Yvonne and I went to Mount Moosilauke on Wednesday, a spur of the moment trip up north on what promised to be a beautiful day. Moosilauke is one of the most well-recognized and popular 4000 footers of the White Mountains, with a completely open summit and wide-ranging views, but I’ve never seen a view from the peak. The only time I climbed it was on the Appalachian Trail in 2007, and, as so often happens in New England, the only view was of the inside of a cloud. Since then, the mountain has rarely entered my mind, and usually only as an easily recognized landmark I could see from many mountains in Vermont.
|A relatively warm and clear day in Glencliff for the middle of December.|
Of course, driving into the trail head in Glencliff brought back memories of those days hiking through New Hampshire, the beginning of the real difficult stuff on the AT, but mostly my mind was in the present this day. It was December 12, not quite officially winter, but well after the date when the north country should look like a winter wonderland. There wasn’t a touch of snow at the trail head. There wasn’t even ice. Even at 9 AM, there was barely noticeable frost in the field where the AT starts up the Glencliff Trail.
|Where’s the winter?|
Despite being the tenth highest 4000 footer in New Hampshire, the hike up Moosilauke is surprisingly easy (I remember the Beaver Brook trail being incredibly steep, but the west side of the mountain was a walk in the park). With the ground becoming partly frozen as we ascended, there were few obstacles to impede our progress. A consistent dusting of snow finally showed up around 3500 feet, but never got deeper than the soles of my sneakers. There was enough ice to warrant microspikes near the top, and then in several spots on the way back down the carriage trail, but until we reached tree line, the conditions were less wintery than I usually see in October.
|Finally some real snow, but above 4500 feet in December, the rocks aren’t usually so bare.|
The summit was nice and cold, coated in rime ice, but I have to wonder about my recent purchases of a few pieces of winter backpacking gear over the past year. After last winter’s weak showing, I’m staying hopeful for this coming year, planning one weekend backpacking trip and several snowshoe outings, but I also feel a bit of nostalgia for years past, remembering white Christmases, or even white winters. Two years ago was good, but the year before wasn’t too impressive, either. I did live further north in a few of those good winters, which certainly helped, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve had a string of unusually warm years.
|Moosilauke’s summit from the top of the Glencliff Trail. Pleasantly white.|
For now, I’ll just hope things turn around soon. But I’ll also leave you with this thought: when Yvonne and I visited the REI in her hometown of Framingham last summer, we noticed a very cool thing– the parking lot had been covered with a roof of solar panels (along with some more, less visible panels on the roof of the building). Over the past few years, two of my favorite Vermont nonprofits, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and the Green Mountain Club, have also had large solar arrays installed around their property. These are all pretty great, but it’s a small drop in a sea of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy consumption. But how many parking lots are there in our country? And empty roofs of big box stores or warehouses? And how many large corporate properties with space at the edges of lawns or fields that could be home to solar arrays?
|The rest of the White Mountains, looking fine on a clear day.|
With all of the fighting that goes on in order to place each wind farm and transmission line in the northeast (and I’m guessing elsewhere as well), wouldn’t it be easier and less controversial to cover every parking lot with a solar roof? Think of how much open pavement surrounds a mall or a suburban shopping center, doing nothing but soaking up sunlight most of the time. It’s kind of stupid to have a resource so abundant and not use it, isn’t it?