MAY 14, 2022
Mount Moriah was a bit of a compromise. It is on the list of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 footers. It was #20 for me, which feels a bit momentous. Allison is well over halfway at #25 now. The compromise had to do with time. We are getting to the point where overnights and such will be necessary. Ultimately this is a good thing. We (particularly Al) are getting more serious now. It will make better ecological sense when we are up there for longer strings of hikes. Moriah, however, is one of the last free-standing mountains on the list...
We took the slightly longer route of Stony Brook Trail to Carter-Moriah Trail. The extra mile flattened things out a tiny bit. There is always plenty of elevation on a mountain like this--3,400 feet of it but the approach enabled us to do some very pretty ridge-walking which the other trail did not have. The other trail takes Carter-Moriah up from the other side and is generally faster.
The book claims our hike was 10 miles out and back, but it felt a bit longer than that. Not in a bad way...it just did. The weather was beautiful on the way up. It started flatish for a couple miles and then the climb began in earnest. My biggest problem was water. I need a lot of it, apparently, and did not have either the water purifying iodine drops or the water filter. Careful rationing worked but I was sooo thirsty when I got back to the car!
The extra views were totally worth it, by the way. It became clear that we had taken the road less travelled. There were a couple other groups slow-hiking, a trail runner, and a young hiker who was cruising up and down. Not a big crowd, though. We were evenly spaced as well, which means that we got our views in relative isolation. Microspikes were still needed for the last couple of miles as there was abundant ice and slush in the shade.
Remember the views? Well, the peak involved a steep scramble and then we broke out on the tiny bald top, which was crowded! The road-most-taken was pretty popular on this particular glorious spring day so we settled in an ignored spot just off the peak and chatted to another 48er about our previous hikes, complained about the crowd, etc. It is spring now and weekends are packed.
Most people I know are of two minds about the high hiker population this time of year. Partly it is good to have so many folks exploring and exercising. It is good for them and--even though it taxes the trails--it is good for the environment to have people feel a sense of connection. It makes them more likely to advocate for environmental legislation and regulation--including trail restrictions--and to make personal lifestyle changes. That said, I--along with most folks--prefer those days when no one is around. Also, it is totally OK to worry about the environmental impact.
I don't recommend heading out to the big peaks in NH this time of year if you want isolation. It is crowded! Personally I prefer less-famous places in Northern New England and local hikes here in Massachusetts. I am working on a list, in fact, and will share it when it is done. There is more room to move on these hikes and the views aren't so obstructed by humanity. Al prefers the big peaks, though, so for our equivalent of "date night" the NH48 are almost always on the menu. After all, the crowds are bigger these days but the personal challenge is the same.
What I don't think is cool is the level of hostility toward "visitors". I am one, after all. Yes, many hikers (though probably not most) are currently living out of state. However, you can't really tell who is who up there. People are making snap judgments based on appearance, accents, and whether one is "in the way" of the observer. The mountains are, for the most part, on federal land or in federally funded state parks. Everyone has the right to be there because everybody's taxes (and parking fees) pay for it. There have been some snide comments directed at us and other hikers from people who assume they have a greater right to the trail. What is weird to me is that everyone there is a visitor in some way. They just want to be the only one who actually belongs.
I see this in other parts of my life, too. It can happen pretty much anywhere somebody has found their "special thing" that brings them joy. Then you are either "in" (or part of what the person has defined as what brings joy) or "out" (an obstacle or distraction from the sought after perfection). I have stopped going to festivals and retreat centers where this is the dominant vibe, particularly when I feel that I am becoming part of that "in" group. We watch for this bias at our church, too. It is a common one in many religious organizations that should be about everybody finding a home.
Some people like to complain about all the interlopers on their day. I am not a fan of isolationism or of racism. At times--particularly online--that appears to be where we are going in so many of the communities I am a part of. I get being proud of your place--whether you live there or just visit a lot--but it still gets to be someone else's place, too. Culturally New Englanders--and I suspect many others--take great joy in drawing as tight a circle of belonging as possible. Though I have lived here for two decades it has been made clear to me many times--implicitly and explicitly--that I will never really "belong" in Natick. When I go home to Maine it is made clear that I don't belong there either. Hiking can be no different. We have to make room for each other.
One way to make room is to hike the trail others aren't hiking. Back on the road-not-taken it was just us once again. We navigated the ice, ran out of water, chatted with an adventurous older couple, and made it back to the car in time to grab an early dinner.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.