Moosilauke trailwork

A day of clearing blowdowns and water bars.

I had the opportunity to spend this weekend at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of a subset of the Dartmouth Outing Club known as Cabin & Trail. Although the celebratory aspect of the weekend was muted – by virtue of being postponed two years due to the pandemic – the real purpose of the gathering was in full swing. A couple dozen hardy alums gathered on Saturday morning for a day of trailwork, sweeping the trails of Mount Moosilauke to remove the winter’s debris of blown-down trees and sediment-filled waterbars (stones and logs used for diverting water from the trails). Although Friday night’s weather involved heavy rain, Saturday morning woke clear with only light clouds.

Saturday morning view from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

My group was assigned to hike up the Ridge Trail to the junction with the Beaver Brook Trail, where an illegal campsite had emerged over recent years – we needed to erase that campsite by filling it with debris that would discourage anyone from camping. Here’s the happy crew, after cluttering the campsite behind us.

The crew who erased a campsite at intersection of Beaver Brook and Ridge Trail: Lelia, Kevin, Jeff, Bernie; photo by David Kotz.

We then returned via the same route, chopping trees that had fallen across the trail, sawing off branches that overhung the trail, and shoveling out sediment-filled waterbars.

Jeff Greilsheimer ’94 chops blowdowns on Ridge Trail – with Mount Blue at rear.

We finished the day, dirty and tired, but satisfied by a good day’s work.

The Ridge trail crew: Bernie, Jeff, Kevin, David, Lelia.

Sunday broke even clearer, and sunnier, but sadly I had to depart. I’ll be back soon!

See the photo gallery – including some photos from one of the weekend’s organizers.

Mount Cube

A beautiful day with grand views – and wildflowers.

After a couple of months with little or no hiking, it was time to get back out on the trails. Traditionally, it is appropriate to stay off the trails after the snow melts, until Memorial Day… when the trails have hopefully dried out and are sufficiently stable to accommodate the foot traffic. This morning broke cool and clear, with nary a cloud in the sky. Although I started up the Rivendell Trail toward Mount Cube more than two hours after sunrise, I was nonetheless the first person up the trail this morning. I was treated to grand views from the outlooks and summits, and to the occasional wildflowers along the trails.

David enjoys the view from summit of North Mount Cube; Moosilauke is at far left.

Check out the gallery for more, notably, the panorama from the North summit.

Hike stats:
Distance 7.2km
Time: 2h31m with stops
Gain 473m

Holts Ledge

What a difference a week makes.

A mere five days after I went snowshoeing through winter’s glorious powder in the Kinsman Range, I went hiking with two friends … in decidedly spring conditions. Granted, Holts Ledge is much lower (elevation ~1069′ rather than 4293′) but there was much more snow at the base of the Kinsmans than there was at the summit of Holts. This week’s rain and unseasonably warm weather (close to 60º during our hike) has turned the low-elevation trails into mud, and (no doubt) the higher elevation trails are packed ice.

Ken and Dave on Appalachian Trail, Holts Ledge. Photo by Tim Burdick.

This section (and other low-elevation sections) of the Appalachian Trail is now basically done for the season, and should be avoided until after mud season.

Holts Ledge cliff overlook (near the summit). Snow almost gone!

Ironically, the view above is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway… fewer than 100m from the top of the slopes. There, skiers were still happily skiing on spring-condition snow. At least there were some views, below.

David with Tim Burdick atop Holts Ledge on a late-winter day. Photo by Ken Kaliski.
A stream crossing on Holts Ledge, with plenty of meltwater.

Sigh, we haven’t even reached the spring equinox yet.

Moose Mountain

Revisiting old friends.

Lelia examines some stone steps on the north side of Moose Mountain, along the A.T. section we built freshman year.

It was another pleasant fall day, with moderate temperatures and intermittent sunshine. I took the opportunity to hike with an old friend, Lelia, and to visit another old friend – the Appalachian Trail on the north side of Moose Mountain.

I remember spending many chilly afternoons in the fall of 1982, scrambling through the Hanover forest with other eager first-year undergraduate students, clearing a new route for the Trail on the steep slopes of Moose Mountain. I learned to fell trees, build sidehill cribbing, and build rock steps from huge boulders using nothing but rock bars, strong arms, and the seemingly limitless enthusiasm of 18-year olds. We were pleased to those steps have held up after nearly 40 years and thousands of thru-hikers.

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Ledges of Lyme

Great views, close to home.

The Appalachian Trail passes right through the town of Lyme, where we live. It wanders through the forests, across the brooks, and over the hilly terrain of Moose Mountain, Holts Ledge, and Smarts Mountain. Last weekend I had a little time for two quick hikes along the A.T. On Saturday I scrambled up Lambert Ridge, a shoulder of Smarts Mountain, to a ledgy outcrop that has expansive views to the east. Along the way I listened to the acorns dropping from oak trees all around… and startled a chipmunk, holding one of those prized acorns in his little paws. After a brief standoff, he scampered away.

View from Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain.

On Sunday, I returned to the area and climbed up to Holts Ledge, which has wide views to the south. Here, a chain-link fence keeps hikers away from the edge, not just for safety but to protect the endangered peregrine falcons who nest on the cliffs. This cliff is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway, allowing a nice loop hike by strolling down the grassy ski slopes.

View from Holts Ledge.

