Hike: Little Wildcat, Carter Dome, Hight

Jeff and I originally wanted to get one last hike in before the end of winter, but when I couldn’t swing it we instead hiked the next weekend. The idea was to Grid the Wildcats and Carters, as well as do some White Mountain trail tracing, and a couple small AT sections for me. We originally planned to hike up Wildcat Ski Resort, but shortly after arriving we were turned around and told that there was no uphill travel while the ski lifts are running. So we adjusted our plans and landed on just doing the Carters from Nineteen Mile Brook to northern trailhead of Imp Trail (where my car was already planted). On the way up Nineteen Mile we decided to do Little Wildcat Mountain, a New Hampshire 200 Highest, on a whim. But the day warmed up, and the snow turned to mashed potatoes. By the time we slogged out Little Wildcat and ascended Carter Dome I was exhausted. We ended up just doing Mount Hight and out. A good example for future me of being flexible enough to change plans and route to ensure the day is enjoyable.


  • Parked at Nineteen Mile Brook parking on Route 16 in Gorham, NH
  • Hike Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to around 2650′
  • Bushwhack to Little Wildcat Mountain and back
  • Continue up Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to intersection with Carter-Moriah Trail
  • Left on Carter-Moriah Trail over Carter Dome and Mount Hight to intersection with Carter Dome Trail at Zeta Pass
  • Left on Carter Dome Trail to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail
  • Right on Nineteen Mile Brook Trail back to parking




Date: 27 March 2021
Distance: 10.8 miles
Moving Time: 04:44:46
Pace: 26:24/mile
Elevation Gain: 4524′

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Winter Hike: Duck Pond Mountain

On a beautifully cold February day, John, Jeff, Richard and I snowshoed up to Nancy Pond so we could bushwhack to another New Hampshire 200 Highest peak, the viewless Duck Pond Mountain. A few inches of powder over a packed trail made for good traction, and the bushwhack to Duck Pond was a little thick but otherwise easy. The highlight of the day was the perfect sun halo, and snowshoeing over the frozen Norcross Pond to the view of the Bonds across the Pemigewasset Wilderness.


  • Parked Nancy Pond Trail parking off Route 302 in Hart’s Location, NH
  • Snowshoed Nancy Pond Trail to Nancy Pond
  • Bushwhack to summit of Duck Pond Mountain and back
  • Bushwhack across Nancy Pond and Norcross Pond and back
  • Snowshoed down Nancy Pond Trail back to car



Date: 13 February 2021
Distance: 9.2 miles
Moving Time: 04:20:15
Pace: 28:25/mile
Elevation Gain: 2785′

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Winter Hike: Doublehead

It was February already and I hadn’t yet gone for a hike. I was getting stir-crazy, so Lindsay convinced me to get to the mountains for my health. I chose to do the Doubleheads as they were the closest New Hampshire 200 Highest peaks I hadn’t done. I got up at 4am and to the trailhead just before sunrise. I was unsure if it was kosher to hike up the ski trail, but there was a sign explaining trail manners for doing so. If I wasn’t redlining, or first person up the mountain, then the best trail up Doublehead was Old Path. But, there was a packed trail from people skinning up and I hardly left a mark. After the ski trail the remaining trails were unbroken, which was specially fun floating down New Path. I added some extra vert by redlining Old Path before heading to South Doublehead.


  • Parked at Doublehead Ski Trail parking off Dundee Road, Jackson, NH
  • Snowshoe up Doublehead Ski Trail to summit of North Doublehead
  • Turn right on Old Path to intersection with New Path
  • Turn right on Old Path to intersection with Doublehead Ski Trail and return to previous intersection
  • Turn right on New Path to Summit of South Doublehead and continue to intersection with South Doublehead View Spur
  • Turn left on South Doublehead View Spur to view and return to intersection
  • Turn left on New Path and follow to Dundee Road
  • Turn right on Dundee Road and follow back to parking



Date: 06 February 2021
Distance: 5.0 miles
Moving Time: 02:32:19
Pace: 30:35/mile
Elevation Gain: 2746′

Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Doublehead Ski Trail
Old Path
New Path
South Doublehead View Sput

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Winter Hike: Howe, Shelburne Moriah, Moriah

Jeff, John, Michael and I planned on taking a day off to hike Mount Washington on the second day of winter. The forecast showed Mount Washington in the clouds all day with gusty winds from the Northwest, and a some snow and increased winds in the afternoon. So we switched up our plans and did Mount Moriah via a Howe Peak bushwhack and over Shelburne Moriah Mountain. The weather and views weren’t great but I knocked off a New Hampshire 200 Highest, two trails red-lined, a new section of the AT, and got Mount Moriah for my December Grid and New Hampshire Winter 4000 Footer list.


