Moosilauke and The Willey Range, 6/28/2014

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Well-known member
Jul 18, 2005
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Nashua, NH
June 28, 2014: Moosilauke and The Willey Range

Trails: Two Hikes

Moosilauke = Gorge Brook Trail

Willey Range = Avalon Trail, Willey Range Trail, Mt. Tom Spur, A-Z Trail

Summits: Moosilauke, Field, Willey, Tom

Hikers: Trail Trotter (Sue) and me

The original weekend plans included four hike days. Thursday was lost to bad weather. The truck had a very urgent repair needed and I decided taking care of it on Friday made the most sense. This left only two hike-days but the weather forecast for each was good.

Saturday started early on Moosilauke. The plan was to complete an early trip to the summit and back via Gorge Brook Trail and head for Crawford Notch to hike a loop of The Willey Range from The Highland Center. When we arrived to the area of Moosilauke Ravine Lodge we found cars already parked along 200 – 300 yards of the road; it was early and this had to be overnight guests at the lodge. As it turned out, we were first out that morning. We grabbed our things and were quickly on-trail and on our way.

The trail was clear and in great shape all the way to the summit. Initially we had very comfortable conditions but the temperature quickly warmed with the sun and we were soon hiking in a warm temperature and high humidity. Along with the heat and humidity we had black flies, lots of black flies. If we kept moving they weren’t bad but as soon as we stopped they would attack. I was hopeful with some elevation we would climb out of the area of biting insects but they were spread all of the way to the summit and it seemed to be the toughest place on the hike.

After crossing the second bridge the trail follows a relocated route due to storm damage. The new section of trail is very well established, clear, and dry. After running roughly parallel to the old route for a short distance the new route re-joins the old route leading to the McKenney plaque. From there we had a generally constant but mild climb to the summit. Along the way we passed a couple man-made viewpoints that offered views to the east and southeast. The hazy conditions still allowed nice views across The Pemi and Sandwich wilderness areas.

Soon we found the trail became ledgier as we approached the ridge and treeline below the summit. At a clearing in the scrub we stopped for a brief break but the black flies soon had us on the move. This might be the only time I have visited the summit of Moosilauke with calm conditions. It seems there is always at least a breeze and often a good amount of wind; not this time. Conditions were calm and the black flies were swarming.

As we were on final approach to the summit we met a couple that had camped near the South Summit overnight. They explained the insect conditions forced them into their tent early and that’s where they stayed. We arrived to the summit, got the usual summit and view pictures, and started back down. With our plans for the day we didn’t have the time to spend lounging on the summit, but the biting insects would have made an extended stay unpleasant.

Roughly a third of the way down we passed the couple that had camped overnight, and then the crowd started. We encountered an endless parade of people of all ages headed for the summit. For a while we were stopping and stepping to the side while the on-coming traffic passed, but eventually we just kept hiking yielding the center of the trail as needed.

Back at Ravine Road we found a few more vehicles than before. We quickly loaded our things into the back and started our escape. It seemed like over three-quarters of the road was an endless string of parked cars. We finally passed the last parked vehicle and on-coming vehicles were able to continue in as we were headed out. Big crowd on Moosilauke!

The run to Crawford Notch was also a lunch-on-the-run time. I was a little off with my drive time estimates for the day; starting both hikes later than planned. We arrived to Crawford Notch to hike the Willey Range loop roughly an hour and a half later than planned. The place was very crowded but we were lucky and found an open parking place in the lot at The Highland Center. After a couple minutes to re-load with water we were on our way.

The two stream crossings are the early obstacles we needed to get past; neither presented a problem. After the second crossing the climb got started. We made our way to the Avalon and A-Z trails junction, went left and kept climbing toward the summit of Mount Field. After passing the junction with A-Z Trail, Avalon Trail showed signs of significant trail work being completed. The climb is very steep and along the way is lots of new erosion control. It appears to be a very large improvement is underway and it doesn’t end with the steep climb to Avalon Spur. Above Avalon Spur there are new bridges in place to get past the mud pits in the area.

We were able to easily clear the areas of mud and start on the upper steep sections leading to Willey Range Trail. Hiking a little ahead of book time we arrived to the junction with Willey Range Trail and headed left to the summit of Mount Field. In a few minutes we were on the summit getting our usual pictures. The same condition existed on The Willey Range as we had on Moosilauke; the black flies kept us moving. Very soon after hitting the summit of Mount Field we were on the move south to Willey.

On the past few trips through the area there was a section of trail between Field and Willey blocked by blowdowns with a herd path bypass developing. The blowdowns have been completely cleared from the trail and the actual route is again open. Huge job – well done! Just north of Willey the trail is starting to get pretty tight with new growth. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is additional work done brushing out that section of trail before the summer season is finished. We arrived to Mount Willey, got our summit pictures, made the u-turn and headed north over Field for a second time and on to Mount Tom.

The hike from Field to Tom is a mild downhill for most of the distance. Downhill was exactly what I needed; by this point in the day I was running a little low on gas. At the north end of Willey Range Trail we reached the junction with A-Z trail, made the turn, and then Mt. Tom Spur. Even though it’s a short trip to the summit it’s also getting late on a long, hot, humid day. This final climb to the summit took a little extra to complete.

Slow and steady got us to the top. After the picture formalities we were on our exit hike. In roughly three miles of mostly downhill we will be at the trailhead. Most of the first half of our exit hike is pretty steep and there was still plenty of opportunity to give our knees and leg muscles a good workout.

Slowly we made our way down to A-Z Trail; and then to Avalon Trail, and finally the upper stream crossing on Avalon Trail. From the crossing to the trailhead is a relatively mild ~1 mile walk. I think we just found a comfortable pace and walked to Crawford Depot, The Highland Center, and our waiting truck. After a quick change into dry clothes at The Highland Center we were on the highway south.

I’ve posted some pictures from the day.

BIGEarl's Pictures

Straight to the slideshow

Nice job, Sue and Earl. Very impressive to knock those off in a day. No wonder you were hurting on the Osceolas, Earl.:rolleyes::)

Hey Marty,

I was only hurting on half of The Osceolas..... The uphill half.


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