The loop hike up North Moat (3,196 feet) and down Red Ridge offers a great perspective on the Mount Washington Valley, directly below. Plus a 360-degree vista of the entire region.
I did it once on a beautiful June day. The clouds were dramatic, the air was crisp and clean, and the visibility was great.
Early that morning, I thought about where to go for a hike that week, and the summit view from North Moat suddenly appeared in my imagination. A few images came to mind:
• The time I was there with Bob Gordon and the late Sandy Smith, and a flock of Canada geese slowly flew away from us to the North in the crystal clear air.
• The photo I took of the summit cairn locked in ice-covered snow that the late Mike Lynn of Jackson liked so much because it reminded him of a trip with his father, and I ended up sending him a copy.
• The winter’s day when I reached the summit at sunset and walked back down the Red Ridge in the dark above a sea of lights in North Conway, observing in the darkness just how much the valley had grown since I first visited there in the 1960s.
• The summer bushwhack I did a few times up Moat Brook directly from the flats below to the summit ridge, and liked to think that I could still do it without too much trouble.
Directly above North Conway, Moat Mountain is the source of countless stories for many people. There was the local house painter who had “religious” experiences there; the prospector looking for quartz crystals who made his greatest discovery to date there on its flank; my own experiences and those of many of my readers.
Early that morning, I parked at the Diana’s Bath parking lot off West Side Road and headed up the Moat Trail. I saw no one all day until returning to Diana’s Bath in early afternoon, and passed a line of people walking into it.
I walked past a quiet Diana’s Bath. The long flats after that went quickly. Turning left uphill, I invited the steepness and enjoyed moving steadily. I had taken my T-shirt off for the hike up, and was able to hold off putting on any layers until the rocky summit, where a brisk wind blew from the west.
I put on a jacket and lingered for quite a while on the west side of the summit. Clouds hid the Presidentials, and many lower peaks were partially hidden, adding to the mystery of the scene. But there was still plenty of sun and visibility.
Once off the top and away from the wind, I was instantly warm in the sun. The next mile along the ridge was a pleasure, with many great views outward from ledges on the trail that required some care while descending.
Reaching a gentle saddle amid tall spruce, I climbed up to the junction with the Red Ridge Trail, and headed down it, soon emerging from the trees onto the bare granite ridge.
A friend had been surprised by a bear there during blueberry season once. It was big, reared up only a few feet away, and started towards him. My friend turned around and headed down, his heart pounding. I told him about learning from bear expert Ben Kilham that bears sometimes make false charges when surprised. Down in the valley, that has sometimes led to their being misunderstood as seriously threatening people, and their unfortunate demise.
Below the bare ridge, the trail dropped dramatically down into the woods and reached Moat Brook. It was another mile and a half of flat woods walking back to the lower Moat Trail, just above Diana’s Bath.
After almost 10 miles of solitude, I could hear kids in Diana’s Bath as I approached. On the flat walkway out to my car, a woman with a puppy on a leash overflowed with the news of her puppy’s discovery that it liked to swim in a brook.
That was a gentle way to return to civilization.