Monday, October 29, 2012

A Doc Benton Hike to Moosilauke - 10/27/12

About a month ago a hike was planned with some friends and others to do a fun-themed "haunted hike" after talking about the tale of Doc Benton a while back. We thought it would be great to hike up with a nice group, take some fun costume summit photos and search for Doc Benton. Perfect for my 8-yr niece, who's next mountain choice was Moosilauke, we had been patiently awaiting today's adventure. In the Halloween spirit, me, my brother, and niece were on our way Sunday morning. We were racing away from the clouds on the way up, and the looks of it, we were going to get some views.

My buddy communicated to me that the witches in the woods fed them too much poison to drink last night, and that the effects would not wear off in time to come on the hike. Having not seen any of the other 8 or so people cancel, we hoped to see some others at the trailhead. We got to the trailhead at Tunnel Brook Road, to see nobody else waiting. We were really scared because we didn't know if Doc Benton ate everyone or cooked them up in his stew, or whether everyone decided to not come and didn't think to mention it on the event page. The only person there was a guy straight out of Gold Rush Alaska,  who had camped the night panning for gold in the area.
Tunnel Brook Road 
Normally, we start our hikes much earlier, especially with the impending storm, but with the planned 10:30 start time, and it being almost 11, we decided to head up on our own. Feeling slightly disappointed at what has just occurred, it was tough to get motivated as we walked down the Tunnel Brook Road, which still sits obliterated by Irene.
Irene damage on Tunnel Brook Road
We arrived at the Benton Trail on the left, and took a snack break. We were excited to get on the trail to mix it up. We signed the register, and came to the brook crossing. From where the trail crosses, a spot just a bit to the right was the best spot to cross. Now we were on to the leaf covered trail, ascending gradually. The woods were quiet, and despite it being October, it was quite warm, and we removed layers early. Hiking in the leaves is pretty tough, and the Benton Trail is not very clearly marked, but it was no problem, having done the same trail last October!
Start of the Benton Trail 
Safely across and on the way up
Ferns and fallen leaves on the Benton Trail
It seemed like we'd never get to the first outlook into Tunnel Ravine, which is 1.3 miles from the start of the Benton Trail. To help keep the excitement up from the rather dull trail, we decided to try to make calls out for Doc Benton. Along the trail we searched, and although we didn't find any signs of him yet, we did get frightened by a scary green creature in the woods. After the frightening encounter, we realized that we survived and we took a nice break to enjoy the great view of the ravine.

Tunnel Ravine, Mt. Moosilauke 
Looking out of Tunnel Ravine from the first outlook
Onward and upward we went at the pace of smaller legs. The leaves no longer covered the trail, making it easier for us to find our footings. We passed a new and impassable blow down. Eventually, many breaks later, we arrived at the junction with the Beaver Brook Trail. We were now about to experience the grandeur of the Moose once again, and share it for the first time with a lil' devil of a mountain climber.
My niece taking us to her 5th New England 4000-footer! 
Impassable blow down on Benton Trail 
This literally was the moment we had been waiting for all day long, to pop out onto the magnificent and broad summit of Mt. Moosilauke, and traverse .4 miles across the exposed summit to the summit. There was a consistent wind, dropping the temperature likely into the 30s. The first thing we wanted to see was Franconia Ridge. We stopped a moment to make some final comfort adjustments as we took in the beauty of the land around us. Then, we marched on, I behind my brother who was proudly following  his lil' devil to the haunted and awesome summit of Mt. Moosilauke (4,802'). 

The summit views were spectacular. The clouds and ominous atmosphere sealed the deal for making this a spooky fun hike, and at the same time it was just as intriguing and unique for me, as this was my fourth time to the summit of Moosilauke. In the distance, Sandy's clouds were making their way into southern NH. We were anticipating a big group for a costume summit shot, but instead, everyone must have been scared off by us spooky creatures who had taken over the summit of Moosilauke. We embraced the beautiful summit, the ominous day, and the make believe happenings in the woods around us. The overwhelming feeling turned us into scary summit-hungry creatures.

After about 15 minutes of posing for a variety of photos to always remember this special hike, we hunkered down behind the rocks to get ready for the trek back into the woods. The hands were starting to crack in the cold, and the clouds had engulfed the top of Franconia Ridge. It was time to go. Sandy was fast approaching. One thing that we taught to the lil' devil on that summit yesterday, was that on some days, and sometimes when you least expect it, the mountains will reward you. "How does that happen, she asked?" That one was all Bill's. Moosilauke surely rewarded us. Furthermore, when it comes to the mountains, the wilderness, and the outdoors, one must rely on your own self. We missed out on meeting some new friends, but I have no doubt in my mind that years from now, we'll always talk about the story of the lil' devil and her crazy creatures of a Dad and Uncle who climbed Mt. Moosilauke in the full spirit of Halloween.

Our descent was peaceful. The clouds were most definitely on the increase, and light was fading. We enjoyed a lengthy second stop at the view into Tunnel Ravine. We readied our flashlights and headlamps, descended the tricky trail, now again covered in a thick layer of dry, slippery leaves. Darkness arrived. Shortly thereafter, during a needed break, we could see the light of the true full moon appear over the ridgeline above and behind us. Continuing on, we carefully followed the trail to the brook crossing, where we easily crossed in the same location and made it back to the road. In no hurry at all, we walked back down the road under the full moon which seemed to turn on and off amid the thick passing clouds, and behind the spooky leaf-less trees. Despite the ominous appearance, it was really such a beautiful day and night in the mountains. It was never scary at all, and we had nothing but silly imaginations of lurking creatures and all laughs.

Hope you enjoyed this one! Happy Halloween everyone!

Hike Stats:
Trails: Tunnel Brook Road, Benton Trail, Carriage Road Trail, Snapper Trail, Gorge Brook Trail
Distance: 9 miles (including road walk of Tunnel Brook Road)
Elevation Gain: 3,203 ft
Actual Book Time: 8hrs 45min
AMC Book Time: 5hrs 10min

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