
Past the highest ledge, the trail started to drop. I questioned it, as we never reached an actual highpoint, and there are apparently other ledges with views to be had. Backtracking, we followed a slight path we'd seen on the way through, but all it did was bring us to a grown-in ledge, that appeared to once sport views toward the Pemi and the Presidentials. Heading back down, I saw a worn path on the left. I think I said something along the lines of, "oooh, herd path!", before heading up it. The airway of the path was thick, but a footbed was evident most of the way. Rain during the night made the thick woods wet, and we ended up soaked before we even got halfway to the top! There would be no views when we reached the "top", but there was a fairly large clearing, and a tree with a ring of green paint on it. We'll call this the summit of Table Mountain, as there didn't appear to be anywhere higher around us.
Back down to the trail, we started the ridgewalk that would take us over to Big Attitash. The White Mountain Guide describes this section of trail as being very lightly used, and difficult to follow for inexperienced hikers. We never found it hard to stay on, but it was definitely little tracked (we only saw one human print), and wild feeling. I found it hard to believe that Rt. 302 lay a mere 2 miles away, it feels much more remote than that. Blowdowns, thick sections, and an on-trail swamp were just some of the challenges this trail provided. Rising and falling along the lumpy ridge, we found ourselves at the end of it, and the summit of Big Attitash, just off the trail to the right. 360 degree trees!
|Still smiling, even in the thickest section|
|Must go through, WILL get wet|
Now for one of the two (back-to-back) demoralizing parts of the day, the nearly 2000' descent into the valley of Lucy Brook. The trail follows a rough sidehill course, steeply down off Big Attitash, and comes alongside Lucy Brook, which was dry in its upper section. It became a nicer walk in the woods, with a couple of confusing areas, which are better signed if you're ascending. Reaching the junction with Moat Mountain Trail, we took a break, filtered water, and got ready for further demoralization.
Having heavier packs (damn you water!), we set off for the Moat Traverse leg of our trip. During our descent from Big Attitash, we'd been able to see the ridge of North Moat, knowing we'd have to climb it. So we toiled uphill, 1.9 miles (2 if you believe the signs), and 2100' vertical. I felt myself bonking a bit, but Ashley kept a good pace, which got us up to the top in good time! We ran into a couple, descending along this section, the first people we'd seen all day. The wind had been a constant all day, but it had rarely percolated down into the woods, just blowing the clouds aloft. Once out in the open, the wind was on us, and it sure felt good. Even still, it was hot in the sun, as we climbed the final stretch to the summit.
|Kearsarge North from the first ledges|
|Washington's head in the clouds|
|Conway, the Green Hills, and Pleasant Mountain|
|The Albany Intervale and the Sandwich Range|
|Pinkham and Carter notches|
|Looking toward the Pemi over Big Attitash|
|The ridge heading south|
A good rest in the sun was taken, before we dropped out of the wind, and started along the ridge. This is definitely one of my favorite ridgewalks in the Whites, with decent footing most of the way, some fun scrambly bits thrown in for good measure, and good views when you pop out of the trees. The afternoon was very pleasant, and we made good time along the ridge to South Moat, not before getting off trail a couple of times. I didn't recall issues the last time I was up here, so I don't know what that was all about! We didn't stick around South Moat long, there were beers and food in the valley!
|Pinkham and Carter notches|
|Survey mark on South Moat|
|The Sandwich Range|
|Northeast toward the Wild River area|
Now on the final descent, plans were for beer and food, pretty much in that order. Considering my level of sleep deprivation, I was feeling good, having caught another burst of energy. Down toward the parking lot, we ran into a family of three, just before coming into the current logging operation. Due to these operations, the trail has been temporarily rerouted to avoid all but a crossing of the haul road, and is marked from the lot by flagging tape. Thankfully work had ceased for the day, but the smell of freshly cut wood lingered in the air. Early signs of fall are starting to pepper the woods with colors, an omen of another season at its end.
Back at my car, we loaded up and headed back to Bear Notch Road, hoping along the way that Glen Beverage was still open. Alas, it was not when we passed by, so an alternate beer store had to suffice. The rest of the evening consisted of drinking the beers, cooking up some dinner, and general relaxing.
1.) Sleep deprived Wednesdays can be fun
2.) Never say (or think), "it looks easy on the map..."
3.) If hiking = earning beers, than skinning = double rewards (turns and beers)
Thank you Ashley for your hospitality, a place to crash after a long night and day, and your company. Here's to new miles, and earning those beers!