  • Left vehicle at Rattle River Trail parking off Route 2 in Shelburne, NH
  • Parked at Shelburne Trail North parking off Conner Road in Shelburne, NH
  • Hiked up Shelburne Trail to intersection with Kenduskeag Trail
  • Bushwhacked east to Howe Peak and back
  • Turned right on Kenduskeag Trail over Shelburne Moriah Mountain to intersection with Carter-Moriah Trail
  • Turned right on Carter-Moriah Trail to Moriah spur trail
  • Turned left on Moriah spur trail and climbed to Mount Moriah summit and back
  • Turned right on Carter-Moriah Trail back to intersection with Kenduskeag Trail
  • Turned left on Kenduskeag Trail and returned to intersection with Rattle River Trail
  • Turned left on Rattle River Trail and hiked down to parking lot



Date: 22 December 2020
Distance: 14.8 miles
Moving Time: 07:18
Pace: 29:33/mile
Elevation Gain: 4019′

Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Kenduskeag Trail
Rattle River Trail

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Hike: Big Bickford, Lafayette & Eagle Cliff

Jeff, Richard and I headed to Franconia Notch on a relatively warm November day to ascend a few New Hampshire 200 Highest peaks. We also redlined a couple of trails and hit Mount Lafayette because it was in between. Big Bickford Mountain and Eagle Cliff didn’t have trails and were about as opposite as bushwhacks could be. Big Bickford was a fairly level and wide open bushwhack. While Eagle Cliff was shorter, it was much thicker and basically a cliff scramble in places. Due to mashed potato-like snow underfoot, the trip took longer than expected, and we finished the bushwhack and hike out by headlamp.


  • Left car at Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway parking lot on Tramway Drive, Franconia, NH
  • Started at Skookumchuck Trail parking off Route 3 in Franconia, NH
  • Hiked up Skookumchuck Trail to point at level with col between trail and Big Bickford Mountain
  • Bushwhacked north to Big Bickford Mountain and back
  • Continued left on Skookumchuck Trail to intersection with Garfield Ridge Trail
  • Turn right on Garfield Ridge Trail to Mount Lafayette summit
  • Turn right on Greenleaf Trail to gap at Eagle Cliff
  • Bushwhacked west to Eagle Cliff and back
  • Turn right on Greenleaf Trail and continued to trailhead near Tramway Drive



Date: 12 December 2020
Distance: 12.2 miles
Moving Time: 06:59
Pace: 34:17/mile
Elevation Gain: 4628′

Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Greenleaf Trail
Skookumchuck Trail

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Winter Hike: North Crocker

Trail Report

In my plan to hike all of the New England 4000 Footers I still had a bunch of peaks to do in the Carrabassett Valley area of Maine. So, in late January I decided to tackle a few from Route 27 just north of Sugarloaf Ski Resort. The plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail from the road to North Crocker Mountain and South Crocker Mountain, and if the bushwhack was broken out to Redington Mountain (and I felt up to it) do it as well. I chose to do the Crockers from the north because they were accessible from a major road that I knew would be open. I could find very little information on trail conditions and road closures online.

I left home at 4:30 am for the two and a half hour drive north. As I approached Carrabassett Valley the full moon was setting just above the ridge line of Mount Abraham. I looked for a good place to stop to take a photo of it from Route 27, but failed to find one and didn’t want to take the time to explore side roads for a better vista.

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Winter Hike: Kearsarge Mountain North

Hike date: 23 February 2014

Each person has their own way of dealing with tragedies. Some collapse upon themselves, others lash out at those around them, some go on like nothing happened. While I’ve had the fortune of never experiencing a life-altering tragedy, I do know how I deal with small tragedies. I take a walk, often in nature, in order to process what happened and come to terms with the consequences.

When a tragedy struck my small community, I escaped to the White Mountains, found a mountain to climb and spent the entire hike processing what happened, remembering the person who was lost and tried (I’m sure with no success) to understand what the family members were going through.

