Appalachian Trail backpacking

Moosilauke summit

The boys and I recently took a three-day backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) not far from home. [See photo gallery.] Pam dropped us off at a remote road crossing on Cape Moonshine Road, Lake Armington and just south of Ore Hill.  Andy and John were wearing new backpacks and carrying more than they ever had before, which was helpful, but my pack still managed to weigh in at 52 pounds.  It’s a good thing we didn’t have an aggressive agenda.

Our goal for the first day was Wauchipauka Pond, about 5.5-6.5 miles (depending on which sign, map, or guidebook you believe) north along the A.T.  Given our crack-of-dawn start (um, noon) we had to move right along.  We stopped for lunch at the clearing that once was Ore Hill Shelter – which burned to the ground last fall – and then strolled along the gentle slopes over Ore Hill.  I was excited to be here, because I had been part of the crew to start cutting this new section of trail, 27 years earlier, but had never walked the completed trail.

It was hot and humid, and slow going as we slogged up Mount Mist. Although not high (2230′) we were all tired and Andy’s backpack was giving him trouble.

Summit of Mount Mist
Andy and John on the little summit of Mount Mist

We were glad, then, as we tumbled downhill toward Wauchipauka Pond. I had blown past here twice in the past, never really stopping to look.  It turns out to be a beautiful pond, really a small lake, with fantastic camping. We were too late for the premium lakeside spot on a prominent peninsula, but settled in nicely and went for a swim as the sun set and the frogs came out.  The frogs! We listened to bullfrogs calling to each other across the lake, all night.  Wow they are loud!

For our second day our target was Jeffers Brook Shelter, a relatively easy 5 miles up the trail.  We did have to go over Wyatt Hill, but it wasn’t much of a climb. The crossing of Oliverian Brook at Route 25, however, was tricky.  Tropical Storm Irene had blown through here last fall, and the Brook clearly became a flood, washing out the riverbank and creating a 6′ cliff where the trail used to be. But we found a way around, and up the last mile to the shelter, reaching there for a late lunch at 2pm. Right before the shelter we found a fantastic swimming hole, in Oliverian Brook, for a refreshing (viz. cold!)  swim on this hot and humid day. The boys spent a long time “washing” John’s shirt by throwing it repeatedly into the waterfall.

We shared the shelter with five A.T. thru-hikers, all pleasant fellows but definitely members of that unique subculture. They were 1700 miles into their journey and literally on the doorstep of the White Mountains. The next day they, and we, were headed for Mount Moosilauke.

Moosilauke is my favorite mountain, and I estimate that I’ve climbed it over 50 times. This would be one of the few times I’ve climbed the Glencliff Trail in summer, however, and the first time with a full pack.

Tiny spring along Glencliff trail
Tiny spring along Glencliff trail

Before lunch, our goal was to hike the 4.2 miles and climb the 3500′ of elevation gain.  Given Andy’s challenges and complaints about his backpack, I decided to ditch the contents of his pack, and the tent, in the woods near the road, to lighten his load. He did well, cheerily hiking along. John and I worked hard, again in the heat and humidity, to carry full packs up to the top.  Although we left the shelter before the thru-hikers, they all blew past us soon enough, headed for more distant targets that day.

We reached the summit by 1pm, right on target, but by then the clouds had rolled in and enveloped the summit.  The summit itself was invisible even from the ridge as we approached. Too bad, this summit has the best views in the Whites!

Moosilauke summit
On the summit of Moosilauke

After a quick lunch of salami and cheese and crackers and oranges – somehow I carried the heaviest lunch for three days and up the highest peak – we dropped off the peak as a few raindrops fell. The trip down was slow, as John’s ankle and my knee reminded us of past injuries, so we were grateful to reach the cool waters of the Baker River around 5pm. We soaked and cooled off there, then headed up to the Ravine Lodge for showers.

Pam and Mara met us there for dinner which, as always, was tasty and filling. MRL is Famous For Fine Food!

See the photo gallery! The boys did great. We covered 20 miles, with full packs, and had a good time. I hope we can do more this fall!

Map of the section where we hiked
DOC Map of the relevant section

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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