|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mt. Moriah, Shelburne Moriah Mountain, NH|
||Wild River Trail, Highwater Trail, Moriah Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, Kenduskeag Trail, Shelburne Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Wednesday, June 17, 2020|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||The parking area next to the campground had 1 car in it; the Iron ranger is covered over and all info from the sign removed, though the signpost still says you must have a valid rec pass...but there is no way to get one and no place to put money in. The Campground Iron ranger nearby is very specifically only for the campground and makes no note of a daily fee for parking. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Due to the lack of rain, the Wild River, at both Shelburne and Moriah Brook Trail, were easily fordable in maybe calf height. A very, very, confident Rock Hopper willing to risk wet feet could cross At Moriah Brook Trail probably. Moriah Brook itself was easily rock-hoppable; no other water crossings of note. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||As this is a Wilderness zone I am always unsure about exactly what level of maintenance is required. There are old bog bridges, but they are rotted away almost completely, do they get replaced? I looked at the Class 2 trails info (or what I could find of it online) and it is iffy in places as to what should be done. There are hundreds of blowdowns on these trails, many are lower than 14 inches, so they wouldn't warrant removal according to the guide, but there are probably 40-50 more on this loop that should be removed as they are 2-4 feet in height.
The class 2 designation also says the trails should be 12-18inches, yet there are parts of this loop, on Moriah Brook trail especially, where the trail is literally not visible as the ground vegetation (mainly Hobblebrush) has completely overtaken it so much that you are walking blind underfoot. Kenduskeag Trail has so much scrubby pine intrusions that even walking through it sideways still left you scratched up. Similarly, the lack of a key blaze or arrow here or there on both Moriah Brook Trail and Shelburne, is leading to a lot of really well worn side paths, herd paths, dead ends etc when the trail is lost. Is this lower impact and more wild than a simple arrow or blaze (of which I think we saw less than 10 in total outside of the AT section)? I don't know the answers to these questions from an official standpoint, but it'd make the trail even more enjoyable without detracting from the overall wilderness experience, to us. |
||There is ample water on Moriah Brook, but once you leave there, it's a solid 6+ miles until water again on Shelburne. The Moriah ridge has no sources of water that I'm aware of. |
||The bugs were in the cafes at night speaking of revolution, but they had not formed into an organized group with a cohesive plan of attack on their enemy....yet. That said, they were a constant presence the entire 15 miles of this hike. Bring bug spray. |
|Lost and Found:
||This is a great 15+/- mile loop hike around Moriah and Shelburne Moriah. I want to preface my following comments with this; the hike is obviously beautiful, the views are excellent, the grades mostly easy, and Moriah Brook Trail is known for being one of the nicest in the Whites. Since I don't have anything interesting to add in that regard (oooh yeah you're right the cascades are pretty!), I'll talk instead about a few challenges we ran into with this trail.|
Though the crossing of the Wild River was easy, coming upon Highwater trail on the other side is a disaster. I didn't assume posters before us were lying as to how bad of shape, or mostly non-existent, this trail is, but it is easily the worst we've seen. Functionally, Highwater Trail ceases to exist multiple times. The parts of the trail were presumably washed away in the 2018 flood. Immediately after crossing we found the trail, and when it just ended in the middle of the woods, we took a downward side-hilling remnant of a herd path, which also abruptly terminated. Backtracking we decided to bushwhack along the ridge above for a few tenths and then descended down to find a part of the trail that wasn't washed away, which took us to the Moriah Brook Turnoff. On our return later, we attempted to come back from Shelburne on Highwater trail, but after some attempts at route-finding and bushwhacking, we decided we didn't have it in us at the end of the day. This trail, unless you are redlining, is best to be avoided. It needs serious and concentrated rerouting to become a functional trail. I don't know what the Forest Service's plans for this trail are, but if it's not fixed, it's not going to be long before it would warrant being removed from the guide. I can't speak to the other 8+ miles, but the part we were on is a disaster.
Moriah Brook Trail is beautiful; the Brook is attractive, and due to the low water level and lack of rain, the trail is much less muddy than described, though there is still some mud, it is not an egregious amount. The area around the old Beaver activity (2.8 miles roughly) the trail is overrun with the aforementioned Hobblebrush. We were literally wading through waist high seas of Hobblebrush while presuming we were still on the trail. It requires care and route-finding multiple times, especially around the Beaver activity, at one of the crossings of the brook where well worn trails lead up and away from the brook (at the confluence of Moriah Brook and another Branch. The Gorge just downstream of the first crossing of Moriah Brook is very neat and worth trotting down to; the water level was low enough we just followed the edge of the river. The trail is also very gradual; by the time you see the first glimpses of the cliffs of Moriah you've already climbed 1500+ feet but you didn't even notice. The birch forest in this section is nice; make sure to make a hard left at a large boulder where everyone goes straight first. Taking the left you'll go through a series of nearly nonexistent bog bridges that could be very muddy in wet conditions. This is also the last fill-up for water for 6 miles, so front-load your water intake so you can grab more before you leave the Brook for the last time.
The 1.4 miles next on Carter Moriah are steady and gorgeous, lots of great views north, west, and south. There are better views than from that one open rock that is the top of Moriah, in our opinion. The top of Moriah is where we saw the only 3 people we saw all day. In fact, there was no one on any of the other trails all day, as I was breaking spiderwebs all day, even well into the afternoon on Shelburne.
Kenduskeag Trail earns it's name as a Pleasant Walk, especially the section where it's the AT as it is in great shape. Beyond that, prepared for getting whacked by Krummholz...a lot. Still a nice trail, but would be even more enjoyable if it were 8 inches wider, or even just trimmed back a bit so the protrusions weren't so persistent. There was very little mud here due to the dry conditions; but judging from the looks of it, there is significant, largely unavoidable mud (due to the dense conifers), when conditions are wetter. The views from the ledges here leading up to Shelburne Moriah are extensive; we liked them more than the views from Moriah itself. You can still see the snow on the Northern Presis holding on in spots. We also found a large chunk of snow holding on in a shaded col here below 3000 feet.
Shelburne trail is pretty rough footing, and calling it a trail for it's first mile or so is generous. Again, great care is needed in places to follow, and it's clear this trail receives very, very little use. Here you'll find your first water since Moriah Brook; Bully Brook about a mile down had more water in the dry conditions. The last two miles of the trail follow logging roads and a railroad bed, so very easy grades. The heavy leaf litter and lack of boots on the ground can sometimes obscure the trail here. After abanonding an attempt to follow Highwater trail back (see above), we took the easy fords of the Wild River (here the first two sections are rock hoppable but the last needs to be forded). There are actually arrows here pointing out which way to go as there are some twists and turns. We then walked the mile or so back to our campsite on the road. There is a great swimming hole with a cascade at the "narrow bridge" sign before the campground; a path to it is well worn, and was the perfect way to end the day. Water was easily 65+ degrees; definitely warmed than the ocean. Very refreshing.
Overall a great hike. Moriah Brook Trail and Shelburne trail could really benefit from more people hiking them to make the footpath more obvious, and to stamp out the encroaching vegetation. And Actually it's not even encroaching on parts of Moriah. It's entrenched. And more people should give this loop a try as it really is a great one. It was easy grades almost the whole way, great views, it's a loop, there is little (in our case no) traffic on it, it has a great base to camp at the night before or after, and the trails are attractive in and of themselves. While I spent most of my time bitching about it, we would definitely do this hike again as it was just a great overall experience.
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.