Kearsarge Mountain North is a popular hike with its trailhead right in North Conway. Since its parking lot is small and the day was mild, I felt lucky to find a spot when I arrived. As I was checking over my pack a couple walked down the trail. I asked about the conditions, afraid the trail would be sloppy due to the warm temperature. They said the trail was fine as long as I had traction. As they got into their car to depart I looked at their bare-booted feet and wondered how far up the trail they actually went.

The first few hundred feet of trail went through private property. Since it was fairly flat and the trail was still stable in the cold shadow of the trees, I bare-booted the first quarter mile or so. As I came around a bend in the trail I was surprised by a skier coming down the trail directly toward me. I quickly hopped off the trail as he passed by with a muttered “thanks.” If I had been wearing my snowshoes, I probably wouldn’t have been agile enough to get out of the trail in time to prevent a collision. It made me think of a recent post for Cannon Mountain on New England Trail Conditions where someone was complaining about how the skiers should not follow the hiking trails down because it is dangerous and it messes up the trail for snowshoers (the same argument that cross-country skiers make about snowshoers). As I stopped to strap on my snowshoes I made a mental to keep an eye out for oncoming skiers, luckily I saw no others.


Forest and boulders

I have had asthma my entire life, but these days it only bothers me when I exercise in cold weather. Typically I run all winter long and my breathing is not an issue as it seems to condition to the cold weather. This year I have been very lackadaisical with my running, and my asthma has been an issue. I got about a mile into this hike and my breathing was really rough. I stopped to consider going back to the car, but I rested for a few breaths and looked around me. I was standing in a quiet forest with a ravine to my left and the mountain to my right. The sun had cut through the clouds and was lighting the snow all around me. Scattered through the trees were large glacial boulders and beyond the ravine I could see Bartlett Mountain with blue skies above it. The breather was just what I needed for my lungs to get acclimated. Shortly after starting up the trail again my lungs loosened and I had no further problems.

I continued up the mountain and said hello to a father and son hiking down from the summit with crampons on their feet. Soon after I broke out of the trees for a spell. It was nice to have a limited view of North Conway to the south but the exposure to the sun was making the trail soft and there were many spots where bare-booters had post-holed. The trail soon dove back into the trees to swing north of the summit before switching back toward it. A group of about 5 people and a dog stepped off the trail to let me pass. A few had crampons but most were just wearing boots. When they stepped off the trail they went up to their waists in snow.


Fire tower on the summit

I made short time of the last mile of the trail and broke out onto the summit. There was a thin layer of ice coating everything, so I made my way carefully up to the fire tower. The wind was gusting pretty hard, so I took off my snowshoes at the foot of the stairs and put them and my pack in the lee of the concrete footing at the base of the tower. A caution if you visit this summit (and probably any summit with a fire tower) in the winter, when the wind gusted it broke sheets of ice free of the tower and showered them down on anyone below.


Presidentials from the fire tower

I made my way to the top of the tower and walked around to the lee-side where I had a great view of the Presidentials and Carter Notch. At this time the group of people with the dog had made it to the summit and there was an older fellow taking advantage of the warmth inside the fire tower. I checked my cell service and found that I had a good connection. I always let my wife know my exact plans when I go on solo trips, including any emergency exit strategies. I also check in with her at the end of the drives to and from my destination and when I reach the summit and back to the trailhead (if I have connection). I received a text from my wife saying that she was at the memorial service and I suffered a few moments of guilt. Here I was enjoying a wonderful view of my favorite place in the world and she and the rest of our community was mourning a sudden loss.


Looking toward Long Island

I turned away from the view of the Presidentials and peered off to the southeast where I could just see (or pretend that I could see) the Maine coast. I again tried to understand the recent events and feel for those who were hurting the most. I was interrupted by the group’s dog, so I made my way into the fire tower to warm up.

I usually make some small talk with folks I meet on the trail and on summits, surprising I’m sure to those who know me personally. I’m not one for small talk, or to talk at all unless I’ve had a few beers. I feel kindred to those on the trail in a way that I’ve never felt to those who like to gossip at home or talk sports at work. But, this time I was feeling too introverted to ask the normal trail questions (“Where are you hiking from?”, “Have you hiked this mountain before?”, “How do you like those [insert gear product name]?”, etc.). I merely warmed up and then headed back down the fire tower, downed a Clif Bar and donned my snowshoes.

