In trying to finish mapping the Appalachian Trail for my iPhone apps, the next major step was to hike through New Hampshire. I decided to do this in one- to two-day trips, starting with the Mahoosuc Range on the border of Maine. This is where I was first introduced to hiking and the AT, so the area has a special significance for me. With a clear forecast ahead, I was excited to test my mettle in this rugged range.
On day one, I got a much later start than planned, but I was lucky enough to score a car shuttle from my friend Moss, whom I hadn’t seen since before she started her Pacific Crest Trail hike last summer. We chatted a bit too long, and I started hiking around 1 PM. I hoped to hike 15 miles that day. In rugged Mahoosuc terrain, that would be a tall order.
The views were a bit hazy from the heat and humidity, but it was a truly gorgeous day. Looking into the Androscoggin River valley with the Carter-Moriah Range up above, everything was a deep, rich green. The various ledges had plenty of nice views. What’s more, when I arrived at one fine view, I ran into John Compton, whose blog I’ve been following for four years and had never met before. That was a wonderful little coincidence!
Continuing on, I got to the deeper woods and wilder section of the Mahoosucs, passing two gorgeous alpine lakes, and almost running into two porcupines right on the trail. I saw nobody on the trail all day besides John. Funny, since the trailheads in the White Mountains earlier in the day had been completely overflowing with cars. This is one reason I love this mountain range.
I arrived at Gentian Pond shelter at 6, exhausted and aching, three miles short of my intended goal. But with the pretty little shelter, a wonderful view of the Carter-Moriah Range, and the sound of the nearby waterfall filling the air, I couldn’t possibly move on. There were two hikers at the shelter, too, and it was good company.
That meant a long hike the next day, so I hit the trail at 6 AM, ready for some hard climbs. As it turns out, the 12 miles I’d hiked earlier just got me to the base of the harder mountains in the range, so climbing Mt Success was the beginning of a long day of steep climbs to sharp peaks. It was also the first of many stunningly beautiful peaks, complete with vast alpine bogs and rocky crags.
After Mt Success came one of my very favorites, Goose Eye Mountain, with its three peaks and a nearly mile-long alpine bog. It doesn’t get much more beautiful than that, or steeper. There were tremendous views of the White Mountains, almost the entire route of the Cohos Trail, and all of the Mahoosuc Range. What’s more, I had the whole mountain to myself.
The heat and steepness had me pretty beat by the time I got to Mahoosuc Notch, so I was doubly happy to get in there. The icy cold air helped control my profuse sweating, and moving slowly through the jumbled boulder field helped, too. I’ve said it before, but that mile of trail is like a giant, natural jungle gym. You can’t find a section of trail more fun than this!
To finish the day, the last brutal climb up Mahoosuc Arm and Old Speck gave me some more fine views and aching feet. By this point, I’d come over five amazing summits, with as many remarkable places between them (like the notch, Speck Pond, Carlo Col, and so on). The amount of scenery is almost overwhelming. But so was the fatigue in my feet and legs.
I got to my car a Grafton Notch twelve hours after starting the day, 19.5 miles later, and promptly lay down right on the pavement for a quick nap. Two days of hiking don’t get much better than this. I already anticipate many return trips to this range in the next few years!