October 3, 2015.
A big plan for today, Shelburne Moriah via a huge loop encompassing a long roadwalk. Besides hitting Shelburne Moriah I need to pick up a short piece of trail between Rattle River Trail and Moriah as an out and back. On paper it is doable as long as I get to the trailhead at an early time. The days are getting shorter as it is the first week of October so hopefully everything works out.
Reaching the turn off on Route 2 just before the NH/Maine border and I should be at the trailhead by 7:00. There is a small gravel parking lot next to the road that is used for winter time. The book says to take a right on a rough gravel road. Following it for a ways and I get the early morning sun hitting the hills with the fall colors lagging behind this year.
The road peters out and after getting out and looking around I realize I am on the wrong road. This is an old logging road and I head back to where I turned off. At the same spot another road heads up over a hill and dead ends immediately in an old logging staging area. Back to the road again and another 100 yards up further and the road I want is right there, FR 95, although I would classify the other two roads as rough and this one not so much. A mile up and I am at the trailhead for Shelburne Trail. The road confusion cost me a half hour and by 7:30 I am heading up the trail. The beginning of the trail is the continuation of FR 95 and along the way are dabs of color in the trees.
Time goes by quickly as I pass the landmarks mentioned in the guide book and I reach the point where the trail veers off the road and enters the woods. Forest Roads are nice for quick walking but after a while they lose their appeal whereas a wooded trail is much more to my liking.
The climb up is gentle as I cross a branch that feeds East Brook. At the crossing is something I am seeing more and more of. Yellow birches seem to be the most persistent trees in the forest. They grow anywhere and the ones on rocks or boulders always have these tentacle roots that find there way to the ground anchoring themselves in. On the other side of the bank is a large yellow birch slowly rotting away to make room for the next generation. The trunk is three quarters of the way rotted away and even the upper section shows signs of rotting as dark bands.
Near the junction I reach a mossy glen where the water is dripping down a cliff face into a pool. A perfect spot to stop and refill my water. While drinking I look and notice a large broken off boulder on the other side of the stream. The profile reminds me of a Trojan horse. What do you see?
A few minutes later and I am at the junction with Kenduskeag (the trail sign has it as Kenduskeg) Trail. It is just over two hours since beginning that I arrive here. Shelburne Trail continues down to the Wild River and that section of trail will have to wait for another day. I have read reports that this is a hard trail to follow especially when leaving Shelburne Moriah and heading towards this direction. Turning onto it and it looks in pretty good shape as I reach the section where there is a cliff face on my right side. Not far up the trail and I can see a ledge outcropping to my left. I head over to see if there are views and all I can say is WOW!
There laid out in front of me is the Wild River Wilderness. The only thing that would have been better is if the color was at it's peak.
Spending a few minutes here as I take in the view. The whole area is one of my weak spots in redlining. There is almost 190 miles of trail down in there and I have only done about 50 of them so far. It is the largest region in regards to miles of trails in the guide book. Back on the trail and breaking out into a low scrubby area I can see over into Maine where Route 2 and the Androscoggin River head off to the east. Ahead is the summit of Shelburne Moriah.
The trail leads through some great woods and the time passes by quickly. Maybe because of the great sunny blue day and/or the remoteness up here as I have seen no one yet. There are spots that could use some brushing, green mossy areas and bog bridges through the wet sections.
It takes less than an hour and a half along the Kenduskeag Trail to reach the summit of Shelburne Moriah as I pop out of the woods onto open ledges. I don't see the issues that some people have mentioned about the trail where I just came from but then again I generally have a different opinion on things. The openness goes on forever up here and I just found a new peak to add to my favorites.
Across the way is my next destination, Moriah, with Middle Moriah to it's right. Behind the two are the Northern Presi's. To the north are the Pliny and pilot Ranges where I have a bit of hiking left to do also.
After taking a plethora of pictures I sit down at the summit cairn to take a food and water break. I face towards the Mahoosucs admiring and reminding myself of how much I have out there left to do also. The logistics of some of these areas are mind boggling but somehow and someway I'll finish this project. The Mahoosuc Trail follows the ridge line in the pano shot from Mt Hayes on the left all the way to Old Speck in back on the right.