I left the summit at about the same time as the older fellow and caught up to him before the clearing a mile below the summit. I stopped and we talked a bit about winter hiking. He was a troupe leader and gave me some tips on a few local mountains which have much less traffic and great trails. After leaving him I did not see another person. The trail was much softer from the warm afternoon, but the hike down was quick and without event.

I later found out that the person our community lost had plans to explore Acadia National Park this summer and climb Cadillac Mountain, many times. I felt a sense of relief at hearing this as it made the trip to the mountains feel a proper send-off to him, in my own way. Also, when I got back to the island I had the opportunity to see air lanterns lit and released in memory of the person lost and spend a short time with the family and close friends. It was a time I will not soon forget as so many of our small community came together and lit a little happiness during a dark time. There was an amount of support and love that can only be found in a small, self-sufficient community. If I had stayed home that day, I probably would have missed out.

Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.
—John Muir

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Elevation: 3268′
Elevation Gain: 2588′
Distance: 6.2 miles
Book Time: 3:40
Actual Time: 3:05
Temperature: 45° F
Wind: 2mph WNW (10mph with gusts on the summit)
Weather: partly sunny

Appalachian Mountain Club. White Mountain Guide: 28th Edition. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2007. Print.
Mount Kearsarge North (Mount Washington Valley).” summitpost.org. SummitPost.org. Web. 19 March 2014.
New Hampshire Hiking Trail Conditions.” newenglandtrailconditions.com. NewEnglandTrailConditions.com. Web. 20 March 2014.

Backyard Adventure: First Adventure of 2014

Backyard Adventures are small adventures that I set upon to soothe my wanderlust when I cannot afford (with time or money) to take on larger adventures. Some will be done with my sons (under the guise of “just playing with the boys”), and some will just be flat out crazy to the normal (read sheltered) human and I’ll have no real excuse for my behavior except that I wanted to see what it was like. This was one of the latter. 

It’s the dead of winter and you don’t have the gear for camping overnight, what do you do? Me, I camp out overnight anyway.

I have a L.L. Bean Microlight FS tent, an EMS Mountain Light 20° sleeping bag and a Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad. Great, 3-season, light gear. But, I have dreams of hiking my first winter 4000 footer. Unfortunately, since I live on an island off the coast of Portland, Maine, it requires an overnight camp to have enough daylight to hike a 4000 footer. My goal this winter is to find the perfect weekend where it’s not snowing on a Friday or Saturday night so I can drive up to the White Mountains, where the temperature doesn’t drop below 20°F at night (okay, I could take low teens) and the weather on the following day is below freezing but sunny and with as little wind as possible.

I know, impossible, right?

In order to prepare for the camping-overnight-bit of my dream weekend, I decided to try camping out overnight on the island in the middle of January.  I didn’t want to find myself out in the middle of the White Mountains in some of the “worst weather in the world” without knowing my gear’s capabilities. When a weekend came around where I wasn’t doing anything and the weather was looking optimal for my test scenario (low wind, temperature in the 20s) I decided to take my gear for a test run.

Yes, my wife told me I was nuts as well.


Settled down for a cozy night

I packed up my gear and headed out into the forest near my house. I brought my headlamp with me but found it wonderous to wander the forest by moonlight. It transformed the woods that I grew up exploring into an unknown landscape. I made my way generally toward the middle of the woods, hoping to find a location that was far enough from houses and streets as to not hear any cars or see any lights.

I found a spot sheltered by a small copse of pine trees but with a clear view of the stars overhead. I stamped out a flat area with my snowshoes and set up my tent. I realized I didn’t know how to stake out my tent in snow, which I needed to do in order to properly utilize the fly, so I hoped that the wind wouldn’t pick up overnight. I fired up my new Jetboil Flash, cooked some dinner and cracked open a Maine Beer Co. Lunch. I spent a little while enjoying some hot food, great beer and staring at the stars, but it was time to get to business. The reason I was here was to test out my gear, so I hit the sack.


I later discovered that the temperature dropped a lot lower than forecasted

I spent the night trying to keep warm. The weak point in my protection from the cold was my air pad. Any part of my body touching the pad slowly had the heat sapped out of it. After a while I would wake up and need to turn over to warm that side of my body. My feet were also cold, but not cold enough to interrupt my sleep. Several times I considered packing up and snowshoeing back home, but I did not relish crawling out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag into the frigid winter night.

