Beaver Brook Trail and its amazing cascades were not in the plans for our trip to Moosilauke on Saturday. The original plan was to hike up the Benton trail, which would accomplish a few things. One, it would provide a reasonably nice way for my daughter to bag another 4K peak, and two, I had never hiked the Benton Trail, so it would be new for me. That was the plan until I found out that the forest road leading to the Benton Trail head was still gated. Just because some forest roads are open, doesn’t mean they all are! Our options were either driving around Moosilauke to get to another trailhead (most likely Glencliff, because Ravine Lodge Road might not be open either, the more I thought about it) or hiking up Beaver Brook Trail. Despite my best descriptions of how rugged I’d heard and read the trail was, my daughter still wanted to try it. So, Beaver Brook it was. I figured the worst that could happen was that we’d turn around and try Moosilauke on a another day. Besides, I still got to hike a new-to-me trail, as I had never been up that way to the summit, either.
We pulled into the parking area, under low, grey skies and were soon on our way up the trail. The first .3 miles or so was pretty easy, crossing several streams, two of which had bridges.
Then we came to the signs, with distances, including the fact that it was 53 miles to Hanover and one warning of the difficulty of the trail ahead. We went up the trail and soon came to the first of many wooden steps attached to the rocks to help hikers up the trail. As we hiked along, we discovered these were only the first in a series of wooden steps, along with handholds of metal rebar in some spots. All the while, we’re hiking right next to the cascades. Not small cascades, either, but one long continuous cascade over a mile long. It was amazing how far the cascades went – all we could hear for quite some time was the sound of the cascades.
The sky was getting better all the while, too, as I could see patches of blue above us as the fog burned off and the clouds moved out. With steady progress, we made it up the rough trail, complete with large rocks and remaining pockets of ice, to the Beaver Brook Shelter spur trail. She wanted to see the shelter, so we decided to take a break there before continuing up the next section.
After a break, it was time to hit the trail again. The next section of trail was much less steep, and the footing was much better, plus we finally had some sunshine. As we hiked along, we would get occasional views in the ravine on our left and out to Mt. Jim would open up. The trail had little ice, but we did come across a section that was rather large, which had flowing water underneath, creating a small arch.
After a short climb and some more easy trail, we came to the Benton and Beaver Brook Trail junction. This is where we would have ended up anyway had we hiked up via the Benton Trail. The two trails then coincide for the next .4 miles to the summit. After a few more tenths of a mile, we reached the treeline.
From the treeline on, we followed the cairns across the windy, grassy summit plateau toward the summit. The trail was easy to follow and quickly I told Dakota that I could see the wooden summit sign and in a few minutes she’d be there! We reached the summit, helped a few other hikers with photos, got our photos and then found a sheltered spot amongst the rocks to eat some lunch and watch the clouds. We were actually at the level of and just above the clouds, which was neat because we were enjoying the sunshine.
Once we were done, it was time to start the descent. While the descent is usually easier, I knew the terrain in the lower portion of the trail would not be easy. With that in mind, we moved along in the upper portion, covering the distance back to the shelter in much less time than it took us to get to the summit from the same point. After a break, we started probably the most difficult part of the hike, hiking down near the cascades. Not only is the footing rough, but of course, this is last part of the trail where after a day of hiking, concentration is lost and footing is not as careful. Taking our time, we made it down the trail without incident and soon we were back on the easy beginning section, looking for the bridges and last stream crossing. Soon we were able to see the parking lot and the car and then we were done!
It was quite a day, and I’m happy that Dakota chose a tougher trail and did really well with it. That makes five 4K’s for her, and it seems like she’s going to stick with it!