Mt Moriah and a (Mt) Surprise

March 7, 2015.

This was a shot in the dark that the trail would be broken out. Armed with all my maps I headed up to Gorham in the hopes that the northern end of Carter Moriah Trail was in any condition to head up to Mt Moriah. Stopping at the very slow servicing Dunkin Donuts (ten minutes to get a breakfast sandwich) and I pull onto Bangor Road and drive to the end. Bangor Road is a dead road with available parking at the end across from some houses. The trailhead is located at the end of the road and pulling up the first thing I noticed is all the yellow dots in the snow. Paint ballers! Yeah, no way I am taking the chance of parking here but the good news is the trail has seen a lot of activity. I end up parking just down the road where there is a pullout plowed across from the suspension bridge over the Peabody River. It is right at the spot where the snowmobilers cross the street so I figured the more activity the safer the parking. Eating my breakfast while waiting for the GPS to get its location and then it is time to go hit the trail.

I'm all ready to go and it is 7:45 as I head back up the road to the trail. I carried my snowshoes up and as I approach the trail I am glad I did. The area before the snowbank is a mine field of dog crap. Reinforces my decision not to park here. Climbing up and over the snowbank and after putting on the snowshoes I am off. The trail immediately climbs up the embankment for about a hundred yards reaching a plateau where I stop to take a picture looking down.

 

The trail is a breeze in this area as it is really packed down in the open woods. The sun is up and hopefully going to be a good day for some views. It's 0° out with no breeze as I make my way through these woods with the only sound coming from the traffic down on Route 16 and the clomping of my snowshoes.

 

A little over an hour from starting and I see an opening ahead. Approaching it and it turns out to be a dud as there is a very restricted view of Pine Mt. A few minutes later and I see a larger opening off to my right and taking the chance plow my way through the deep unbroken snow to see if it is worth it. The reward is worth it as North Carter is partially visible above the trees.

 

Across the valley are Mt Washington, Adams and Madison all hovering in the clouds. Down lower is Pine Mt which pales in comparison to all the surrounding peaks. There are a couple of trails on that mountain that I still have to do.

 

Just up the trail and the ominous (joke) peak of Mt Surprise is right off the trail to the left about ten feet higher than the trail. I bushwhack (another joke) through the thick vegetation to stand on the summit. The easiest mountain I have summitted to date. If not for it being on a map you would never know it was there.

 

Continuing on and the trail reaches a series of ledges with views to the north towards Mt Hayes and Bald Cap. Hayes I did back when I met up with Peaches and Cream last August. Bald Cap has a set of open ledges that I visited back in October when doing a bunch of trails in the Shelburne area. The ledges are to the right and in front of the summit. There is no trail to the actual summit of Bald Cap.

 

Turning around and Middle Moriah and it's bare summit looks inviting. I'm hoping the Kenduskeag Trail, which is part of the AT, is broken out so I can come down that way making a loop out of this hike. Down below and the town of Gorham is visible.

 

A bit further up and a pano shot from another open ledge of Mt Washington, Adams, Madison and Pine Mt.

Heading back into the woods and the easy part of the day is over. The trail begins to get steeper and bent over and blown down trees make their appearance which I have become accustomed to this season.

 

Plugging along as the trail also has a few annoying ups and downs I slowly make my way up the steep sections and finally arrive at the short spur trail that leads to the summit of Moriah. At this junction there is an open view towards Maine. The furthest I can see today is coincidentally Old Speck, where I was last week.

 

Heading up the spur trail and I am on the summit of Mt Moriah. I haven't been up here since April of 2012 when I was doing the 48 4000 footers. At the summit there is an old triangulation marker chiseled into the rock summit with the newer brass disk embedded inside the triangle. It's possible that this triangle was chiseled back in 1879 when a Professor Quimby was doing some triangulation work (from "Report of the Superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey 1882". This is purely a guess on my part as to when the triangle was carved.

From the summit of Moriah there are 360° views. Albeit not great ones today but respectable. Following the ridgeline towards the south is Mt Hight, Carter Dome, Middle and North Carter. Turning to the right and Adams and Madison are finally cloud free.

