Hike #20: Mount Moosilauke
Date: June 27, 2015
Location: Benton, NH
Distance: 7.8 miles
Time: 5:26 (41:48/mile)
My first hike of the year, on Mount Cardigan three weeks prior, was a gentle one to test my feet. Both continue a 14-months-and-counting recovery from plantar fasciitis. It unfolded without any problems, including a relatively pain-free next day, so we decided to take it up a notch. The goal was to add some distance and tackle my first four-thousand-foot summit in twenty months, and twenty-second on the list of sixty-seven New England 4,000-footers.
Instead of excitement, I felt anxiety about the added distance and elevation, afraid of setting myself back and crushing my spirits yet again, as I long ago became a statistical outlier in my recovery time. We thoroughly researched the list of remaining 4,000-foot summits accessible for a day trip, and then further researched trails to figure out distances, elevation gains, and hiking times. We settled on Mount Moosilauke because of a recently revamped trail allowing for a longer but gradual ascent. This seemed to be the mildest route to the summit of a 4,000-footer, so we locked in on it for our hike.
|Admiring the views from Mount Moosilauke|
That Saturday morning, we headed out early, grabbing coffees for the road. When we approached the trailhead, cars were lined up well down the access road. The hike itself was to be 7.3 miles, but with a quarter-mile hike just to get to the trailhead, it added a half-mile roundtrip. However, the trails leave from near the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, a Lodge – and a series of bunk buildings – maintained by Dartmouth College. Friendly staff greeted us in the main lodge as we checked it out and verified our planned route. They clearly hosted some bigger groups, and with an old building and big lawn nestled at the foot of the mountain, it seemed to be a great place for families, camps, or other groups to bond over shared adventure.
Our journey started at 10:30 and finished just before 4:00 that afternoon. All of the usual hiking elements showed up: legs burning from a long grind; woods giving way to scrub pines which, in turn, gave way to windswept grasses and exposed rock; views opening up to eventually reveal a panoramic view of surrounding mountains, dormant ski resorts, and roads snaking between villages and farms; lunch on the summit, sheltered from the constant wind behind some rocks; and bodies ready to finish a little before they actually could. Several rainbows even broke out on the summit. In short: a good and normal hike, the way it’s supposed to be.
|Mount Moosilauke's open summit affords great views of the ridgeline and mountains beyond|
Mount Moosilauke is near Loon Mountain ski resort and Lincoln, one of the bigger towns around. It’s even closer to Woodstock, home of the Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery, which features award-winning craft beers and a fantastic pub, with outdoor seating. We’d last been here two years before. A late season snowstorm on Memorial Weekend altered our plans, and after a couple of cold, wet day hikes, we enjoyed a hot shower and heated bathroom floor before chowing down and then sleeping on an extremely comfortable mattress.
|Tough apres-hike decisions to make at the|
Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery in Loon, NH!
We opted to stop for some post-hike grub before spending a couple of hours driving home. We managed to snag one of the final outdoor tables available before the dinner rush. Over a refreshing beer and some of the better nachos we’ve ever eaten, we quizzed ourselves on the names and order of 4,000-footers we’ve done to date. Reluctantly, we paced ourselves on the nachos. Even more reluctantly, we cashed out and headed home, sorry to not spend the night.
My feet were mostly a non-issue, leaving me happy that the hike focused on the views, the conversation, the challenge to our bodies, and the chance to happily process it all afterwards. This was a chance to just lose ourselves in our hike and in our day. It was great in its ordinariness. With summer now in full swing, I’m less anxious and more hopeful that there are more of these times in store.
See you on the trails,
Jay, AKA Rockhopper