My friend Curtis and I spent the weekend at Northeastern University's Lodge in Shelburne, NH, right on the Maine-NH border. On the way back from our clinic, we pondered what we would do for the rest of the night. Since we woke up at 6 that morning and it was already after 4:30, we were prepared to do something low key. But that would be boring, we decided, so instead we made our way to the Carter-Moriah trailhead to begin a sunset hike of Mt. Moriah, a peak that is conveniently on the NH 4000footer list. In hindsight, it was kind of a brash idea, especially given the lack of sustenance we had consumed during the day. We were both starving and thirsty, and this became apparent near the end of the hike. But this was something we wanted to experience. The sunset over the Presidential Range from a 4000 footer. Something that many put on their bucket list but never fulfill. So to set ourselves apart from that crowd, we commenced, but not after a half hour delay because of a misplaced phone. Oh life.
I wore snowshoes for the entirety of the trip, and Curtis wore microspikes, but the snow was never deep enough to necessitate either, though there were certainly parts that we benefited from having them on. Regardless, our 9 mile hike began with a conversation with a few hikers on their way down. We told them of our plans, and they wished us luck, obviously skeptical, but we reassured them that we had a good headlamp that would assure our safe return back. This was something we had never done before—not just hiking a 4000footer in the dark, but hiking a mountain in the dark period. While the ascent would mostly be in the light, we weren't guaranteed to make it to the summit by sunset. And we didn't.
Presidentials before dusk
As we got up higher and higher and the sun dropped lower and lower, Curtis and I realized that we would have to enjoy the sunset from the sparse viewpoints through the trees. This seemingly disappointing concept turned out to be a gift for us, because those infrequent views made us want to push harder so that we could actually try to get some sort of pleasant views from the summit. The problem was, Curtis became dehydrated, and thus could not keep the pace up for long. I felt terrible, but he encouraged me to press on ahead of him. I was selfishly determined to reach the summit, and as it was only a half mile further, I pressed on hard so that I could make it before the sun was entirely absent.
Sunset views from the trail
I reached the summit at 8 o'clock, but as I pressed my snowshoes onto the rocky ground in front of me, I realized that Curtis didn't have a flashlight or headlamp. Crap, I thought, this wasn't good. It wasn't pitch black yet, but it surely wasn't light out, so I gave him a call. He told me he stopped to enjoy the views of the sunset from one of the viewpoints through the trees. I rejoiced, as I didn't want him to lose sight of the trail in the dark. I proceeded to finally take a good look at my surroundings.
The views were simply astounding. Not only was the sky still red from the sun which had recently set over the mountains to my west, but the Presidentials were perfectly illuminated by the reddened sky. It wasn't light enough to see east of my vantage point, but as it was one of the clearest nights that we had in recent memory, I could see hundreds—no thousands of stars above me. The sky was as congested as I had ever seen it in my entire life. And that's no understatement.
Views from the summit of Mt. Moriah
This belief was confirmed as I made my way back down with Curtis, who decided against summitting the mountain, as we were over a half hour away from it when I reached him. Instead, we continued downward until we reached the summit of Mt. Surprise, a small viewing point on the way to Moriah. We laid down in the snow for about five minutes, just staring at the stars and admiring the beauty of our universe in blissful solitude.
The last few miles down were brutal, because Curtis' dehydration had run into a downward spiral, leading to fatigue and disorientation. Being relatively experienced hikers, we learned a valuable lesson from this hike, and that is, to drink water. Seriously. Because these situations are very avoidable with proper hydration. Regardless of the occurrence of a few negative aspects on our hike, our first sunset/night hike was truly an experience worth remembering and I would highly recommend an excursion of this sort to anyone looking for unparalleled views of the sun and stars during the same adventure.
Presidentials on the way home
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