The amazing thing is that both of these hikes are only 15-20 minute drive from my house, and can be completed in less than an hour of hike time, so they’re a great opportunity for a break from a busy weekend. See the small gallery.

Smarts Mountain

Wildlife in action.

The spruce-grouse hen, startled from her nesting site, squabbled noisily across the trail as I approached. I was equally startled, as I hiked up the Appalachian Trail on a quiet weekend morning in early June. Surprisingly quiet, actually; mine was the only car in the lot at 7:30am, and I had thus far passed only one small group of hikers – southbound thru-hikers, by the looks of them. So I had been strolling easily up the trail, lost in my own thoughts, when this mother hen leapt into action and directly across the trail in front of me. Read on!

David at the viewpoint on Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain.
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Lambert Ridge

A grey day but a nice outing.

For a few months I’ve been thinking of returning to Lambert Ridge, a ledgy section of the Appalachian Trail up Smarts Mountain, not far from here. The first section is steep, leading up to a series of granite ledges with broad views that belie the relatively low elevation at this point on the trail. The climb to these ledges is a worthwhile dayhike, and brings back memories. Read on!

A ledge outcrop near the trail up Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire.
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Holts Ledge

Sunset traverse of a local favorite.

Another local hike, a repeat of a fall-colors hike I did at the end of October. Today it was chilly, as a cold front blew in and the winds whipped through the leafless trees on the slopes of Holts Ledge as I climbed the Appalachian Trail toward its ledgy summit. There was a dusting of fresh snow on the leaf litter, which crunched slightly under my feet, following the footsteps of a few others who ventured up this trail since last night’s snow flurries.

I always smile when I pass the marker at the roadside, spiked into a small tree by some DOC students a decade or more ago, and slowly becoming one with the tree.

DOC trailsign at the A.T. trailhead to Holts Ledge.

At the top of the ridge – for this is really a ledgy ridge, not a hill with a summit – there were fine views north to Smarts Mountain and southwest to Goose Pond, as the sun nudged close to the horizon around 4pm.

View from Holts Ledge toward Smarts Mountain, with the main ledges in shadow at left..

Some older snow clung to the trail along the ridge, maybe an inch or two surviving the recent warm temperatures. Below you can see some snow in the brush to the right and the rocks below.

View from Holts Ledge toward Mt Cardigan and Goose Pond, with ledges close at right.

I descended via the Dartmouth Skiway “papoose” trail, with barely any snow cover, but as I walked past the base lodge I could see and hear the snow-making apparatus busily coating the trails on the Winslow side of the valley, hoping to be ready for skiers around Christmastime.

Snowmaking at the Skiway

ONE OTHER THING. I’ve been for three walks lately on trails in Hanover or Lyme, and every one of them – every one – has presented me with a disgusting and surprising trailside treat: a modern ‘doggie bag’. Today, it was hanging on a trailside twig; other times it is propped carefully on a tree stump. What is it with dog owners, who think it’s better to leave a plastic-wrapped pile of dogshit in the woods instead of just letting their dog shit in the woods? I mean, what do they think the animals do in the woods? We’re not in a city park here, and there’s not a park staff who might come along and remove this trash. sheesh.

Really folks? It’s far better to just leave the dogshit in the woods, where it will decay with everything else, than to wrap it in plastic that will last for decades.

Mount Cube

The weather this week has been startlingly warm, almost as if summer has lasted into November. Yesterday’s high temperature here at home was 71ºF! It may have been the last ‘summer’ weather of the year – and also the last day before deer-hunting season fully opens – so I was eager to get out for a hike. I try to hike on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds.

Despite a dense fog clinging to the Connecticut River in the early morning, I hopped into the Tesla for an all-electric drive to one of my favorite trailheads – the Rivendell Trail up Mount Cube, only 30 minutes away. I’ve been up this two-mile route many times, because it gives one all the features of a “real mountain climb” without the temporal overhead of a long drive or a long hike… a stroll through leafy hardwood forests, a scramble up rugged rock-strewn trails, the pungent scent of balsam firs, and distant views from its granite outcrops and 2900′ summit. In the view below, from the summit you can see the foggy Connecticut River valley in the upper right and Smarts Mountain at upper left.

Seen from Mount Cube.

Sadly, the summit has poor views to the northeast, but if you stand on tippy-toes and peer between the firs you can pick out Mount Moosilauke. No photos worth taking, so here’s the summit trail sign, where the Appalachian Trail passes by.

Seen from Mount Cube.

Saddleback-Sugarloaf backpack

Andy and I backpacked the Appalachian Trail in Maine, picking up eight 4000-foot peaks along the way.

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Andy heads north from Saddleback Mountain toward The Horn.

The guidebook describes this route as the “most difficult along the A.T. [Appalachian Trail] in Maine”, and after hiking this section, I can certainly see why.  It is incredibly rugged and steep – and we managed to avoid the tough conditions that might have come with rain: slipping down wet trails, and fording high-water streams.

Andy and I set out to backpack the A.T. from Route 4 (near Rangeley) to Route 27 (near Stratton), bagging eight four-thousand-footer peaks along the way.  It was an ambitious five-day, four-night plan, part of my goal to complete the NE111. We had a great time, good weather, nice views, and I succeeded in bagging all eight peaks – but with a twist at the end. Read on, and be sure to check out the photo gallery.

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