Mount Moosilauke

Images from
this date

What You

Progress Map

Other Images

Contact Gonzo!


Aug 20 , 1983 Saturday (396.7 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Not sunny at all this morning. As a matter of fact, it was foggy. Hopefully the fog was only resting in the valley waiting for the sun to burn it off. Today I officially enter the White Mountains, the land that hikers hear about on the trip north as being tough, but really worth it. From the look of the profile, I am sure it will be tough. The climb is almost five miles and involves a change in elevation of almost four thousand feet! Sounded like the toughest climb yet! The trail followed a road for a while just past the shelter, and the map indicated a state sanitarium just a little farther up the road. Probably populated by hikers who lost their minds after attempting such a climb. I turned from the road into the woods and the climb began. There were water flows everywhere on the trail and I tried to go up as fast as I could in my usual manner, but soon learned that that is not the way things are done in the Whites. I learned that I had to go more slowly if I wanted to make the ascent in one shot without breaks. No switchbacks, just up, up, up. The trail also made use of large rocks as "steps." My new White Mountain speed that did not take long to learn: SLOW!

The trail began to become even more rocky and vegetation became more of the scrub variety. Low growing evergreen type trees. The smell of the holidays was back. About a mile from the summit, the trail joined the Old Carriage Trail coming in from the right that years ago, near the turn of the century, was used to transport vacationers to the Summit House on top of Mount Moosilauke. With the size of the boulders sunk in the trail, I could only imagine how bumpy that horse drawn carriage ride must have been.

As I neared the summit I broke out of the scrub growth and entered the "above treeline" section. At this point the combination of weather, altitude and latitude produce a situation where no trees are able to survive, and what grasses and other small plants do survive there do so precariously. Stepping off the trail can possibly kill a plant, therefore it is recommended that hikers stay on the trail to minimize damage and prevent erosion. Above treeline there was nothing but fog. I could only see a few feet in front of me as I watched for white blazes painted on the rocks under my feet and occasionally some on the larger boulders. The guide book mentions that there are ruins of the summit house on the summit, and goes on to say "from the summit the trail descends…." I found the ruins of some building, but not at the highest point. Of course I could not really see the highest point and so I looked for blazes descending from that point. I found none. I followed what few white blazes I could see and finally located a small weatherworn sign that indicated .1 miles to what turned out to be the actual summit. Near the summit the wind and fog were severe, with moisture condensing upon the lenses of my glasses, not helping the visibility any. I decided I had better get down to a "safer" altitude. I had my rainjacket over my wool sweater to keep me warm, but my legs were exposed. I could tell there were trails leaving the summit, but the markings were so poor that I could not tell which one was the A.T. - if any were. I backtracked back to the summit house. I found no trails leaving from there, so back to the summit I went. I picked one of the trails from the summit and began the descent. I went down following rock cairns and just about got blown off the mountain by a strong blast of wind along an open area. I found no white blazes after a ¼ to ½ mile, so to keep from getting lost I backtracked to the summit once more through the blowing wind and drizzle. I frantically got out the guide and read it again. I chose another trail and did the same again. Still not the right trail. I was beginning to become somewhat scared, I did not want to go back the way I came. I needed to find the trail to the north and move on. My next attempt was the last trail that I could have chosen and I eventually found my familiar white blaze, very faint, off in the fog. I headed down the mountain and quickly ducked into the shelter provided by the low scrub growth several hundred feet farther down the side of the mountain. The descent was not so bad for about a mile and a half, and then, well - all I can say is that it was practically straight down, at least it was some of the steepest trail I had encountered yet.

I passed several "tourons," a name given to those other than thru-hikers in the Whites, on the way down the steep, quite vertical section. I had difficulty scrambling down some of the sections over slanting rock slabs. The combination of the steepness and the water flowing all around, together with the mud between the rocks, made the conditions less than desirable.

Just before Kinsman Notch, I took a break at Beaver Brook Shelter Lean-to where I thought about staying, but decided to push on. Today was Saturday, and the shelter was too close to the road for comfort. Besides, I had only gone just under ten miles - even though they were some of the toughest hiking that I had ever done.

On the way out of Kinsman Notch I passed some boy scouts, and then two girls from New York. The skies began to clear as I made my way toward the summit of Wolf Mountain and eventually I did get treated to some "views." There was a section of new trail near a major powerline intersecting the trail just before Eliza Brook Shelter. At the shelter I finally caught up with John Smart and his dog Smokie. Another hiker, Irv Warfield "The Trail Walker" was in residence too, but both had just finishing their breaks and tried to convince me to move ahead to the Kinsman Pond Shelter. I declined, even though I had now caught up with John, a friend from way down south and two years ago. Fourteen point seven miles for the day as an introduction to the Whites was enough for me! Just past the shelter began another steep climb up Kinsman Mountain. I would save that for tomorrow. The two hikers left, but soon after the two girls from New York arrived and decided to spend the night. The boy scouts also made their home by the stream. I tuned my radio in to the Saturday night program on PBS, which included "A Prairie Home Companion", and introduced the girls to the show that I always tried to pick up on Saturday nights. Listening to Garrison Keillor weave his stories about Lake Wobegon while high in the New Hampshire Mountains made the evening special. The clouds pulled back and left a bright moon flooding the landscape with light. Maybe tomorrow the sky would be clear and provide some of those great White Mountain views.

One of the girls carried a Sierra cup. I saw potential in having one of them, so I convinced her to lend it to me tomorrow after she made the distance to Liberty Springs Campsite, where I planned on spending the night.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

Next From the Beginning