 

Across the Wild River Valley is Sable, Chandler, Kearsarge North and North Doublehead. Behind me are Middle Moriah and Shelburne Moriah where the AT heads north just to the right of Middle Moriah passing through the col in between Middle Moriah and Shelburne Moriah before dropping down to Route 2.

 

Back down to the trail and I turn right going down the steep section that when not buried under all this snow is a tricky rock scramble. At the bottom is the tee junction with Kenduskeag Trail. Right is the continuation of Carter Moriah Trail and left is Kenduskeag Trail. Unfortunately I will not be taking that trail down as it hasn't seen any traffic this winter.

 

So an out and back this hike will be, mother nature rules. Up the steep section to the junction with the spur and back down the trail I go. Along the way and a picture of one of the blazes and how low it is with the snowpack. Normally they are about five to six feet off the ground. About an hour later and I spy an open ledge through the trees ahead of me and don't recall going over it on the way up. It is a high point along the ridgeline and I don't think too much about it. As I get moving again I meet the only hikers I would see all day. A couple coming up the trail and the guy is barebooting it. Normally I really don't care what someone is wearing and I don't think too much about that either until later (stay tuned). Getting closer to the high point and the trail skirts below it and I get another peek of it from the trail. It is a good thirty to fifty feet higher and I look briefly to see if there is a way up from here. It is a steep drop off from the top from this vantage point and going back doesn't look promising so I continue on.

 

I vaguely remember that there is supposed to be a brief view of Moriah from the trail and where the woods opens up a bit I look back sure enough I can just see the top of Moriah. The terrain to the left (as I am heading down) of the trail rises up so what the heck and I jump into the deep snow and even though I am a bit higher the trees are blocking the view I want. In front of me is a wall of spruce trees but to the right is a somewhat open area and I make my way over towards it. The snow is deep and I take my time being careful not to get stuck in a spruce trap. Between some trees and then bearing to my left up I continue. It really opens up and I get excited at what may be up on top. Slowly I make my way up and then I am standing on top of this unnamed knob out in the open with some of the best views of the day.

 

What a little gem. I have not heard about this little spot in any report and just reaching this destination is worth the trip. A clear shot of the ridge where I spotted this knob from and Moriah right in front of me.

 

A good view of the Imp and North Carter to my right. And turning more to my right Mt Washington is almost out of the clouds.

 

Still turning clockwise is Jefferson and Adams with Madison are cloud free.

 

Beyond that is Mt Cabot with its ledges all white from the snow. In front of Cabot is Black Crescent Mt with the Ice Gulch (I hiked through there back in August) somewhat visible. Starting on the left side there is the white ledge that the spruce tree is partially covering. There is the pointed pick in the middle range and just below it is the Ice Gulch visible with the white cleft.

 

Heading back down and there is another opening looking out towards Maine. One can follow the AT across the ridges all the way to Old Speck. Down in front is Cascade Mt and the notch in the center is Trident Pass. The trail passes over all that then in front of Bald Cap.

 

Gentian Pond is where the range takes a dip on the left and the AT goes back over Mt Success, Mt Carlo, Goose Eye Mt to Old Speck in the back. Finally a view of the knob I was on from Google Earth.

 

Time to get moving as I make it back to the trail and continue down. The lower I get the more I dislike what the guy who is barebooting is doing to the trail. It was a really nice track when I came up through but this guy is tearing up the trail making a mess out of it. Like I said earlier I usually don't care but when you are being disrespectful to the trail and hiking community then it's a different story. To add to it all he had his snowshoes strapped to his pack. As I make my way down the postholing/chewing up the trail gets worse because the two of them were barebooting it up from the road to a certain point until she decided to put her snowshoes on. What was a pretty smooth trail is now a mess and only going to get worse if he descends without his snowshoes. At one of the ledges above Mt Surprise a parting shot of the Northern Presi's and from this vantage point Mt Surprise actually looks like a mountain.

 

About an hour later and I am back down at Bangor Road and a very enjoyable day with a sweet find on that bald knob.


Final numbers: 9.4 miles, 7 hours and 5 minutes.

Redline Miles: 4.5, Total to Date: 721.8