One of the beauties of living in Vermont is already being at a holiday destination when a long weekend arrives. I don’t have to get in the car to drive several hours – unless I want to.
Sometimes, I want to.
Most often, “getting away” means going somewhere else in Vermont; sometimes, it means crossing the border to New Hampshire. The hills in New Hampshire are higher, with more peaks above tree line, so that’s where we headed.
Because it was a holiday weekend, and because we didn’t want to be away for more than a day, we headed for Mount Moosilauke, the most southwesterly of the White Mountains, and closest to home.
“Close” is a relative term, and it still took us two and a half hours to drive to the Beaver Brook Trailhead. We chose to climb from the north side of the mountain, hoping it would be less crowded than the trails that leave from the popular Ravine Lodge to the south. But we were typically late out of the house, and when we arrived, the parking lot was full and the trail well populated.
The Beaver Brook trail ascends steeply on stone steps blasted into the rock and fixed ladders alongside a mile-long cascade. By comparison, the steps of the Empire State Building are only a fifth of a mile. Challenging as the climb was, I was serenaded by the falling water, inspired by the fragrant balsam, and rewarded with an early view of the Kingsman Range to the north when I stopped for breath and looked back.
Not so bad.
The trail eventually leveled off, another relative term in the mountains. There’s no way to climb a 4,802-foot mountain without going uphill most of the time. But stepping out of the forest into the Alpine meadow at the summit made it all worthwhile: Clear, cool air, a spanking breeze, and a three hundred and sixty-degree view.
Tim is New Hampshire born and bred; he spent his formative years in these hills, which he knows by heart. From the summit of Moosilauke, he pointed out Mount Washington in the north, Monadnock in the south, and the entire chain of the Green Mountains to the west, where Camel’s hump cuts unmistakably into the sky.
Brightly clad hikers populated the summit, hunkered down into wind-shelters built out of the ruined foundation of Prospect House, a stone hotel dating from the 1860’s and destroyed by fire in 1942. I huddled like a pigeon on a rooftop eave, letting the wind wash over me as I rehydrated and took on some PB&J, my favorite calories on a hike.
On such a beautiful day in the middle of a holiday weekend, there was an informal line for snapping photos at the summit sign, and then the long hike down. After breaking my ankle while descending a mountain last year, I took extra care on this descent, meaning I was slow, especially along the cascade for the last mile, where it’s okay for the water to tumble over the rocks, but not an option for me.
I spent the rest of the holiday weekend in the garden and down by the river, rooted to this beautiful place I call home.
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