The Moats: South, Middle and North

On a hot Sunday in early June, I set out solo to do the Moats Traverse here in the White Mountains. South Moat (2770′), Middle Moat (2805′) and North Moat (3196′) offer a challenging traverse that some call “The Little Franconia Ridge” right in North Conway’s backyard.

I did not set out to hike this traverse solo. In fact, I had wanted to do it with a local hiking group but was told that I had to have done a strenuous hike with them before in order to do a strenuous hike with them that weekend. I’m not sure how you get the prerequisite of a group strenuous hike when the prerequisite is a group strenuous hike, but that’s a post for another day.

I had hiked South Moat twice previously, once last summer and once last winter, but had not done the entire traverse. The problem has been having a car spot me on each end, which was why I wanted to do this particular hike with at least one partner. However, as luck should have it, this particular weekend I had not one, but two licensed teens at home! Both had other obligations that day, but we figured out that each could drop/pick up at opposite ends of the day! Yippee! So, plans were made and on a bluebird sky day, I set off at 8AM with tons of bug spray and a net over my head to fight off the black flies. Why I always head out in the thick of New Hampshires black fly season is also a post for another day!

South Moat was South Moat, just as it had been the other two times I’ve hiked it. There are a few relatively steep sections, but nothing I couldn’t handle. At the summit, the flies were not NEARLY as bad as the previous summer, which was a relief. Although hiking solo, I was anything but alone on this gorgeous day. There was a mountain biking group at the top as well as other hikers and tourists alike. Most of them were only doing South Moat, so after a quick snack I headed off to Middle Moat.

The view from the top of South Moat. That’s still snow on top of Mount Washington. After the winter we had, it wasn’t surprising that there would still be snow up there at the end of June!
This is me at the top of South Moat with Mount Washington in the background. No bug net for one, brief shining moment!

Next, I headed over to Middle Moat Mountain. The traverse to get over there was an absolute pleasure other than the mounting bug population. The landscape was a meadow like landscape of wildflowers…….just absolutely stunning! I had to pause briefly to let the mountain bikers go by. It was unbelievable to me that they carried their bikes up South Moat so they could ride down over Middle Moat and then head back down into the valley via another trail. No thank you! I’ll stick to the slow pace of hiking.

Flowers on the traverse section of Middle Moat Mountain. These were everywhere!
Stunning view of Mount Chocorua from Middle Moat Mountain. I was just up there with my daughter a few weeks ago!

Now I headed off to North Moat Mountain. This one proved to be the most challenging of the three and as I would find out later, it probably would have been wise to hike these three mountains in the other direction, saving the easy part for the end of the day. North Moat Mountain is not well marked and I got off trail for about a quarter of a mile onto the Red Ridge trail. When I came out onto the ridge, I had no regrets about my wrong turn. The ridge was stunning and I decided to eat lunch before retracing my steps. I ate my lunch under my bug net as the bugs were now in full force. Talking to other hikers got me straightened out as to where I went wrong and another group headed that way decided to follow me so I had some hiking buddies for a bit.

After the ridge, the North Moat trail heads steadily downward……so far downward that I felt as if I had climbed all the way down and would now have to climb all the way up. The black flies were relentless at this point and the trick was not to stop moving. Whenever I stopped, they would form as a funnel around my body. The buzzing sound was intense as well.

So now came the part where I was to head back up! There were several straight up rock scrambles, but nothing that made me too nervous. I was thankful at this point that my son likes me to climb at the rock gym with him. The rock climbing really prepares me for the scrambles. I summited the top of North Moat about 2PM. The temperature had dropped a bit so I had to put on my fleece jacket but it felt really good!

Now it was time to head down. On the way down North Moat, I treaded slowly and carefully as it was quite a steep hike down. Despite how careful I was, I did take one fall on a granite slab and got a cut on my arm. Over the next hour and a half, I made my way slowly down. I took in a nice foot soak at Diana’s Baths amongst the tourists that were sunning themselves and picnicking there. Several of them asked about my hike and I was happy to tell all my adventures of the day!

Like clockwork, child number two was at the bottom to pick me up in the parking lot of Diana’s Baths. The end of a perfect day!!!!!!

Ciao for now…….


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