After enough time had passed that I deemed it not insane to get up (4:30am), I quickly made my way out of my sleeping bag and into my clothes. My boots were ice-cold and my toes were soon numb. I fired up my Jetboil to make some coffee. I was lucky that I had the Jetboil running because my tent poles turned my fingers instantly into ice and I was able to warm them over the flame. I found that many of the tent pole sections were frozen together and I had hold them between my fingers until my body heat thawed them. Shortly I had my camp broken down and I enjoyed my coffee by the flame of the Jetboil.

I headed home in the early morning darkness, following the same meandering route I took into the forest. By the time I made it home the eastern sky had begun to lighten, so I dropped my pack and made my way to the south shore of the island. I ended my backyard adventure snapping some shots of ice and sunrise.


Sunrise and icicles

My takeaway from this experience was that I didn’t have the gear for single digit temperatures, but I think I could have made it through a night in the high teens and twenties. I’m pretty sure that wind would make even the twenties hard to bear as there was space between the ground and the bottom of the fly. Possibly I could have figured out how to stake out or tie down my fly and then pile up snow around it to prevent wind from entering the tent.

Sounds like something to test out on another cold and windy night this winter.

A few tips and realizations I’ve discovered since that night:

  • I have a fleece sleeping bag liner
  • I could try placing my old foam pad under my air pad for added insulation
  • I can heat water and put it in water bottles. Placing these bottles in the bottom of my sleeping bag and in my boots keep them from freezing over night and I would have water that wasn’t frozen in the morning as a bonus
  • I should have a towel ready for when I open my sleeping bag. Body heat escaping will thaw the frost built up on the inside of the tent, wiping it off will prevent the tent from getting wet

A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.
—Marilyn Monroe

Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad.” backcountry.com. Backcountry.com. Web. 23 February 2014.
White, Carol Stone. Peak Experiences: Danger, Death, and Daring in the Mountains of the Northeast. UPNE, 2012. Print.
EMS Mountain Light 15° Sleeping Bag, Long.” ems.com. Eastern Mountain Sports, inc. Web. 23 February 2014.
It’s Official—Australia has the Worst Weather in the World.” theaposition.com. The A Position. Web. 17 March 2014.
Jetboil Flash Cooking System.” rei.com. Recreational Equipment, Inc. Web. 16 March 2014.
Lunch.” mainebeercompany.com. Maine Beer Company. Web. 16 March 2014.
Microlight FS 1-Person Tent.” llbean.com. L.L. Bean, inc. Web. 23 February 2014.

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Winter Hike: Potash Mountain

Hike Date: 17 February 2014, Presidents Day

I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The forecast for noon, when I expected to be on the summit of Potash, was 12 degrees, 10mph winds from the northeast and absolutely clear.

Knowing it would be clear and sunny I stopped at the EMS in North Conway and picked up some sunglasses. I typically don’t own sunglasses because I have one of those weird heads that no pair of glasses seem to fit. I don’t know, one ear is higher than the other or the bridge of my nose is crooked. Probably a result of inbreeding or something. Miracleously I found a pair that fit my face and I walked out of EMS with a smile while glancing up at the white shoulder of Mount Washington.

I got to the logging road just past Passaconaway Campground on the Kancamangus and saw that the entrance was not plowed enough to safely park there. It’s suggested that you hike from the logging road to bypass the Downes Brook crossing, which can be dangerous certain times of the year. I pulled over anyway, much to the relief of the car that was following me and probably wondering why I was going so slow, and saw that there was no broken path through the several feet of snow up the logging road. I hoped for a stable snowbridge across the Downes and drove back to the Downes Brook Trail parking area.

Thankfully the parking area was nicely plowed, but there were two cars already parked there. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I would love to have the mountain to myself. On the other, I would be glad to have a nice broken and packed trail ahead if me. It turned out that I got my way. While I was strapping on my snowshoes a group showed up at the parking area with a dog and cross-country skis. As I headed across the parking lot to the trail they started their cars and prepared to leave. I passed the iron ranger, the self-service pay station found at most of the National Forest parking lots, and noted the sign over the pay slot. It said that no fees were required for the day in honor of Presidents Day. That was most likely why I would have the mountain to myself, most businesses do not observe Presidents Day.


