After subjecting Jim to a (ahem) fun bushwhack last week, we left the decision to him on what to do on his final weekend of vacation. Brian nudged him in the direction of Tremont (since we needed it :) ), but that got nixed, and he chose the Rattle River and Kenduskeag Trails for AT section hiking. Well, that was convenient, Brian and I needed Shelburne Moriah, and I also needed Moriah. I've been eyeing this "T" hike for some time, and although long, I wasn't going to pass on Moriah, being only 1.4 miles away. Whee! Along the way, we picked up Greg and Desi, who were going to do Owl's Head, but everyone bailed on them.
The forecast did not look promising, but on the drive up, the clouds appeared plenty high, with Adams and Madison poking out and there were no showers yet north of the notch, so maybe it wouldn't be too bad. We met at the lot, head nets were donned, to the amusement of non-head net wearers.
It's a 4.3 mile hike on the Rattle River Trail to the junction of the Kenduskeag Trail, and the first few miles are at pleasant grades. We stopped at a geocache for Jim and Brian's sake, and also took a look at the Rattle River Shelter, where of all things, there was a light bulb. Odd, yet peculiar. Of course, I took lots of stream shots, about the only thing to do along the way, and the usual barbs flew back and forth making the time go by nicely.
Around 2000' the trail starts to do some real climbing, and I realized I still had over 2000' of gain to gather. Yuck. Jim took off ahead, and after a while I decided to pull ahead and just go. I find it easier to keep moving, no matter how slowly, and with plenty of company in the rear, I wouldn't feel bad about this. I caught up to Jim, chatted a bit and just kept plugging away. There a lot of stonework on this trail, so it was more like a stairmaster from hell workout, but after a decent while, the slope lessened and I came to the junction, built upon bog bridges.
About 15 minutes later Jim came strolling along, and we had a fun conversation about the AMC. Another 25 minutes later, the rest of the gang pulled up. Thankfully, there was a breeze to keep bugs off, and a light shower appeared from time to time. We discussed what we were all going to do. Brian, Greg and Desi would make straight for Shelburne Moriah. Jim and I would head off for Moriah, and I'd double back, while Jim would redline the Carter-Moriah, and we'd pick him up at the trailhead. Jim told me to go ahead, so I could make good time and hopefully catch up with everyone else all the sooner, so I went back into crank mode. The trail was a bit up and downy, but pleasant enough with lots of bog bridges, so I was indeed making good time. At one point, I could hear a raven not too far and to the left of me. The strange thing was it sounded less like a bird and more like a human imitating a bird. Combined with an overcast sky, and the wind whipping above me, it made for a very creepy feeling. I kept getting closer to the bird, and then saw a huge sleeping bag just sitting there next to the trail. OK, now I'm totally creeped out - get me out of here.
Glad to have the raven behind me, I puttered up the remaining elevation to the junction with the wind now whipping. Ah, I see I have a little rock scrambling to do up the Carter-Moriah Trail. From there it was only a couple minutes to the top, where the wind was really strong. I wasn't going to bother to put on a fleece, so I took a few quick pictures including an interesting ledgey peak way off in the distance, said hello to another couple and took their picture for them, and we all exited quickly. I met Jim coming up at the view ledge on the Carter-Moriah, and we talked about the trail coming up, including the mystery sleeping bag. He ID'ed the ledgey peak as Shelburn Moriah, and I was trying to convince him that the peak I was seeing was to the north, and too far away. Uhhh, no, it was indeed to the east, and being 2.7 miles away, yeah, it'll look a little far off. Oh crap, I've got a long way to go.
We bade our goodbyes and I made quick time back to the junction, thanks to many flat sections, although the short up sections were now slowing me down. Heading to Shelburn Moriah now, I noted more ups and downs, and knew I would not like these in any way on the way back. Crap. More bog bridges, and I finally suited up with some more showers and wind just before the first alpine section, still a ways off from the summit. No sign of anyone yet. There was plenty of mud pits, which I readily stepped into, and more ups and downs, and on a section going up I finally ran into the rest of the crew. We shared experiences, and told them I'd catch up soon enough.
More mud, more ups and downs, and I finally came to the summit, a lovely alpine area with great views. Were there not so many clouds. Everything was hazy, but there was still stuff to see, so I snapped more viewish pictures, and some of some alpine flowers and plants. The wind was still strong, but with a fleece and complete rain gear, only my hands were chilly.
Time to go and catch up with my friends, as I was wanting of some company at this point. I hurried down, finding more mud to sink in, and then slipped on a wet bog bridge, with me leg crumpling under me, and my ankle in a precarious position. OK, let's take it easy on these things. That done, I then slipped down a ledge, harming my confidence more than anything else. Next up a root. Good grief. So I took it easier and finally made it back to the junction, taking a breather. The rain was now steady, and getting down the steep section was a killer on the knees, and with wet rocks, I had to be especially careful. Finally down to 2000' the rocks and roots mostly disappeared and I started to make better speed, looking ahead, hoping to see my friends any time now. Well, that didn't happen for a good long while, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the shelter. I tried sneaking up on Greg with the rain for sound cover. No good, he turned as I was about 20 feet away. Brian had scooted ahead, but we found him swatting bugs at the shelter. It was a long, long walk out, and at the trailhead, there was Jim. He did something like a 3 mile roadwalk to get here before us. Amazing. Into dry clothes, and then off to another excellent meal and tons of laughs at Mr. Pizza.
Not the greatest of days to do this mountain, but we had a good day regardless. We'll definitely return on a perfect fall day to enjoy this on its own.