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15 March 2012

South Moat Mountain: An Overcast that Persisted

It was nearly 11:00 AM on 15-March and the day was beginning to slip away.  There were no signs that the overcast conditions would soon lift, as had been predicted.  Finally, I decided to venture out for a hike despite the weather. However, with getting such a late start, my options were now quite limited.  There was still enough time to do a short hike up to South Moat, and besides it had been quite awhile since I'd made the 5.4 mile (round-trip) trek to this 2,749 ft peak.

As I was driving along Rt. 302 headed toward the trailhead in Conway, NH, I caught a glimpse of the Crawford Notch area.  The overcast conditions added a charming quality to the overall scene.  I decided to pull over and scamper up that little hill at the Eisenhower Memorial Wayside Park in order to snap a photo (see below).  My thought was that, given the conditions, this might be my only worthwhile photo for the entire day!

The Moat Mountain Range is interesting in many ways.  First of all, the name alone conjures up images in my mind of a castle surrounded by a  moat.

And actually, the "castle and moat" thing isn't too far off the mark, at least according to Robert and Mary Julyan in their book "Place Names of the White Mountains".  To paraphrase what the Julyan's say in their book, the name Moat Mountain was given by early settlers because of the many beaver ponds around the mountain's slopes.  The locals likened these ponds to moats, and a visit to the region was termed 'going over the moats'.
For those readers who might be a "rockhound" (or petrologist, if you prefer), the rocks that compose the Moat Mountain Range are somewhat unique and have been the object of much scientific study.  If you want to read more about this aspect, a fellow Blogger posted an in-depth article that is chock-full of interesting information and photos (click HERE).
So, getting back to my report about my trek to South Moat, I had read reports of conditions on the Moat Mountain Trail.  However, the reports were several days old, and at this time of year, conditions can change rapidly.  I was uncertain what to do, and so I strapped snowshoes onto my pack and off I went.  The snowshoes never left my pack (of course!), but Microspikes were needed . . . well sort of!  By "sort of" I mean that the trail conditions were extremely mixed.  There were sections that were completely free of snow and ice, whereas other segments were quite icy and Microspikes provided some reassuring traction.
The next two photos were taken to illustrate the mixed conditions that I encountered.

As I climbed higher along the Moat Mountain Trail, the trees and other vegetation were covered with a light coating of hoarfrost.  This provided an added dimension to the beauty of the surroundings.  The next two photos show just a few of these delightful scenes.

Once I arrived at the top of South Moat, the overcast conditions persisted.  Therefore, the awesome views of distant peaks was simply not going to happen while I was there.  However, the overcast/hoarfrost combination produced some nearby views which were quite picturesque. 
The next three photos were taken from the summit area of South Moat.

By the time I was ready to begin my descent back to the trailhead, there was some marginal improvement in the views looking eastward (see next two photos).  However, I think that might have been as good as it got.  By the time I arrived at the trailhead, the overcast had thickened considerably.

To sum it up, despite the persistent overcast, I actually enjoyed my trek to South Moat.  It really didn't matter to me that the distant views were obscured.  I've seen and enjoyed those views on previous visits to this mountain.  However, I had never experienced the misty and ethereal views that were present during this visit.


RetiredInNH said...

Nice photos, John! Love the view of Pleasant Mountain from South Moat.

How close is the trail to snow free? A bit early to be thinking of snow-free trails, but South Moat is one of the first.

vegematic said...

Looks like a great day! Amazing, sometimes, how a marginal weather day can offer up such outstanding views.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Mohamed . . . glad you like the photos!

Well, from what I saw during my hike + looking at the weather forecast for the upcoming days, I’d guesstimate that by this time next week there is a good chance that the entire length of the trail to South Moat might be snow-free. Unless we get some really bizarre weather, I think that snowshoes will definitely NOT be needed again for this trail until the 2012-2013 winter season. For now, it would be a good idea to bring along Microspikes, but even those won’t be needed except possibly in a few spots with lingering ice.


1HappyHiker said...

Marginal weather can indeed sometimes provide some very picturesque views. I suppose the operative word here is “sometimes”! :)
Regardless, it’s always great to be hiking . . . views or no views!

Ellen Snyder said...

John -- the contrast of the hoarfrost and the evergreens is beautiful. Are you still using the new "cheap" camera? If so it seems to be serving you well. I love the Moats too so always enjoy photos from that trail. Ellen

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Ellen,

Yes, Casio and I are still “dating”. It almost feels like I’m “cheating” when I say this, but I still have a roving-eye for another partner who might provide a few more “bells and whistles”!

As always, thank you for your comments and compliments!


Rita Wechter said...

John, I loved this post! You're so right that, even on a day when weather conditions aren't perfect, one can find something beautiful in nature.
And again, I learned something from your post. Who knew that beaver ponds were once likened to moats? Loved the picture of the castle, by the way!
Thanks for another fun and interesting post.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Rita for your thoughtful comments . . . very much appreciated!


Summerset said...

Late to the party here, but I love the fact that you just enjoyed the hike as it was, and not as you wished it could be (as you obviously knew that it did have some nice views).