By Louise Jensen
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hosted its second community hike of the season to Baldpate Mountain in Grafton Notch. There are two summits: the somewhat wooded West Peak at 3,662 feet and the wide open and beautiful East peak at 3,812 feet. According to the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, these peaks were also known as Saddleback and Bear River Whitecap. This rugged hike, complete with bog planks, ladders and open bald ledges leads up the AT and starts on the east side of ME Route 26.
The morning was cool, crisp, clear and breezy when four guys and a gal met up in the parking lot in Grafton Notch State Park. Two of five had not hiked the Baldpates before and were promised that it would be more than worth the effort. In fact, we stopped at the trail junction for Table Rock, a short rugged side trail with a sign indicating fantastic views, and the question was raised whether we should spend the time to go see them. Although the views from Table Rock are pretty impressive, the views to come would clearly outshine those from Table Rock so we continued on and left Table Rock for another day.
It took well over three hours to reach the summit. Along the way we took a .2 mile detour to visit the lean-to and have a quick snack. We took time to photograph the one lone (and more uncommon) white lady slipper next to the trail and the alpine flowers along the boggy areas. Continuing along, the wind picked up dramatically as we ascended over the open ledges to summit the East peak. As promised, the views did not disappoint. To the southwest you could see as far as Mount Washington and looking northeast you could see as far as Sugarloaf.
Lunch was spent enjoying the views (and in a few cases napping) on the eastern end of the summit where it was warmer and less windy. Soon it was time to leave, and reluctantly we headed back down the ledges where the wind had picked up even more and buffeted us around! Fortunately, no one flew off the mountain and upon our return to the parking lot we decided to meet at the Sunday River Brewing Company. We enjoyed a nosh and a beer and reflected on our awesome hike to the Baldpates.