Mt. Moosilauke (4802 feet)

Sunday, September 3, 1995

You couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was perfectly clear, cool, but not cold (even at the summit), and with no bugs.

I climbed the Gorge Brook Trail. This trail starts at the Ravine Lodge on the south side of the mountain. The Ravine Lodge is owned and operated by Dartmouth College. Based on what I saw on the signs, it looks as if ordinary people can stay at the lodge during the summer. That might be an interesting thing to do sometime.

The trail starts at 2500 feet. So, despite the height of the mountain, it isn't really all that outrageous a climb. The length of the trail seems to be disputed. The AMC White Mountain Guide that I'm using (23rd edition—not the latest) claims that the trail is only 2.7 miles. However, the signs posted at the Ravine Lodge by the Dartmouth Outing Club quote a figure of 3.6 miles.

It was a little tricky to find the precise trailhead. By carefully reading the signs, I learned that all trails start at the very end of the road. To get to the real starting point of the Gorge Brook Trail, I had to take a couple of short side trails that appeared to send me around behind but out of sight of the lodge.

The trail climbed steadily but not particularly steeply at first. It followed right alongside of Gorge Brook. After a mile or so, the trail turned to the right and away from the brook. It ascended more steeply up the side of gorge. I was expecting a steep, exciting climb, but it was not to be. The trail slabbed across the slope and switched back regularly. The climb was steep in places, but nowhere did I have to use my hands.

After a while, the trail came to a nice lookout to the south. It was a good resting spot and I had a bite to eat there. Further on and higher up, the trail came to an excellent lookout to the east giving great views of Lafayette and the other Franconia mountains.

The trail finally mounted a shoulder of Moosilauke named East Peak. From there I had good views in several directions. The trees had shrunk to the point were I could look over them. At the summit of the shoulder there were almost no trees at all. The trial then followed a easy grade to the true summit a short ways off.

The summit of Moosilauke is an alpine meadow. It is very broad and flat and covered with what looks like grass. The "grass" is actually an alpine sedge which doesn't take well to being stepped on. Thus hikers are strongly encouraged to stay on the trails. It's really too bad; the temptation to wade out into the field and lay down in the grass is almost overwhelming!

The views from the summit were great! I ate my lunch looking west were I could see the green mountains of Vermont from Killington to Mansfield. In fact, I could see farther north and south than that, but I don't recognize the moutains well enough to be specific here. Camel's Hump was distinctive and Lincoln Mountain was also easy to see. The peaks of Mt. Abraham and Mt. Ellen on each end of Lincoln Mountain were barely discernable as slightly higher bumps on the ridgeline.

After lunch, I looked east for a while. In that direction there was an excellent view of the White Mountains. Moosilauke was clearly higher than most everything else in sight with the noteable exception of Lafayette and Lincoln. I don't yet know the White Mountains well enough to comment on the scope of the view, but I did notice that Washington was clearly visible behind Lafayette. I could see smoke from the cog railway.

Although I only met a couple of people on the trail, the summit was quite crowded. It was a regular party up there! I'd estimate that perhaps 30 people were on the top during the time I was there. Most of them had hiked up on the AT.

Since I was feeling fine, I decided to take the long way down. I followed the Beaver Brook Trail east as it decended from the summit and then skirted the top of Jobildunk Ravine. There were many neat views along the trail both back up toward the summit and down into the ravine. At one resting spot I could hear a waterfall in the ravine, but all I could see from my vantage point were a few wet rocks. Maybe someday I'll have to bushwack into the ravine and see if I can find that waterfall.

I then followed the Asquam-Ridge Trail around the far side of Jobildunk Ravine and down into the valley of the Baker River. The trail followed the river back to the Ravine Lodge. It was a long and somewhat tedious journey. There were no views. It was fine for a decent, but I don't think I'd recommend that way for the ascent.

The Beaver Brook Trail was quite crowded---I suspect that many people use it to climb Moosilauke from Kinsman Notch. However, the Asquam-Ridge Trail was almost deserted. (Almost).

My return trip took me over the tops of Mt. Blue (4530 feet) and Mt. Jim (4180 feet). Although both summits were above 4000 feet, neither are on the official list of 4000 mountains in New Hampshire. This is because they don't satisfy the criteria for inclusion on that list.

All in all, it was a great trip. I'll have to come back sometime and try a few of the other trails on the mountain.

Saturday, October 12, 1996

I climbed the mountain today with my friend, Laura. We took the Benton Trail on the north side of the mountain. It was a fairly direct route to the summit up a long ridge. The trail stayed more or less in the trees until it reached the summit meadow, but at one point there was a very nice view of the ravine on the east side of the trail.

The weather was absolutely perfect. The sky was deep blue. It was a bit cool: at the higher elevations, there was a dusting of snow on the ground and the trees were coated with a thick, white frost. The trees were very beautiful, actually, against the blue sky. The snow was not so deep as to inhibit our hiking in ordinary hiking boots.

There was a cold wind blowing at the summit, so Laura and I hunkered down behind some rocks to eat. The visibility was good, but not as good as it could have been. It looked as if there was a lot of haze in the air; there was no chance of us seeing the Green Mountains in Vermont, for example. However, we did get a good view of the other White Mountains. The contrast between the frost covered tundra in the foreground and the orange and red foliage on the hills below was very interesting.

The summit was rather crowded with people. This was Columbus Day weekend, so there may have been more there than usual because of that. In any case, we had plenty of company at the summit.

A good hike on an interesting mountain.

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© Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Chapin.
Last Revised: October 22, 1996