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16 July 2011

A Trek to Shelburne-Moriah: Watch with Care for the Cairn!

Shelburne-Moriah Mountain (3,735 ft elevation) is a terrific peak!  It ranks #5 on the "New Hampshire 52 with a View" list.  It would unquestionably see a lot more hiker traffic if it were easier to access!

The shortest approach to this mountain is from the south via the Shelburne Trail's southern trailhead on Wild River Road.  This involves a 9.2 mile round-trip hike with an oftentimes tricky crossing of the Wild River at the outset of the hike.  There are two approach routes from the north.   One route begins at the Rattle River Trail, and the other starts at the Shelburne Trail's northern trailhead.  These routes entail round-trip mileages of 11.2 and 10.8 miles, respectively.

This past Saturday (16-July-2011), my friend Marty and I opted to access Shelburne-Moriah by starting at the Shelburne Trail's northern trailhead, and eventually meeting up with the westbound Kenduskeag Trail.  Our decision was influenced by the fact that neither of us had ever hiked this particular route.   As indicated in the White Mountain Guide, before heading off into the woods, the Shelburne Trail involves a long walk along a logging road (2.1 miles, to be exact!).  The guidebook also indicates that the turn off the road into the woods can be "difficult to discern".  Yup!  Marty and I can confirm that!

Once we had hiked along the road for nearly an hour, and once the roadway began to dwindle, we knew it was pretty likely that we had missed the turn!  So, out came the GPS to save the day!  We could see that the trail was only about a tenth of a mile off to the southwest.  And so, after a quick and easy bushwhack, we were on the trail!

Okay, allow me to reverse the order of this report just a bit by interjecting the following.  On the return leg of our journey, we were both very eager to discover where the trail intersects the logging road.  We wanted to see what type of trail sign (or whatever) that we missed earlier in the day.  The photo below shows what we failed to see, i.e. the small cairn with the maple sapling growing from the middle of it!
Here is a retrospective hint that will serve as an alert when you are getting close to the point where you leave the logging road.  A snowmobile trail diverges from the right side of road at about 0.2 mile before you reach the elusive cairn.  There's no guarantee that it will still be there, but on the day of our hike, there was a white cardboard sign tacked to a tree with a faint grey arrow pointing to the snowmobile trail (see composite photo below).
So, now that you know the beginning and the ending segment of our adventure, I'll fill in a few details about the middle parts!  Once you're finally on the nearly 2 mile portion of the Shelburne Trail that winds its way through the woods, there is an abundance of delightful forest to admire.  However, the first opportunity for wide-open vistas happens only after hopping onto the Kenduskeag Trail.

At about 0.2 mile from the junction with the Shelburne Trail, we scampered up to a bare-rock knob via a faint path off the Kenduskeag Trail.  From this spot there is an awesome overview of the Wild River Valley and the peaks that surround it.

The next photo shows one of the many vistas from this perch.
The spot described above is also where we stopped for lunch.  For dessert, there were ripe blueberries literally at our feet!  However, we picked very few so as not to deprive the local wildlife of their next meal!
After lunch on the rocky knob, it was then onward and upward to the top of Shelburne-Moriah.  The next photo was taken from a viewpoint which overlooks our "rocky-knob" lunch spot.  Quite a nice dining venue!
Many segments of the Kenduskeag Trail were beautifully "laurel-lined", as shown in the composite photo below.
And, many portions of the trail had long stretches of boardwalk.  And although the insertion of man-made structures can sometimes be unattractive, I thought that some of the wooden pathways were quite picturesque.
The next photo doesn't show anything in particular.  I just found it appealing because of the variety of colors, textures and shapes.
The top of Shelburne-Moriah is so expansive and is so attractive!  There are acres of bare rock interspersed among pockets of low-growing vegetation.  This arrangement provides a wealth of nooks and crannies to explore.  Without too much exaggeration, just exploring the top of Shelburne-Moriah could almost be a hike unto itself!

By roaming around this sprawling mountaintop, you can get views in all directions.  Unless it's an overcast day, the one view that dominates is the scene looking westward where the tops of the northern Presidentials loom on the horizon (see photo below).
The next photo is a composite of a few other vistas from Shelburne-Moriah, but as any reader knows who has visited this mountain, there are many more views besides what is shown in this small sample.
The ending of this adventure was already presented at the beginning of this report.  However, there is one additional final note that I'll mention.  Within about a half mile of reaching the trailhead, we stopped at a point where Connor Brook comes within about 50 feet of the logging road.  Here we happened upon a delightful little cascade surrounded by moss-covered boulders (see photo below).

To sum it up, this was an enjoyable hike.  It supplied a nice variety of views, plus it allowed Marty and me to travel a route that was new to both of us.  And, finding the picturesque cascade at the end of our hike was a pleasant surprise.  It provided a nice offset to the unpleasant surprise at the beginning our journey when we missed the turn-off for the trail! 


JamNSam said...

Shelburne-Moriah is a great hike! The walk in through the logging road is a bit long, but you got some amazing pictures! Nice find with the cascade in the end. Did you need insect repellent? or were the bugs tolerable?

cooperhill said...

Very cool. Will have to add this to my "to do" list. I've been interested in the Kenduskeag Trail, especially the abandoned eastern half (that continued over Howe Peak to the highwater trail). I'm sure it's no longer followable.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi JamNSam . . . regarding the bug situation, they were pretty much tolerable. Mercifully, there was a breeze at both the spot where we ate lunch, and on the summit of Shelburne-Moriah. On the return leg of our trek, we did stop to put on some repellent on the 1.9 mile segment of the Shelburne Trail that goes through the woods. It was evening at that time, and the little devils seemed to be hungry for dinner! :-)


1HappyHiker said...

Cooperhill: Hi Chris! Regarding the abandoned portion of the Kenduskeag Trail that went over Howe Peak to the Highwater Trail, you're probably correct about it no longer being follow-able all the way. However, it looks like it would be a short and easy bushwhack up to Howe Peak from the junction of the Shelburne Trail and Kenduskeag Trail. If we'd had more time, that was something I would've loved to have checked out. Maybe another day . . . Howe Peak will still be there! :-)


una_dogger said...

my favorite route to SM and I might have to do it again next week!

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog, Sabrina! I’ll keep an eye on your Facebook postings for your re-visit of Shelburne-Moriah! :-)


Beckie Jani said...

Do you have a preference between this approach and Rattle River? We may go this Saturday. Eventually we hope to do all approaches, as we hope to redline. Thanks!

1HappyHiker said...

First of all, my apologies for the late reply. For whatever reason, I’m no longer receiving e-mail notifications of reader’s comments. I’m going to have to start manually checking for comments on a more frequent basis.

Anyway, I have a slight preference for the Shelburne/Kenduskeag approach. The Rattle River approach has a lot more hiker traffic, especially since it’s part of the Appalachian Trail. The approaches are about equal in terms of distance and elevation gain. However, if you want to split hairs, the Rattle River approach is about 0.2 mile longer and has about 35 ft more elevation gain. :-)