Can you mark time with a mountain? Can you track the phases of your life with the summits? I can... Moosilauke has been the sight of a handful of firsts for me; My first 4000 Footer, My first winter 4000 Footer, the first time I ever put snowshoes on my feet, the start of something new and exciting and at the same time, the end of something stale and poisoning all in one day, and even though it didn't last 9that new and exciting thing), I still remember everything fondly. Moosilauke is the mountain I go back to when I need to feel at peace in a hectic existence where I feel less than I am sometimes. It's the mountain that calls to me when I feel off balance. Then it puts me back in my place and makes me stronger. Walking the trails allows me to think clearly of solutions I need to help myself. So, as you can imagine, in a sea of change, I was called back there today. It promised to be a winter wonderland and it did not disappoint.
Isis and I left the house around 5am and it was later than I wanted but probably the right time just the same. The sun rose while we were traveling and I was calm on the ride up. That was until the herd of Turkeys clogged up I93... Lucky for me I was able to stop and let them pass. We turned off at Exit 32 and headed towards Woodstock. The snow was coating the ground and I thought about 118 and the trail head plus, my newly fixed car and not wanting any more bills! Would there be ice and would the gate be opened? My answer was yes, there was ice on 118 but it was surprisingly in good shape and the salt truck lead most of the way to the trail head. The gate was OPEN so, no road walk for us. I am sue that it will be closed soon though. My money is on next weekend. We parked and left enough room for us to get out (provided whom ever parked behind us did the same which was not the case on return but we got out anyway!). It was not so busy at the lodge today and the road was in good shape. I knew that it would melt as the sun came up though and provide ice for the ride home.
I got my pack on and we were off around 7:40am. We took the walk by the lodge and over to the trails which was in get shape. Not too much snow down low. Maybe about 3 inches in places. We started climbing on the Gorge Brook Trail and stepped carefully on the still exposed rocks. There is not a whole lot of ice so, my spikes are getting a ride at this point too. Isis was enjoying the snow and playing with the snowballs she could find. We made it to the turn for the reroute section of the Gorge Brook Trail in no time and that was when I knew we were making good time for the day. Still no need for Microspikes at all. On the reroute, we broke trail for it (even though it was only 3 inches deep). Isis was out in front and loved it.
Once back on the original Gorge Brook trail, it was not long before our first rest stop. At the Ross Mckenney plaque, we stopped for some food and a rest. My Merrill White Outs were perfect for the cold today and I believe my Asolos have been retired for the winter now. I cleaned off the plaque at the end of our rest and Isis jumped up. Perfect photo op! This is where the climb really starts and my next sight is on my favorite out look. The first view I ever saw in the White Mountains. As we walked, I felt the temps drop and contemplated Isis' coat (which was wrapped around my soup thermos). I decided to hold off until tree line. We were over come by two gentlemen hikers who had been following my trail breaking and were now little disappointed that I would let them pass. I was doing a dog check for paws and cold so, they had little choice and why not share the breaking trail wealth? Everyone was in great spirits. Shortly after they passed, another hiker came up the trail and this gentleman, I knew and he knew me. It was Larry from my winter Bonds and a few other hikes. Always nice to see a familiar face. He was looking for the new blowdown and had his saw to clear it. Isis and I took our time to get to tree line from here. We caught up to Larry at the blow down and I put on Isis' coat and my balaclava. The wind would be blowing at the summit for sure.
The snow was getting deeper as we climbed and it was also shaping up to be a winter playground for me. Just like my January climb back in 2012 (my first winter peak). Isis and I break tree line and to my surprise, the wind is not that bad. You can feel the low temps but the last 200ft of climb is not that bad at all. We run into Larry on his way back down and we discuss how wonderful today is and how much we are looking forward to winter. We also mention that snowshoes might have been good up here today as the snow was drifting to my knees in places. Once completely open on our way to the summit, I felt the winds and we made our final approach I was happy to see the familiar sight of the summit sign. It had been stolen and thank goodness replaced. Now it just needs to weather. The wind was blustery on the summit and Isis curled up near my pack as I scurried around taking pictures until my phone froze from eh cold. I got a few more panorama shots and another group of hikers approached and I was able to have my summit photo taken. This was my 6th visit and Isis' 3rd.
We did not stay long on the summit because of the wind and made our way to shelter on the Carriage road. Again, it was great to see the rebuilt cairns from those that had been toppled. This mountain is a beloved mountain and it breaks my heart when people disrespect it and that was what happened in the spring. So to see it put back together, made my heart smile. Once in a sheltered spot, I took my pack off and was able to get Isis some food and I had some nice warm soup. Thai sweet potato was back to get me through the season and it really hit the spot. There is nothing like something warm after being in such a cold environment. Ready to go again, we made our way easily down the carriage road. Again you can use snowshoes here and it would even out the trail as well as get it in great shape for the winter. We run into a few others by South Peak and have a great chat as we are approached by another dog. Not a peep out of Isis and I am proud of her. We get going again and it takes no time to get to the snapper trail. From there it's 1.7 back to the Ravine Lodge. The Snapper trail is rocky but manageable with the snow fall. All water crossings both ascending and descending were bridged or rock hopable. On the snapper trail we ran into a couple who were relocating from Texas and had the pleasure of taking their picture for them. So many nice people on the trails today and so many good experiences. The scenery was outstanding above tree line and all trails are in great shape thanks to the Dartmouth Outing Club!
Back at the car by 1:30pm... Great time for me who hikes kind of slow and steady. This beloved mountain was the back drop of yet another moment. I measure life by the moments I have and a lot have been had on this mountain. It calls me back when I need to refocus and think of solutions to how I can make myself better in some way. If there was a mountain I was ever grateful for, it is my beloved Moosilauke. I can rest now with a plan to keep moving forward and to hopefully keep climbing higher.