Ice Bridge over Downes Brook

The trail to Downes Brook was easy going and well packed, it meandered through a sparse forest and didn’t gain much elevation. I came to Downes Brook and found it to be bridged over with ice and snow, something that I had read about but had never experienced. I crossed easily and snapped a photo of my first icebridge crossing. The trail gained a little elevation and crossed the logging road where the wind picked up, but I was soon into deeper forest which protected me from the wind. Through the leafless trees I caught glimpses of the view I would have at the summit, I was especially excited to see Carrigain standing proudly on the horizon.

The trail came to a switchback and then started to climb more moderately. I had more than enough time for this hike so I took it easy and only took a single break for water (and Nuun, which I also picked up at EMS). When I typically hike on the weekend I can’t get off the island until 8:25am, which gets me to Portland at 9:00am, an hour and a half drive from the White Mountains. Since it was a Monday I could get off the island almost two hours earlier, which gave me plenty of time for a day hike.


Passaconaway and Whitehead

The trail abruptly broke out of the forest and onto a ledge with an amazing view to the southeast of Mount Chocorua and a more spectacular view to the south of two 4000-footers I hadn’t yet climbed, Mount Passaconaway and Mount Whiteface. Passaconaway was especially beautiful with its great cone towering over the smaller Mount Potash. When the wind gusted, snow would curl off the summit into the indigo sky. I had plans to hike these mountains along with the Tripyramids and Mount Chocorua with some friends this summer, so I had to take a photo to whet their appetites.

After the vista the trail continued up to the summit, moderately steep at times but easy for the most part. Since the trail climbed up the south side of the mountain after leaving the trees the path was unhampered by the wind and remained nicely packed all the way to the summit.


Potash Summit View

I reached the summit, dropped my gear and unstrapped my snowshoes. The view was absolutely breath-taking. From left to right I could see Passaconaway, Whiteface, The Sleepers, Tripyramids, The Fool Killer, Kancamangus, The Osceolas, Franconia Ridge, The Hancocks, Carrigain, The Willey Range and The Presidentials. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was high and warm and I had not seen a single sign of humanity for hours (though I could then see the Kancamangus Highway snaking through the valley below). The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the cold wind from the northeast, but that was bearable considering the rest.


The Mighty Mount Carrigain

I was especially taken by the view of Mount Carrigain which was not only one of my favorite hikes but is probably my favorite mountain to look at from a distance. After eating a wasabi hummus and vegetable sandwich I packed up and headed down the mountain. The hike down was easier than hiking down South Moat Mountain the previous week where I had a hard time navigating the rocky slopes with my snowshoes. I made great time even though I was not hurrying; making it to the parking lot in less than an hour. There were a couple different cars in the parking lot, but there was still nobody in sight.

I learned something the previous weekend from hiking South Moat Mountain, it is not fun driving for an hour and a half while wearing a sweaty shirt and socks. I changed into a dry sweatshirt and socks and then began the trek back to Maine. I cranked the music and enjoyed the lulling switchbacks of the Kancamangus Highway. It wasn’t until I got a decent distance back in Maine that I realized I had left my hat, gloves and brand new sunglasses on top of my car while changing clothes. I pulled over and checked the hood, but they were long gone. It was too late to drive back and look for them, but at least I still have this nifty photo of them on Potash Summit.



We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on “good” rather than on “time”
―Robert M. Pirsig

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Elevation: 2680′
Elevation Gain: 1430′
Distance: 4.4 miles
Book Time: 2:40
Actual Time: 2:40
Temperature: 12° F
Wind: 10mph NE
Weather: clear

Appalachian Mountain Club. White Mountain Guide: 28th Edition. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2007. Print.

Winter Hike: South Moat Mountain


South Moat Mountain Trailhead

Hike Date: 9 February 2014

Ever since winter broke my hiking habit back in November, I had been waiting for a decent weekend to try out hiking with snowshoes. I’ve had a pair of 27″ PowerRidge Crests for quite a few years and dug them out of the garage once or twice a winter. For whatever reason I never thought of combining them with my love for hiking and the White Mountains in particular. When a weekend with a nice forecast where I didn’t actually have other plans came up, I was all over it.

One of my great loves in life is driving out of the city and into the mountains on a sunny day with the windows down and some music blasting. As the congestion and distraction of the city fades away and the first mountains loom over the distant tree tops I feel a physical pressure lift off my chest. I can breath and smile and wonder again, it’s akin to a heaping pile of gifts under the Christmas tree. Granted, it was the beginning of February in Maine, so my windows weren’t down, but I was still able to relish this moment of release. A cure for the Winter Blahs if there ever was one.

