By GORDON DUBOIS
Moosilauke Mountain, 4,802 feet, lies in western New Hampshire and is a massif, meaning it is a large mountain mass with several dominant peaks that form an independent range. Over the years it has had other names including Moosehillock, Mooshelock, and Mooselock. The Abenaki name means "bald place," derived from the fact that much of the upper reaches of the mountain are above tree line. It was not named for the many moose that live on and near the mountain. Other summits on the massif are Mount Blue, Mount Jim and South Peak. All of these are connected by a system of trails that cover much of the mountain. These trails offer a variety of options for not only hiking but cross country skiing, snow shoeing, rock and ice climbing in the remote Jobidunk Ravine, the head waters of the Baker River. One can even sled or toboggan on the Carriage Road Trail. The recreational opportunities on the mountain are limitless.
Much of the mountain is owned by Dartmouth College. The college also owns and maintains the Ravine Lodge and cabins. The lodge, which sits on the south east side of the mountain off Route 118 was built in the 1930s and once served as the base lodge for some of the earliest competitive skiing in the country. In the summer, it is open to the general public for meals, overnight accommodations and special events. From the lodge, there are numerous trails perfect for cross country skiing and snow shoeing for a wide variety of ages and ability levels. For more information on Ravine Lodge, check out Dartmouth Outdoors on the web.
When I was north bound on the Appalachian Trail, Mount Moosilauke was the first mountain I reached that was above tree line, offering amazing views of the White, Green and Adirondack Mountains. It lies only an hour from my house in New Hampton, so it has become one of my favorite climbing destinations. I hike the mountain at least annually. One year I reached the summit at the exact time of the Winter Solstice. At the mountain top I was greeted by a group of young hikers dancing, with only skimpy garments covering their bodies, celebrating the beginning of winter. I felt as if I was transported back in time to the primeval tribes of Northern Europe observing the ancient pagan rite of the Winter Solstice.
A few weeks ago, on a crisp, cold day, I returned to once again climb Moosilauke. I was accompanied by long time winter hiking companions Dick Widhu, Bob Manley and, of course, Reuben. The ultimate destination on this day was to summit the little-known sub-peak of the Moosilauke massif, Mt. Blue (4,529 feet) The summit of Blue lies just off the Beaver Brook Trail. Mount Blue distinguishes itself by being the proposed location of the first aerial tramway that was eventually built on Cannon Mountain. The base area would have been located along the present day Route 112. Cannon won out by its topography and proximity to other tourist attractions such as Franconia Notch and the "Old Man," which now lies in rubble at the base of Cannon's cliffs. We began our hike on the Beaver Brook trail which is known for its steep ascent and sheets of ice that coat the rocks on the trail in winter. We needed micro spikes and sturdy hand holds to ensure a safe climb. Thanks goes out to the members of the Dartmouth Outing Club who maintain this trail, as well as all the trails on the mountain. The DOC has put in place rock steps, ladders and rebar hand holds.
The trail follows Beaver Brook, which offers outstanding views of several cascades that parallel the trail. After climbing for 1.5 miles, we found the Beaver Brook Shelter about 50 yards off the trail, which made for a convenient stop to rest before the final push to the summit. After another mile of climbing, we began the bushwhack of Blue. Upon locating the pinnacle, we returned to the trail and continued onto the summit of Moosilauke. When we arrived at the summit we dawdled for a while, hunkering down behind the remains of the old hotel foundation to escape the wind. This foundation was once a part of a prominent hotel, The Prospect House, built in 1860, and later known as the Tip Top House of Mt Moosilauke. Around 1870, a carriage road was built, bringing more people to the mountain and the hotel. This carriage road is still in use today as a hiking and ski trail. It is also ideal for sledding in winter. The Carriage Road Trail starts at the end of Breezy Point Road site of the former Moosilauke Inn. Another carriage road was also built following the northern ridge, which is now the path of the Benton Trail that begins at the end of Tunnel Brook Road, off of Route 112. Both of these trails offer gradual climbs to the summit as well as splendid views. As the day was coming to a close, we decided to make our way back down the Beaver Brook Trail, knowing that I'll return soon to further explore the many trails of "The Moose."