This was a day to take advantage of that short, sweet season in the hardwoods when the flowers are out and the leaves and bugs aren't. I enjoyed a pair of rewarding explorations from the scenic Breezy Point trailhead on the south side of Mt. Moosilauke.
The open fields here were once the site of the Breezy Point House/Moosilauke Inn and Merrill's Mountain Home. This tract was added to the WMNF in 1991, and the fields are kept open by the Forest Service.
I spent some time birding here before heading out on my first hike. Picked up a few warblers, including a Chestnut-Sided, and had a good look at a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Upon returning to my car, I ran into Ray "Jazzbo" Caron, a fellow bushwhacker who was setting out on a trek over Hurricane Mountain and Chokecherry Hill.
These old maples line the road leading up to the old hotel site.
For my first hike I headed up the Moosilauke Carriage Road, starting a little while after Ray..
Looking back at Carr Mountain from the start of the trail.
This foundation a short distance up the trail may have been an outbuilding for Merrill's Mountain Home.
As I had hoped (and heard from a hiker who'd come down most of the Carriage Road the day before), the trail was carpeted with Trout Lilies! The price you have to pay for this bounty of blooms is some wet footing along parts of the old road in the first mile or so.
At the lower junction with the Hurricane Trail I turned left onto that lightly-used path.
A quarter-mile in is a clearing that may have been the site of Camp 1 of the William R. Park, Jr. logging operation in the late 1890s and early 1900s.
A few rusting relics are scattered around the area.
Part of a logging sled?
Not sure if this was part of a roof.
From there I bushwhacked down to Big Brook and followed it upstream.
I came to this fine cascade....
...and took a break on a rock at its foot.
The upper part of the cascade.
Farther upstream, a tributary tumbles in from the west side.
After exploring a bit farther above the brook in dense conifers, I cut across the slope into wonderfully open hardwoods.
I must have seen 10,000 Trout Lilies today!
Hanging out in the sun, looking across to the ridge of Chokecherry Hill. I figured by now Ray was up there somewhere.
A big old stub, festooned with bracket-type mushrooms.
There were lots of Spring Beauties, too.
I reached the Carriage Road at the 2500 ft. level, in the middle of its beautiful hardwood section.
I climbed the Carriage Road to the top of the hardwoods at 2850 ft., enjoying more flowers along the way.
There were some nice patches of yellow violets.
A great stretch of walking in the spring sun.
One of today's objectives was to see if there were any Dutchman's Breeches along the Carriage Road. The naturalist Bradford Torrey, in a 1901 article, "A May Visit to Moosilauke" (later reprinted in his book, Nature's Invitation), wrote about a place he called the "Flower Garden" along the Carriage Road. At this spot he found that Dutchman's Breeches, not a common plant in the White Mountains, were flourishing. On the way down I spotted just a couple of small patches, not yet in bloom, around 2600 ft., at the base of a large sugar maple.
Another small patch was growing nearby between two more maples.
This bridge over Big Brook on the Carriage Road is named for a DOC shelter built in the 1930s and long since fallen into decrepitude.
I returned to the Breezy Point trailhead to pick up a fresh water bottle and headed out on hike #2, up an old logging road and overgrown fisherman's path to a beaver pond on Merrill Brook, and then on to trailless Bald Hill.
From an upper clearing there's a fine view of Mt. Cushman (L) and Mt. Kineo (R), with "Hubbard Notch" between them.
Partway up the old logging road I met Ray Caron on his way down. He reported pretty thick going along the ridge from Hurricane Mountain down to Chokecherry Hill. The previous day he had undertaken a long exploration in the Eastman Mountain area way over near the Baldfaces.
Looking back down the old logging road.
The old fisherman's path is engulfed by hobblebush in many places.
The farthest in the chain of beaver ponds and meadows is a quiet spot with a view up to Chokecherry Hill. I took a nice long break here, savoring the silence.
Next I whacked through open hardwoods up to Bald Hill (2397 ft.).
A small line of ledges approaching the top.
The high point of the broad Bald Hill summit.
A clean deer antler nestled amidst the Trout Lilies.
Hanging out on an overgrown ledge atop Bald Hill.
This spot was open to the sky - a vestige of this eminence's baldness.
I found this beautiful natural meadow on the NW side of the summit. I'd been to Bald Hill twice before in the last six months but missed this spot both times.
From here there was a hint of a view to Vermont, with part of the Signal Mountain range seen on the R.
Looking at the meadow from its lower end.
Evening was drawing on, but I took time to head a little way down Bald Hill's west ridge, on which I had enjoyed some superb snowshoeing back in January. I worked my way down around this vegetated ledge.
From another overgrown ledge, a glimpse of Smarts Mountain (L) and Mt. Cube (R) to the south.
Here I discovered a healthy patch of Dutchman's Breeches in full bloom.
This unique flower favors an enriched hardwood forest. It's quite common in the Catskills, but I've only seen them in a handful of places in the Whites, especially Ore Hill on the Ore Hill Trail/Appalachian Trail.
This ridge is cloaked in a gorgeous open hardwood forest.
Positively Catskillian! There's no better place to be in spring.
One of several "elbow trees" on the ridge.
Heading back up past a mossy ledge band.
Back at the beaver pond, I was greeted by a hooting Barred Owl and a chorus of Spring Peepers. Upon returning to the Breezy Point trailhead, I hung around until dusk and was treated to the soaring, chirping, twittering courtship flights of two male American Woodcocks, one on either side of the road -- a great way to cap a memorable spring day in the lower woods of Moosilauke.