As I drove through Conway I snatched glances at the Moat Mountains when they were visible. I found myself making my way slowly down Passaconaway Road making sure I didn’t miss the trailhead. I found the parking area well-plowed and containing only one other car. After quickly organizing my gear I strapped my snowshoes on and I hit the trail. The trail wound through some young trees and dipped down to cross a small brook and again at a small bridge over Dry Brook. This early portion of the trail was packed by a snowmobile so the going was easy and I quickly shed a few layers.

Soon after the Dry Brook crossing the trail began to climb and I found myself stopping to catch my breath and let my pulse slow. Ascending with the weight of snowshoes on my feet and less than perfect traction was definitely more tiring than hiking in the other three seasons. The trail continued to be decently packed but soon hit a steep and rocky ascent. It was difficult to navigate the rocks with bulky snowshoes but I was thankful for the traction that their crampons gave me. I stepped off the trail as two ladies made their way down and assured me the view was well worth it. I watched them hike easily down and thought (not for the last time) that I would need to buy some crampons.


Vista with Mount Chocorua

Just as I was starting to feel as if the mountain had me beat, I ascended to an amazing vista of Mount Chocorua. I stopped to have a burrito break and marvel at the view in front of me. It was just what I needed: time to cool down and energy from the carb-rich burrito. The trail to the summit changed again at this point, it became less steep and the trees spread out. From posts I had read it sounded like it was easy to loose the trail at this point, but it was no problem to follow when the trail was already broken. There seemed to be several alternative ways to navigate the trees and slopes, so the paths I chose were less packed than the lower trail and therefore more slippery. Again I wish I had crampons.

The climb to the summit was not as intense as the prior climb to the vista of Mount Chocorua. There was a false summit a quarter of a mile from the summit and the trail was fairly level at that point. I was welcomed to the summit with 360° views with Conway valley to the east, Lake Winnipesaukee to the south, Mount Chocorua to the south west and the Moat range pointing to the Presidentials to the north.


Mount Chocorua from South Moat Summit


North Moat and the Presidentials

I stayed on the summit for twenty minutes just taking in the view. In the summer it is hard to find a summit in the White Mountains that you don’t have to share with others. For those twenty minutes I had the peak (and seemingly the whole mountain range) to myself. Even with roads and houses lining the valley below it felt as if there was no presence of man to be found. I turned slowly in a circle and climbed the scattered boulders to appreciate the view from different perspectives. Eventually the cold got to me from standing still on the gusty peak and I packed up and headed down the way I came.

On the way down I passed a group of three young men with a dog, all of whom where happily chugging up the mountain to the summit. Soon after the Mount Chocorua vista I came across a lady sitting in the trail with a first-aid kit sitting beside her. Seeing her first-aid kit reminded me that I had made the dumb mistake of leaving my own kit under the driver’s seat in my car. I stopped to ask her if she was okay. She was just doing some blister maintenance, pointing out that it was a lot easier to do in the summer when you didn’t have to sit on snow. I mentioned how my snowshoes were blistering the tops of my toes where the straps crossed. Something my feet were not accustomed to from just three-season hiking.

The rest of the hike to the parking lot was uneventful. I fell down a few times when the front of my snowshoe crampons lost their traction and I slid on the tail end of them. When I got back to the parking lot I fired up my JetBoil, cooked a cup of soup and heated some coffee for the drive back to Maine.

I had approached hiking South Moat Mountain with some skepticism. I love hiking, I love getting away from the grind of daily life, but I was unsure how difficult a winter hike would be and I was not confident in my knowledge, gear or skill when it came to winter hiking. I found the ascent to be more difficult and slower than normal hiking, but the descent was quicker and much easier on my knees. Pulling out of the parking lot I knew that I would be doing more hikes this winter.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
―Nelson Mandela

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Elevation: 2770′
Elevation Gain: 2300′
Distance: 5.4 miles
Book Time: 3:45
Actual Time: 3:05
Temperature: 20° F
Wind: 2mph SE
Weather: mostly sunny

Appalachian Mountain Club. White Mountain Guide: 28th Edition. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2007. Print.
South Moat Mtn. from Dugway Road.” Hike-NewEngland.com. Web. 24 February 2014.