This was the first trail I've hiked this season with no snow. It was a pleasant and mostly gentle hike up to the south summit of Moose Mountain. I descended on the other side of the peak which made for a nice loop hike. Moose Mountain comprises two summits: South Peak and North Peak.
Moose Mountain Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and I met a couple hiking the AT in segments; they were heading in the same direction as I was, although they continued on to the northern peak instead of doing the loop. Other than that, no one else was on the trail.
Since Moose Mountain Trail is also the AT, the trail was blazed in white. The signs were orange (managed by Dartmouth Outing Club). Shortly along the trail, I crossed Mink Brook. There was a tree down here that had to be skirted around a bit but sort of worked out as a railing while crossing the water on a plank-type bridge. Surprisingly, this was about the only downed tree I noticed on the trail in spite of a recent wicked windstorm that felled probably thousands of trees.
A bit after the stream crossing, I came across the Fred Harris Trail which crosses Moose Mountain Trail. This was marked by an orange sign. I went straight through this junction to stay on Moose Mountain Trail.
The trail climbed mostly gently. There was some mud but not much considering this is mud season. Many trout lily plants (Erythronium americanum) with their distinctive stiff, blotchy leaves were pushing their way up through the old leaf litter. There were several vistas visible through the bare tree branches. Getting closer to the summit, there was only about a quarter-mile stretch that would be considered moderately steep. After getting past this section, the trail gentled again for an easy approach to the top. And there was some moose scat along the way.
The summit was mossy, ledgy, and mostly surrounded by trees. There was a small clearing affording views of a couple distant peaks as well as the nearby Goose Pond with Clark Pond in the middle distance. I had a comfortable lunch break and was kept company by the juncos and chickadees.
I found some Carolina spring beauty ( Claytonia caroliniana) growing in the understory on the summit. This is a low-growing plant with oblong-shaped leaves. The flowers have white petals with delicate verical pink stripes running through them; the flowers look very similar to those of common wood sorrel but wood sorrel has clover-like leaves.
After a while, I prepared to head down the other side of the peak to make a loop. Be forewarned that the route is not easy to follow from here on out... if you're not up for a little challenge and adventure you should simply retrace your steps for the descent rather than risk getting lost.
So I continued along Moose Mountain Trail, across the summit and down the other side until I came to an unsigned 4-way intersection. Moose Mountain Trail continues straight and Old Wolfeboro Road or Province Road, formerly called Clark Pond Loop is the crossroads (no wonder it's not signed - how would they label it?). Going right would lead to the old Moose Mountain shelter after 0.3 mile. I tried following this route just to see the shelter. The trail descended quickly downhill and became very muddy... the kind of quicksand mud that gobbles up hiking boots in just one gulp. So I soon decided I didn't really need to check out the shelter. I later learned there is a new Moose Mountain shelter. I believe it can be reached by continuing on Moose Mountain Trail for just a bit and then bearing right on a 0.1 mile spur trail that ends up rejoining the main trail.
Instead I headed down Old Wolfeboro Road in the other direction (that is, when coming down from South Peak, turn left when you reach the crossroads). This route descended at moderate and gentle grades and sometimes seemed to be more stream than trail. After 0.6 mile I came to a gravel road where I picked up the hard-to-follow Fred Harris Trail. I navigated with a compass and a torn-out page from the New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer map book which showed a tiny red dashed line that I presumed to represent the Fred Harris Trail. As if to make up for the lack of signs, the actual walking from here on out is very easy.
Upon reaching the gravel road, I took the first left (after only about 20 yards) which brought me into a wide clearing. A logging yard, a future home site?... I don't know. I walked along the left edge of this clearing and re-entered the woods on a trail. (There was also a trail leading from the right-hand corner of the clearing but a spray-painted sign indicated "no trespassing".)
At a fork I bore left to follow some blue blazes. A logging road soon joined the road I was walking on and I'm pretty sure this is the same road that had the "no trespassing" sign at the clearing. This logging road then ended up curving to the left, still with blue blazes but at this point I elected to go straight (based on the map and compass readings).
These various routes brought me through some pleasant hemlock woods with princess pine, running cedar, and Christmas fern providing greenery along the ground. Eventually on the left, down a tall, steep embankment was a pretty stream. I stopped here, right on the side of the trail for a snack and admired the scenery. Just downhill from this spot is a roadway that crosses the stream (no bridge) and leads to the private Harris cabin; what an interesting place to live!
Downhill from the cabin, at a fork, I bore left (again no signs, just a lot of good luck), crossed a stream, then bore right where there was a sign for a ski trail. And this quickly brought me back to the crossroads near the beginning of the day's journey were the Fred Harris Trail and Moose Mountain Trail intersect. I took a right, and in 0.4 mile was back at my car.
So that's the route I followed. The logging roads are subject to change of course and there may be more than one route that will lead you back to the start. Happy navigating!