'Shrooms, Spores, and More: A Hike to Moriah Gorge


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Fisher Cat

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Jul 27, 2007
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‘Shrooms, Spores, & More : A Hike to Moriah Gorge

We had spent Sunday hiking, and Monday was set aside for trailwork as volunteers picking up trash around the Gulfside area near Mt Clay. The weather again was not good. We drove up and sat inside just hoping it may blow off. While we waited we played the highest altitude Scrabble game in our family’s history in the dining area. Eventually we gave up and drove down. On the way we stopped and went to Lowe’s Bald Spot. Along the trail someone had abandoned a Styrofoam cooler full of empty beer bottles, so I hoisted it on my shoulder for the trip out.

Day 6 brought more rain. We decided to do a warm-up before the next big hike. We thought Moriah Brook Trail up to the Gorge would present some nice photo opps plus the chance to be on a trail with minimal crowding. For the first time in many years I got a false start at the wrong lot. Turns out it was the lot for the lower end of the Highwater Trail. So we hopped back in the car and I assured myself the right lot by virtually driving right into the Wild River Campground.

After days of rain the fears of getting one’s boots wet should be inconsequential. My boots had been wet since Saturday and now faced with, what under normal circumstances would be nothing, a feeder crossing that was enjoying a banner season. What a decision. From the moment I start a hike I endeavor to stay dry, not knowing where traction will be an issue to come. Realizing such “rational” thinking has no place in an irrational situation, we went ahead. A very wet trail, but easy to follow. After 3 days of this we had perfected the “parking stance.” With a foot on opposite banks of a mud pit or collected water in the trailbed one can slowly inch their way along. Lose your balance and you’re done. End result: by day’s end is you can park 2 Renault Le Cars under you.

The trail route itself is easy. Grade are moderate, the forest a delight. Stand still long enough and you can hear the new growth of fungi emerging. It was everywhere. So many types, none of which we are familiar with. I took pictures of different ones, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the same, just at different stages of growth. There was also moose poo galore and we felt the odds of a sighting were good.

Now comes the fun. As we crossed the suspension bridge and were about to turn off the Highwater Trail we encountered a 30-ish man packing light and moving fast. He inquired if the suspension bridge was still up and we replied in the affirmative. The fact was that he was a group leader and his group along with a family of 4 were stranded overnight (which they weren’t counting on) at the next brook crossing of the Highwater Trail. Worse yet, the 12 year old of the stranded family had managed to make it across the night before but then vanished. The mother, he said, was distraught. We told him there was no rescue activity at Wild River Campground, and that we had seen no other footprints that morning. He asked if we could detour down to the crossing and signal to the others that the bridge was still up. Sure, why not, who wouldn’t, and it would be no problem. We parted and went down to the brook. On the other side not a soul or any activity was to be seen, just a pack he had propped up with sticks to serve as a visual.

Here’s the part that makes a hiking mother proud. Since as tots brought up in a hiking family, rule #1-Bring a Whistle. Let’s repeat that together. Good. Why? Because we all know it takes less power and you can last longer blowing a whistle than shouting. Very good. I always thought this curious as they used to let us wander so far ahead anyway I figured it was better than a leash. Therefore, my hands thrust into the safety compartment of my pack and I pulled out that shiny, silvery, never-used-yet whistle on its yellow cord. I blew loud enough to alert mother’s worldwide to hear and heed. To my amazement, no one showed up. So I kept at it. Finally the sister of the missing boy arrived on the opposite bank, followed shortly by the mother. The roar of water was deafening drowning out most vocal communication, though they were no more than 40-50 feet away. I signed that the bridge was up. Above the rush of water the mother called out about her son. I felt terrible but had to reply that he had not been seen. It came to me that if no one knew he was missing, no one would be looking. So, I began to search for a spot to at least get the mom across, get her to the Campground and get a description out so a search could be made if necessary.

No sooner had I begun to look when an older man blew past us and without a word threw himself into the current. Behind him, but staying with us, the 12 year old boy. We later learned from the Campground hosts that he had arrived the night before at dark, cold, wet, with lips going blue. He asked for a ride to an area with phone service. He had called his dad in Concord, who then drove up that night, met him, raced up the trail, thus explaining his headlong plunge into the brook. I have never seen such elation as that of a mother getting back a son she feared was lost. Since in a matter of minutes I had done nothing previously but darken an already gloomy scene, I knew our job was done. If more help was needed, it would soon arrive.

We went back to and up our trail to the Gorge on Moriah Brook. We were on the trail but a few minutes when we noticed moose tracks so fresh I anticipated a nose-to-nose collision. Problem was, the tracks had been moving toward us. Then they made an abrupt reverse and were pulling away from us. I say “they” because it appeared to be a cow and calf. Their gait was widening. We quickened pace to see if they could be seen, but about 1/4m. from the Gorge they vanished. I can only theorize that the timing was such that in the moments taken to answer the greater call of assisting humanity, the noise of that dumb whistle spooked the cow, and she decided to get her young out of harm’s way.

I’m not sure who won out here. One mother got her son back, another mom got her young out of harm’s way, and my mom is thrilled to know that at times I did listen. In the end, I have a once-used whistle if anyone wants it.

The Gorge is fantastic. In the autumn is must be a sight to behold. The trail continues beyond its head, but there was no way to pursue it today. There was no way in blue blazes (sorry for the pun) the present water levels would allow it. The best exploration of the Gorge lies in followimg some discernible side paths down its course. There are spots close to its level, but the ones from on high really help you fathom its size. Its an easy trip and well worth it. The forest comes right to the edge and then drops down steeply at times. I would like to return here when the water level is lower to see what magic it spins.

We headed back down and detoured again to the stranded hikers to see the progress. Turns out the dad was now helping everyone across. We had conversation with them about how this all came about and expressed our hope for a safe return trip. We met the counselor on the way out who had now driven to Gorham, got rope, and was returning. We told him by the time he would get there, they would be across. By now who cares about being wet, unlike the beginning of a hike, on the return leg who gives a rip what you look like or how wet you are, the more the better. We blasted across and met up with the hosts, originally from MA, now in FL, and spending May-October in NH.

We talked about the ever present need to be prepared when hiking, watch the weather, and plan alternate routes even, and I mentioned – with a bit of smile over gnashed teeth-the importance of bringing a whistle.
Again, due to weather, pics are few, but if you know the mushroom types, please let me know.