Part 3: Hiking Tactics-Mt. Moriah & Imp Campsite- HTW 2018

 

Mount Moriah

“Carter-Moriah trail follows a logging road up a steep bank, then winds moderately upward through second-growth woods past several brushy logged areas. The trail climbs steeply, enters the White Mountain National Forest, and continues up through hardwoods. At 2.0 mi., a ledge down affords good views, and the trail soon passes to the right of the insignificant summit of Mt. Surprise and its small flume.  From here, the trail descends slightly, and then ascends gradually at first, but soon becomes steeper as it climbs over a series of ledges that have excellent views west and north; the ledges are slippery when wet. The trail stays near the ridge top but winds from side to side through the woods, crossing one wet, muddy stretch with deteriorating bog bridges. The trail traverses several ups and downs over ledgy humps. At 4.5, after a steep climb, a spur path leads right 50 yd. to the ledgy summit of Mt. Moriah, which affords excellent views.” White Mountain Guide, AMC’s Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the White Mountain National Forest¹  (emphasis mine) 

It’s kind of obvious if you are going to climb a mountain and summit its peak, you need to go up. Yet, there are varying degrees of “upness” that should be noted. There’s a gentle pitch, moderate incline, or a steep climb. Often times, the logical side of my brain tries to persuade me that a gentle pitch is a much better, safer, way go up in altitude, but the adventurous side of my brain, disagrees arguing “Where’s the fun and challenge in that?” So a fight breaks out between the two sides of my brain whether or not to stay in my comfort zone or be pushed out of it. To bring an end to the disagreement and restore peace, I often use a tactic called avoidance. Avoidance in hiking looks a lot like choosing not to read the trail descriptions before I hike the trail. This way, the unknown serves as equal ground and those highlighted words (noted above in trail description) do not even get a chance to spark a battle in my mind.

Our day started early at 6:30AM. We were gifted with perfect sunny weather-warm but not hot, breezy but not windy. The AMC hiker shuttle dropped us off right at the trailhead. This was another gift because we thought we would have to walk roadside a couple of miles before we reached to the actual trail.

True to the above trail description, the start of the hike (and most of the day) was strenuous with steep climbing, rock scrambling, and ledge walking. There were several times when I felt my confidence falter and thought I should have trained more, the rocks were too steep, my pack was too heavy, and I didn’t think I could do it. Those thoughts and moments were fleeting as I felt a renewed strength from God and I used another tactic-positive encouragement- while I cheered myself on with phrases like “slow and steady,”” one step in front of the other,” “you can do it.”

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Along with the challenge of this trail comes great reward. The Carter-Moriah trail is absolutely beautiful and offers a good diversity of natural things to admire in the form of boulder sculptures, moss covered trees, scratchy treeline ledges, mushy bogs with bridges, and cute little, colorful mushrooms dotting the sides of the trail.

We hiked most of the morning, stopping here and there to catch our breath, continued up and over the “insignificant” summit of  Mt. Surprise (Δ 2194 ft), and then onto Mt. Moriah (Δ 4049 ft) for lunch. It was our first 4,000-footer “bagged” on this trip. At the summit, we were blessed with excellent views and new people to talk with.

We chatted with other hikers, met an AT-thru hiker named Silver, and was introduced to a captain of the White Mountain Search and Rescue Team. We asked her to share her best tips and she told us a few things she wished every hiker knew in terms of safety. Here are two of them:

1.) Have a map! Do not rely on technology- like cell phone or fancy GPS devices. She had seen many people getting lost even with the GPS devices because they did not know how to use them correctly. Again, always have a physical map!! (CHECK √ )

2.) Make sure you always have enough supplies that you could spend one night outside if you had to. This includes water, food, matches, warm layers, and a sleep sheet. I had everything she mentioned and more… 😉 (CHECK √) 

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To be on a mountain top humbles me. To witness the breathtaking, dramatic landscape from such a height makes me feel small, childlike, full of wonder. From the summit of Mt. Moriah, we could see the Mount Washington and the Presidential Range-where we hiked last year- and The Carter Range- where we were heading next. From our vantage point, those next mountains seemed so far away. Yet we would be close to North Carter by 5:00 PM. When we were near North Carter, we would start looking for a place to camp.

