We hadn't hiked with Linda or Blue in quite sometime. Between Linda's broken sacrum a year ago and my knee surgery this year there had been little time for us to get together to hike. It was good to be back on the trail with them, though the absence of Emma was obvious and painful. In the time since we had all last hiked together Emma had passed away, and Linda and Blue had become David, Linda and Blue. As much as we try, it is hard to not miss little Emma on our hikes, but it was good to be out with old friends on the trail, as well as to make a new one. We made a plan to hike in the Moats and met at the trailhead early Saturday morning. Cool and a bit damp there were few people at the trailhead, which is also the parking area for Diana's Baths. As we passed the Baths it was obvious we would have the rest of the trail to ourselves, though we did pass some hikers coming down.
As always conversation along the trail made the miles pass quickly and the climb not seem quite so steep. My knee and hip felt good, and we stopped briefly a few times along the way, which helped me out a lot. It was good to be hiking with a dog again, watching him zig-zag across the trail chasing scents that only he could detect, then stopping for a breather as he waited for the bi-peds to catch up to where he was waiting above us. The nice thing about North Moat Trail is that you come to some ledgy spots along the way that give a preview of the surrounding landscape scenes. These become spectacular vistas once you step out onto the open summit. Views east of Mount Cranmore and Black Cap, along with the many hills of the Green's Preserve, then North to the Doubleheads and the Baldfaces rising above the Saco River/Mount Washington Valley, can all be glimpsed through the trees from the ledges as you ascend.
As we reach the ledges near the summit the taller trees fade to rock and krummholz and the promised vistas begin to appear. Almost directly to the south is the prominent rocky summit of Mount Chocorua, and almost directly to the north is the prominence of Mount Washington. As I stand there I am in awe of the spectacular 360* view. My only previous trip in '06 had been on a day which had dramatic skies which hung low over the mountains, restricting views to the surrounding hills and notches. On this day I was really taken in by the surrounding views, and stood looking while the others ate, naming each bump that I could until I was satisfied with my vast knowledge, no one else was impressed. I like knowing what I am looking at, and like better knowing that I have visited most of the hills I can see from here many times. I sat down to eat, but soon stood up, sandwich in hand, to look some more. I think this summit has jumped up the list into my top ten favorite view mountains today on this hike.
After lunch we headed south along the trail as it dropped over some short scrambles and along a neat, natural stone wall to pop out of the trees again at an outcrop between North and Middle Moat where the Red Ridge Trail enters from the northeast. We sat here on top of the rocky outcrops for quite awhile, before beginning our descent along the Red Ridge Trail. The beauty of descending this way is that you continue to have views north and east as you descend along easy drops, over the ledges and eventually back into the woods. The trail crosses a snowmobile trail and some old logging roads once down into the woods, but is easily followed by continuing straight across each time. Mr. Blue enjoyed cooling off in the several brooks we crossed on the way back to Diana's Bath.