Dartmouth has a tradition of “Freshman Trips” (now “DOC Trips”) going back almost a hundred years. Before the new first-year students begin life on campus, they spend three days in the New Hampshire wilderness backpacking, biking, canoeing, etc., in small groups. On the last night they converge on Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for a grand evening of dining, dancing, and stories. It is a truly special program, and every year more than 90% of incoming students participate, along with hundreds of upper-class leaders and staff. Totally student run, totally amazing way to begin the Dartmouth experience.
This year, of course, is different. My son Andy is entering Dartmouth as a freshman – but this year, there are no traditional Freshman Trips. So Andy and I walked up to Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for a picnic dinner at sunset. Mara ’22 was the Loj Croo . It was a beautiful evening.
It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me, that I was back out on the trail early on my second morning out of quarantine. Not long after sunrise, I drove north along the Connecticut River and then hanging a right through the morning fog toward Moosilauke, my spiritual home in the White Mountains. This route takes me from the town of Lyme north through Orford and northeast to Warren, past the barns and pastures of riverbottom farmland, past the B&B Inns and historic sites that normally draw tourists, past the auto-body shops and driveways filled with pickup trucks. Today it was also striking to drive left to right through the political spectrum, beginning with the Black Lives Matter signs in Lyme and transitioning to the Trump-Pence campaign signs in Orford and eventually to the Trump 2020: No more bullshit sign in Warren.
I arrived early and parked at the satellite parking area – the road is gated because Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is closed due to the pandemic. Sigh; this adds a mile-and-a-half to the round-trip distance. Still, the sky was brilliant blue and the morning air was cool. I made quick time, up Snapper to Carriage Road, pausing to visit South Peak, and then on to the main summit. Only then did I see another person – after two hours and almost four miles of hiking. A light breeze blew across the summit, while the cool morning air forced clouds to form and then dissipate as the breeze passed over the higher peaks to the northeast. Four other hikers were already at the summit, sitting suitably far apart.
I didn’t stay long, and headed down the Gorge Brook Trail – thus completing the classic circuit in the opposite direction from my normal pattern. As expected, I encountered many more hikers on my way down. All were kind enough to step aside, or would thank me after I stepped aside; about a third would pop on a mask while passing by. (Personally, I don’t see a need for a mask while hiking outdoors, in a breeze, when the contact time is less than 10 seconds, and only make an effort to keep distance during passing.)
The terrain here is so different than Switzerland, but so beautiful in its own way, and so full of memories. A wonderful day.
A gorgeous sunny day on Moosilauke, with an undercast across Vermont and southern New Hampshire. Deep snow, temps in 20s, no wind – amazing day!
I’d heard that the mountains were in “full winter conditions” already. I finally had a chance to check it out today. What I found was astonishing – deep powder snow like mid-winter, but in November! (Ok, today is December 1st, but it’s also November 31st, and I’m gonna go with that.) Be sure to check out the photos, and read on for more! Continue reading “Moosilauke in early winter”
I managed to get in one fantastic hike every month.
It was a great winter – once it got started, there was deep snow and many days with outstanding conditions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to get out and enjoy it. Still, I managed to get in one fantastic hike every month.
A lovely day for a hike up Mount Carr, an unassuming 3,400′ bump to the southeast of Mount Moosilauke. I had never visited this peak, so when a friend suggested we try it out I was ready to hit the trail. The lower slopes were bare of snow but it is, after all, still “winter” so none of the trees or undergrowth have started to leaf out. The overnight cold formed a skim of ice across all the puddles and many of the smaller streams, their fascinating patterns glinting in today’s bright sunshine. (See photos!) The upper slopes held a crusty but shallow snowpack, and rippled ice floes.
At the rocky summit we could climb on the footings of the long-since-removed fire tower and see the white-capped Mount Moosilauke, Franconia Range, and Presidential Range. I hope to return to the neighborhood and explore the other peaks in the Wentworth-Rumney area!
Despite summiting this mountain a dozen times last year, I just can’t stay away. This weekend I headed up the mountain early on a sunny Sunday morning with two good friends – my ’86 classmate Jen and her husband Lars. After dropping overnight gear at MRL we strolled up the Gorge Brook trail with 3-4″ of fresh powder to decorate the trees and soften the earlier hard-packed base. The blue skies did not last, but the grey overcast stayed high and we were treated to spectacular views of the Whites from the newly re-opened overlooks. The summit was freshly coated in delicate rime-ice feathers, but the wind was calm and the temp reasonable so we were able to sit and enjoy the view with about a dozen other hikers who reached the summit at noon. Check out the photos!
After a quick descent we retired to John Rand cabin for a delicious dinner (thanks Jen!), joined by another classmate Lelia and the Hooke family. The Hookes and I stayed overnight, as a light snow began to fall. With 3″ by breakfast and 6″ by our noon departure, with heavy snow continuing, it’s beginning to look like Winter has finally come to Moosilauke.
I’ve probably hiked Moosilauke over 60 times – I just love this mountain. For 2015 I decided to “grid” Moosilauke by climbing it at least once per month (some people are crazy enough to climb all of the 48 of the NH 4,000-foot mountains every month of the year, aka, “The Grid“). To avoid too much repetition, I also decided to “redline” the mountain by traveling all of its trails at least once. I had not visited some of these trails in over 20 years! It was fun to get up there in all seasons and in a huge range of conditions from nasty winter white-outs to glorious sunshine. Today I finished, on one of those gorgeous blue-sky days on which you can see all of the Vermont and New Hampshire peaks. See all 12 months and more photos here.
I spent six beautiful days at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge with a team of wonderful chubbers & friends who were there for the timber-framing workshop hosted by Dave Hooke ’84 and his TimberHomes crew. In the span of six days we learned how to lay out, cut, and raise timber posts, bents, braces, struts, and all manner of heavy wooden contraptions. Amazing that Dave et al. actually entrusted us with a variety of sharp tools and valuable timbers! We were guided by a team of excellent instructors, and managed to put up the main part of the frame (porches to be added later) and lay down the first course of roofing. It looks like a bunkhouse! It is located in a new clearing beyond Bicentennial and behind the ’74 Bunkhouse.
Thanks to the Class of ’66 for their generous donation, to the Lodge Crew for the amazing food, and to Dave, Josh, Skip, Shannon, Andrew, and Helen for their outstanding instruction.