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This is a view from the summit of Mt. Moriah looking across to where we were heading. It seems so far away. Depth perception in the mountains is an interesting thing.

 

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Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range, where we hiked last year. Thanks Paul and Anne at Rock-Village.com for a great picture.

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Getting closer to North Carter

The trail to North Carter descends very steeply down the ledges of Mt. Moriah and then follows a ridge crest as it winds its way through the woods. Occasional ledge lookouts, with additional views, spur you on along the trail. Several more signs along the trail would be helpful so you could determine your location along the trail. At times, it was difficult to know how far we had come or how much further we had to go. We pressed on and made our way to Imp Campsite.

We were not planning to stay at Imp Campsite, but we wanted to check it out. I had never been to AMC Campsite before and I was pleasantly surprised. Imp has a beautiful shelter, tent platforms, composting toilet, and even a “living room” chair. Our thru-hiker friend, Silver, was there and staying the night.

 

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AMC’s Imp Campsite- and what I am calling “the living room chair”

After taking a good look around Imp, we got back on the trail. By this point, I was really starting to feel tired and was more and more ready to find a spot to rest and set up our site for the night. This was to be the first time either of us had camped trailside. Our good friends, Gazelle, Hero and Silver, had given us a few tips and we knew we needed to be below the tree line, 200 ft. from the trail, and should pitch our tent on a flat area (not on moss or leaves to avoid bugs and mites.) Onward we went, on the lookout for a perfect spot, up and over one more mountain, Imp Mountain (Δ 3720 ft), before we found the place. It was really to be a perfect spot, and we were excited about trying this new experience.

Using Imp Campsite as a model, we quickly designated a cooking spot, a bathroom spot, a bear bag area, and a sleeping area. We were about to realize the result of a not so perfect shakedown….

Read: Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag) HTW-2018

Part 2: Part 2: A Hero, a Gazelle and a Shake Down- HTW 2018

 

¹AMC Guide to Hiking the Trails in the White National Forest


Part 2: A Hero, a Gazelle and a Shake Down- HTW 2018

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In one minute…

-2.4 million searches are made on Google¹

-your blood makes a roundtrip tour of your body, cleaning and nourishing cells, and returns to your heart²

-251 babies are born worldwide³

That’s a lot of curiosity, care, and new beginnings happening all at once. So imagine what can happen in 158 minutes- the time it takes to drive up north to Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, NH. Fortified by a commencing prayer, each minute of our drive & discussion helped cleanse my mind and nourish my heart with truth and grace. Curiosity weaved its way in and out of our conversation as we shared stories from our summer vacation and pointed out pretty landmarks and quaint New England farms as we drove past. I finally felt as if my mind and my heart were in a good place. I finally felt prepared for a new beginning, ready for a new adventure.

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We pulled into the parking lot of the Pinkham Notch Vistor’s Center right around dinner time. Pinkham Notch Vistor’s Center is a main hub of hiking and outdoor activities. Hikers can find a place to rest, get clean, nourish hungry bodies, and purchase gifts and gear. Many trails start and return to the visitor’s center making it a great place for new beginnings and celebrating adventurous ends.

I lugged my pack (and the jumbled mess of three shopping bags full of extra stuff) into our room, dropped it on my bed, and we headed over to the dining hall. Tonight’s dinner was a delicious spicy peanut tofu dish with rice, bok choy, salad, and freshly baked bread. I felt content, comfortable and a little bit tired. Jet lag was still haunting me and beckoning me to bed. A few things needed to get done before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep for the night- one of the most important things, reorganizing my pack.

Pinkham Notch Vistor's Center

We made a quick stop at the shop before going back to our room. Several other people were there quietly looking through racks of items and contemplating the latest weather report. The peaceful library-like atmosphere was suddenly interrupted when rambunctious laughter broke through the comfortable hush.

