While I know some folks have no interest in bushwhacking to a remote, unnamed peak in the wilderness, I am hoping that there are a few who can appreciate a few chuckles from an obscure off-trail adventure.
Earlier this year, in April, my hiking buddy Mark and I were traversing the Carter range. Stopping for a bite to eat on the ledges of North Carter, I noticed in the distance in the Wild River Wilderness a prominent peak along a ridge and wondered what mountain it was. Taking a few photos, I promptly forgot about it, enjoying the magical wintery landscape.
It was months later while speaking with bushwhacking guru Steve Smith at the Mountain Wanderer when I remembered the little peak and mentioned it to him. “Aha!” he said. “That is one of the best little hidden peaks in the Whites!” Of course, he had been there already, even mentioning it in his book “Wandering Through the White Mountains”.
So, yet another obscure location was added to my giant list of hikes to do! After a few false starts earlier in the Summer, Thursday arrived and the expedition was a go!
As usual, I started a bit late and did not arrive at the Wild River campground until after 11 AM, a far cry from my 9 AM plan. The journey up the beautiful Moriah Brook trail was a pleasure as always – this is one of my favorite trails. Lots of birch trees and a beautiful brook to enjoy with complete solitude.
My plan was to head up the ridge somewhere west of Moriah Gorge, then possibly traverse the entire ridge over to the Carter-Moriah Trail near Mount Moriah. The ledgy areas near the trail were a bit of a concern to me, so I figured I would take it one step at a time.
Moriah Gorge was flowing lightly due to all the dry weather we had been enjoying. I continued along the brook until it crossed a second time back to the North bank. When I reached the cascades, I decided it was time to break from the trail.
Strangely enough, there was a herd path from the cascades up to a nice campsite on the hill above. From there onward, the woods were mostly open, branch-less softwood and easy walking. As I got higher and higher along the ridge, I occasionally popped out into the open on sunny slabs of rock. Finally, at one point, I could spy my destination through the trees.
The terrain got steeper and steeper, then suddenly I broke out of the woods and into a huge open birch glade covered with ferns! Large herd paths cris-crossed the glade, and moose scat was everywhere. The glade went on and on, steeply climbing the slope. The ferns covered the ground and hid all kinds of tripping hazards, but it was worth it just to enjoy the open beauty of the place! I think that I spent close to an hour climbing the glade – it was that extensive!
The fern path got narrower and narrower, and as it crested the top of the ridge the thick spruce closed in. I could see daylight above a large boulder ahead, so I scrambled up through the trees onto a sunny slab and climbed it to the top. Here was a good open rest spot on glassy quartz ledges within sight of the goal.
Back into the spruce and up the next few hundred feet. The peak ahead had some cliffy areas on the south side, so I circled around to the north and then up. This last pitch was quite steep and a bit rough, with a few ledges along the way to check out the views. Within another half hour, I broke from the scrub and onto the summit.
Climbing to the top slab, I was treated to a panorama of unobstructed views in every direction. The Carters and Presidentials to the west, Shelburne Moriah and the Mahoosucs to the North, the Baldfaces and Evans Notch to the east, Chocorua peeking over Carter Dome to the south. The wind was non-existent, and the skies were clear. I spent a good hour or two soaking in the sun and the views.
At one point while resting at the top, I heard a loud slapping sound, getting closer and closer, like someone clapping their hands loudly and quickly. I could not see anything making the noise. At that moment, I noticed a swirl of leaves and dust heading towards me. I moved to the side as this miniature tornado, not even as tall as me, wandered past me making loud slapping noises until it hit the bushes and “exploded”. Silence returned immediately. I have never seen such a thing, and still have a hard time believing it!
Anyway, after hanging out for a long time, I didn’t feel it was wise to strike it over to the end of the ridge, not being certain of the terrain. The southern slope of the peak looked like it was manageable, so I headed straight down, figuring to hit the tributary brook that feeds Moriah Brook and follow it down to the trail. The terrain sloped down steeply, and there was much hanging on to trees and climbing down rock faces. I followed a dry stream bed for a while until finding a yellowjacket hive… a mad dash and one sting later, I smartly stuck to the woods after that. The stream was never out of earshot, and it brought me back exactly to where I had gone in several hours before!
The stroll back along the brook was a great way to end an interesting day. Another little peak explored!