Rested and refueled it is time to get going as I make my way across the many ledges seeing my target all the way.
Approaching the first bog bridge on the northern side of Shelburne Moriah I have heard that some of these are fairly deep and curious I stick my hiking pole into the muck to see for myself. I am amazed as it keeps going down all the way to the handle before I stop pushing anymore. How deep is it? Well that is just under 36" when I stopped. Do not want to slip off this bog bridge!
The trail makes it's way down through some wooded sections before breaking out onto a plateau of ledges and more bog bridges. All the while Moriah can be seen in the distance where I am heading. This is a fantastic spot and so quiet as I only run into two groups of hikers, the first of the day, through this area.
Re-entering the woods and the bridges continue making the walking much easier.
Breaking out into the open once again for the last time along this trail and I can see Moriah just above the trees. Behind me a look back at Shelburne Moriah and a promise of a return to this beautiful spot. This is definitely on the favorites list after today.
The last stretch before the junction passes quickly and before I know it I have reached the AT where the Rattle River Trail comes in from the right. But first I need to get the section of the Kenduskeag Trail between here and the Carter Moriah Trail, which is the continuation of the AT south.
The trail skirts around Middle Moriah and as I go along I keep an eye out for a herd path, not sure if there is one, to make the very short trip to it. I have seen it from Moriah and the open ledges out there. I am surprised that there is no official trail to it as it looks like a great location. Just after some craggy sections and I reach more bog bridges again. Can't ever remember seeing this many on one trail before but they are a welcome relief from the usual rocks and roots I am walking on.
Getting a peek at how close I am to Moriah through an opening in the trees and I am reminded of what is to come. The easy walking through these woods is about to end and the steep onslaught is about to begin.
It is non-stop as I make my way up as I come across a feature I have not seen before, a wooden bench, about halfway up. No, I didn't stop as the trip up only took about fifteen minutes.
Coming to an open little ledge and I can hear voices as I search around for the source. Above the trees I see where it is coming from. There a few people on the summit of Moriah and it feels like it is close enough I can reach out and touch it.
Unfortunately it is never that easy in the Whites as the trail heads down, yes down, and then winding around before reaching the junction just below Moriah with Carter Moriah Trail. Kenduskeag Trail is redlined! To my right is the steep final pitch to reach the summit spur.
At the summit of Moriah the Northern Presidentials are out of the clouds. In the opposite direction are Middle Moriah and Shelburne Moriah where I just came from.
There isn't any time to dally as I still have a lot of miles to go. Back down to the junction and the comparison shot from this past winter. Yeah, the snow was that deep!
On the way back to the junction with Rattle River Trail I again keep my eye out for an opening to Middle Moriah. But knowing that my time is tight unless it is a distinct path I won't try bushwhacking to it today. Along the way I do run into a south bound thru hiker. It is late in the year to be heading south and I wished him good luck on his journey after talking to him for a bit. I never find the opening I was looking for as the woods are thick between the trail and Middle Moriah so I just make my way to the junction. The trail starts out nicely on bog bridges but soon that all changes as it starts the descent.
The terrain is very rocky and tedious as I make my way down. I hate these types of descents as there is no way to get into a rhythm. After reaching the Rattle River crossing the trail finally becomes much better and I can move a lot quicker and easier.
A couple more crossings further down the trail.
I reach the shelter and then just before five o'clock I make it to the end/beginning of Rattle River Trail right off Route 2.
But wait there's more! Not really but there is one long ass roadwalk (6.2 miles long) back to where I started this morning. What do you do to pass the time walking a boring road? Count your steps between the two tenths mile markers along the road. 400 steps and four minutes in between each marker. Moving right along and right where the road turns off to the dirt entrance to the Forest Road the GPS dies. About halfway up the Forest Road and out comes the headlamp which I have not done since I can't remember when. Just before 7:00 and I make it back to where it all started many many hours ago. Now could someone answer me about the Native American Reburial Ground that is on some maps where the old pullout is by the beginning of the Forest Road?
Final numbers: 20.3 miles, 11 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 12.4, Total to Date: 927.1