A couple of Appalachian Trail (AT) Thru-Hikers were standing by the information desk, oblivious to the disruption their loud giggles and boisterous joy made. With a tiny bit of snooping and a little bit of overhearing, I learned they had just come down off the trail (the AT) after hiking and sleeping in the rain for three days. Their plans for the night included eating pizza and staying at an AT hostel/campground in a neighboring town. But they needed to get there first. They bounced off towards the candy section and I went to the front desk to purchase a map. No one was at the desk when I arrived, so I waited patiently, enjoying the fact that nothing was on weighing on my mind and I had no other place to go. Within a few minutes, the absent cashier returned with the two happy hikers.

She had been trying to find them a ride into Gorham (about 15 minutes away) and now was apologizing for not being able to find anyone to help. The two thru-hikers told her it was no problem, not to worry, they could and would just walk. It was getting dark and I was intrigued and interested to hear their story.  I looked over at Jennie, Jennie looked at me. We read each other’s mind, “Why not? Why not start our new adventure with some new friends?” And I blurted out, “We can take you.”

They were happy! We were happy! Everyone was happy! All the happiness felt like an energy boost of contagious joy! Off we went to Gorham, the two thru-hikers, Jennie and I and their gear. Introductions were made, their trail names are Hero and Gazelle. Gazelle has been on the trail since February and she’s planning to finish the 2,181 mile hike by August 29th. I can’t remember how long Hero has been on the trail but he will finish shortly after Gazelle. They are both NO-BO Hikers- that’s AT Hiker terminology for North Bound, starting in Georgia and finishing at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Our two very joyful, very grateful thru-hikers had a wealth of hiking knowledge they were very willing to share with us. We fired away with all the questions we could think of. They gave us information about camping on the trail. They told us they go off-trail and stay in a hotel once a week. How nice a shower and clean sheets feel after a week on the trail!

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Me, Gazelle, Jennie, Hero at Mr. Pizza

We talked about what to pack and learned a new hiking term- a shakedown. A “pack shakedown” is a final sorting and getting rid of unneeded items. Gazelle told us that if any of her friends want to go hiking with her, she shakedowns their packs. Many of things she listed off as unneeded, I had one (or two) already packed in mine. I had some major work to do when we got back to the lodge. One note, Hero and Gazelle were not completely unreasonable. They both agreed you should have something in your pack that might not be necessary, but makes you happy- for Hero it was Starbursts and Fritos for Gazelle. Both food items…. hmmm… I had food items, toiletries, a lot of extra clothing, AND several items that just made me happy…

Before went our separate ways, Jennie and I to shakedown our packs and Hero and Gazelle to devour their pizza, Hero left me with his mom’s email address to use as a hiking-hotline for questions (more about later.) Gazelle left me with one last piece of advice- not everyone’s advice is good for everybody. You have to find and do what’s best for you!

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My pack and the jumbled mess of stuff. Picture taken during the shakedown.

Jennie and I drove back to the lodge in high spirits. We were motivated and inspired to lighten our packs and remove all unnecessary items. It took some time, packing, repacking, sorting, and discarding. While I didn’t remove any toiletries items (I really couldn’t think of doing without them then), I did take out a lot of my snacks (I always have way more than I think I need) and I cut down the amount of clothing I was taking. I went with Gazelle’s advice to wear a pair of clothes and have another pair dry in your pack. I like clean clothes but I do not like to have to the carry extra weight so I thought for three days, just three days, I would have to be okay with stinky, sweaty, dirty, unclean clothes- #firstworldproblems

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With our packs ready for the morning, we headed back to our room for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. Jennie and I set our alarms for 6:30 AM to ensure we would have enough time to eat breakfast and catch the hiker shuttle to the Carter- Moriah Trailhead by 7:30AM. What a day it had been! We said goodnight, turned off our lights, and I finally gave in to jet lag as it drifted me off to my last night of CLEAN sleep.

If you are just joining the journey, you can go back and find part 1 of the trip here: Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag)

¹ https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1037361/statistics-about-babies-born-in-the-us

²https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/circulatory/heart-pump-blood.htm

³ http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/