Monday, July 21, 2014

Mt. Moriah and Mt. Surprise, July 19, 2014

Mt. Moriah (4,049) and Mt. Surprise (2,194') via Carter-Moriah trail, July 19, 2014

Mileage:  Mt. Moriah summit: 9.3 miles RT (Mt. Surprise: 4 miles RT)

Elevation gain:  Mt. Moriah summit: 3,482' (Mt. Surprise: 1,394')
Trailhead: Route 16 N to Gorham, then east on Route 2 out of Gorham (right turn at the "T").  At .6 miles take a right turn onto Bangor Road (trailhead sign). The parking area is about .5 miles in on the left (a dirt turnout by a cleared corridor - do not park by the trailhead sign).
Hiked with a group from the Worcester chapter of the AMC.
I'd hiked Mt. Moriah in 2009 via Stony brook trail as part of my NH four thousand footer list (see previous trip report) and was looking forward to revisiting the summit, this time hiking it from the Gorham side. 
And I got to bag Mt. Surprise as an added bonus.
Mt. Surprise is a small, nondescript peak on the C-M trail, with a lovely view just below the summit (no summit sign or cairn).  Surprise is on the "Listless Peaks" list (a list I am relatively certain NO ONE is working on!).
Trailhead is a hundred feet from the parking area (you can't park here).

We walked down the road and onto the trail. Immediately the trail goes up without any consideration of our desire to ease into this hike gradually.  It's cool out but we found ourselves layering down quickly. The ground evens out further in, with sweet lush woods and a leafy path.

The trail mellows out a bit after the first hump.

The group fell into a rhythm and a few miles later we were walking on angled slabs.  A wonderful view of the northern presidentials stopped us. We were at the viewpoint just below the summit of Mt. Surprise.

Stopping for the peaks.

Why's it called Mt. Surprise?  My guess is because you have no idea you just summited it!  Rich's GPS beeped; that was the only indication. No cairn, no sign, no nothing.  The true summit of this little peak is most likely just above the trail's height of land, a scrubby, dead tree littered knoll to the left.  I hopped up to that area in hopes for some marking and found nothing. 

Most of the group blew by  the summit before we realized we were there. I called them back for a summit photo. (It is a summit after all.)

Not everyone has a summit photo on Mt. Surprise, you know.....

The trail turns to slab after this point; steep at times.  Some slabs required looking for the best way up (and down).  This area reminds me of Mt. Kearsarge.

Flat slab.
As things got steeper we could see views - bits of mountains and the town of Gorham.

Steeper still.
And very steep.

The slabs are never ending (seems that way anyway) - but none required scrambling.  The rocks up high are damp, mossy and required more oomph to get up. 

There is evidence of recent trail maintenance near the summit. The trail is in excellent condition with just the usual signs of erosion and foot traffic. 

The trees get shorter and the whole area has that hush of being up high, close to the top.  We reached the junction of the turnoff to the summit.

Junction of the Carter-Moriah trail and the summit turnoff (little path to the top).

We scampered up to the summit rock to have lunch.  There was a bit of a haze but the view was clear enough and everyone enjoyed it.

Lunch on the terrace....

Just part of the 360° view.

A cohesive bunch (and good looking too!)

When the time came it was tough to head down - the bugs were minimal, the sun was warming us, there was just a bit of a breeze.  But we got vertical, hoisted our packs behind us and made our way down that slabby, often steep trail (at times a very interesting descent). 
Heading down.

It took a little longer to get down the part of the trail with the damp slabs.  As we got lower the rocks were drier, and it became warmer and more humid.  The air was still; clouds had rolled in. 

Once back at the summit of Mt. Surprise we spread out and headed back to the cars at our own speed.
Nice ferny area around 2,000'.

This is a great hike in dry, clear weather. The trail is interesting, the views spectacular and reward worth it (360° summit). Use caution in wet and icy conditions.