We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed up to Moosilauke this weekend. We were looking for something close, not too long, and high yield (i.e., had good views), and the mountain did not disappoint. My big failing as a hiker getting up early–I just associate it with going to work. When the weekend rolls around, I want to sleep in! This was especially true on Saturday after a late Friday night get-together with co-workers. So I did some math and figured out that we could leave at the luxurious hour of 10AM, get to Ravine Rd by noonish, and still have plenty of time to summit and get back to the trailhead before dark. However, the NH DOT did not get the memo, and so instead of zipping on up I93 we sat in stopped traffic in a road construction site for what felt like hours (and was actually at least an hour).
On the bright side, this provided an ideal opportunity to try out some night hiking!
We changed our itinerary a bit–instead of a loop using Snapper Trail, Carriage Road, and Gorge Brook, we opted for a straight out and back on Gorge Brook, reasoning that it would prepare us the return trip in low light.. There was no snow on the ground at the foot of Ravine Rd, but up at the trailhead there was a generous dusting. Gorge Brook Trail starts off after the brook crossing with a bit of a rocky uphill. Along this stretch we passed an older gentleman in a green Dartmouth sweatshirt heading back to the trailhead, who called us late risers. A few steps behind him, a companion tactfully asked if we had headlamps (we did, and spare batteries, too). The trail flattens out and then runs along the brook bank, making for a very picturesque stretch, and then turns away from the brook to a winding section. Along this stretch, three other groups passed us and reminded us that we’d be hiking in the dark (we knew). Really, it was a surprisingly easy trail. If I hadn’t felt pressured to keep moving quickly and summit before sunset, it would have been downright leisurely. And with the early dusting of snow, it was absolutely beautiful.
It got better when we started to break out of the trees.
And then closer to the summit, where every surface was covered in rime.
The summit itself, with us…
…and with the sun sinking lower.
Sunset begins, as seen from just below Moosilauke’s summit.
It started to get dark almost immediately after we got below treeline. I would estimate that we made it another 1-1.5 miles off of the reflected light of dusk on the snow, and then had to put headlamps on. It was actually great on the snowier sections–the rockier ones were a different story. My headlamp was pretty weak, and without good shadows it was liking walking into a 2D image.
But…we made it, and made it uninjured, and in quite good time (I believe around 4-4.5 hours round trip). I would have no qualms about night hiking with a slightly stronger headlamp in packed below-treeline winter conditions after this hike. The microspikes helped immensely, as did the lovely packed snow surfaces that come in the winter. It was a good taste of things to come!
(Pictures to follow)