Old Speck Trip Report

Big day on Old Speck
Beautiful sky!
The gang.

By Louise Jensen

Sunday brought together six veteran MATLT hikers to venture up Old Speck in Grafton Notch State Park. Old Speck, at 4,180 feet, is the tallest and northern-most mountain in the Mahoosuc Range that stretches for 30 miles across Maine and New Hampshire. From route 26 in the Park, the AT (Old Speck Trail) runs south to the Mahoosuc trail and then a short spur takes you to the summit of Old Speck where a fire tower provides spectacular 360 views.

Before heading up, we noticed some folks setting up some “trail magic” in the parking lot for AT through hikers.  We did see some thru hikers coming down as we ascended; 2 particular fellows were very happy to be in Maine and getting closer to their final destination. I’m sure the trail magic was a welcome sight.

The weather started out cool and partly cloudy – really perfect conditions for hiking. Although, we “donned” some bug spray, the bug population conveniently stayed away for the most part. No complaints there!  Water crossings were easy, the waterfall was flowing nicely and the footing, though still wet and muddy in places from last week’s downpours, was very manageable.  As this is a steep and rugged hike, we took our time, stopping frequently to admire how lush the forest is this time of year and to take in the intermittent views along the way.  We passed the trails leading to the Eyebrow – not in our plans for the day – and continued steeply up and down using a narrow foot bridge and a ladder, stepping over a large blowdown and under another to finally reach our destination. Along the way, we met up with MOAC hikers and Maine AMC hikers – Sunday was a popular day to be out.

The summit was sunny and breezy.  We ate lunch, enjoyed the limited view and climbed the tower to take in that fantastic 360 view. Well, some of us did.  The tower has a very straight ladder that can be a little scary to climb on – not everyone’s cup of tea!  After one of our members did her customary yoga head stand and we took the traditional group photo, we headed down, moving more quickly than our ascent.  After about an hour, we got caught in a brief summer shower that dampened the trails just enough to make it a bit slippery so extra caution was needed.  The sun soon popped out again, and we all arrived safely at the parking lot – happy and satisfied hikers!

Baldpates Trip Report

Nice stone steps.
East Baldpate.
Some views!
The saddle bog.
Success!

By Louise Jensen

Sunday morning found 5 hikers ready to climb the Baldpates with hopes of seeing the 360 views that the East peak has to offer. Hitting the AT before 9:30, we headed northbound with warm but comfortable temps and clouds still in the sky. Bugs were out but pretty tolerable so far. We took our time, snacking, hydrating and taking photos of the many lady slippers dotting the trail and, of course, plenty pics of ourselves.  Blue sky was peaking out above the trees with the clouds clearing from time to time. Hope for those views.

We passed the side trails to Table Rock which we elected to skip as we had more than 3 miles to go. At 2.3 miles we passed the side trail to the Baldpate lean-to and steadily climbed to West peak. Views were in the clouds at this point and after a quick descent complete with a ladder assist, we finally climbed to the base of the big rock ledges of East Baldpate. The steep ledges here look scary to climb but as long as they are dry – and they were today – the footing is quite good.

Mist and clouds greeted us at the summit – but alas, no 360 views today. Even so, the summit is wide and beautiful. Periodically, the clouds would part in the distance and we got glimpses of the views below.  After some lunch, more pics and a chat with some through hikers, we headed back down.  On the way, the clouds parted somewhat and we finally had some lovely views. We continued on our way for a hot and buggy hike out, but all in all we all agreed that we had a wonderful and fun hike.

Horizon Foundation Contributes to Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Program

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust recently received a $5,000 grant in support of the Appalachian Trail Maine: Next Century program.  The program was launched in 2016 with three facets:
1. Next Century Priorities. Prioritization via GIS mapping and application of the lands along Maine’s Appalachian Trail.
2. Next Century Land Protection. New conservation projects along the A.T. in response to NPS Scaling Up Initiative.
3. Next Century Outreach: Bringing national attention – from the public, elected officials, foundations and other conservation organizations – to the Appalachian Trail in Maine.

ATMNC is well underway and expected to be completed in early 2018.

Horizon Foundation was founded in 1997 to support non-profit organizations that aspire to create and maintain sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities by

  • Enabling children and adults to lead their communities in creative, healthy and thoughtful ways;
  • Educating citizens to be good stewards of the environment;
  • Conserving land and water resources;
  • Encouraging service to others;
  • Promoting visual arts and music, and
  • Teaching appreciation of and preserving historic assets

Thanks you to Horizon Foundation!

Arnold Expedition Appalachian Trail Hike

At the Great Carrying Place where Arnold’s army headed west over land.
The Great Carrying Place Portage Trail.
Norm Kalloch of AEHS explains how they hauled munitions, boats and equipment over the ridge.
East Carry Pond, looking at the hospital site.
The group.
AEHS cabin on Middle Carry Pond.
New MATC bog bridges.
The A.T. junction.

The most recent of our Next Century Hikes was held this past Saturday on a section of Maine’s Appalachian Trail that is not so well traveled: the area between Flagstaff Lake and the Kennebec River, more specifically the Carry Ponds.  There are no high mountains on the A.T. here, and no side trails that go to other peaks.  There is, however, a really interesting side trail that was completed just a few years ago – the Great Carrying Place Portage Trail.

In the fall of 1775, Benedict Arnold – then a rising star in the Continental Army, and years away from becoming the traitor we think of today – led an army of about 1,100 men by sea from Cambridge, Massachusetts and then up the Kennebec River to the Great Carrying Place in what is today Bingham, Maine (on Route 201).  The army’s destination was Quebec, then held by the British, but first the army had to reach the city by the inland route since the St. Lawrence was heavily defended.  The route was comprised of portages from the river to the Carry Ponds trips in bateaux, flat-bottomed boats that were hastily made for the expedition, and from there up the Dead River to Lake Megantic in Quebec.  Unfortunately, the expedition was beset by trouble from the start.  There was a late-season hurricane, the route was arduous, the men were exhausted and eventually many deserted.  The eventual Christmas Day assault on Quebec ended in failure.

Fortunately for hikers today, the Arnold Expedition Historical Society has recreated the trail with 95% certainty up to West Carry Pond.  The route is orange-blazed and has a number of signs along the way.  There are a number of roads and camps in the area of the ponds and the route needs to be followed carefully, but it’s easily done for most of the route.  The Appalachian Trail runs with the Arnold Trail from West Carry Pond to near Long Falls Dam Road.

For the Maine A.T. Land Trust hike, we were planning to cover the route from the Great Carrying Place on the Kennebec River to Arnold Point on West Carry Pond.  We were accompanied on the hike by Norm Kalloch, a volunteer for AEHS who owns a camp in the area.  Despite his protestations to the contrary, Norm knows everything about the Arnold expedition and the land along the route.  As soon as we set out, he told us about the challenges the men faced, the context of what they were doing, and how the landscape we were seeing related to what Arnold’s men saw and experienced.  There were places where historic artifacts have been found, sites where Arnold’s men camped, hauled and even where they died, and much more.  Hikers can get used to seeing the A.T. and its environment a certain way, but with Norm’s help we were able to look at the landscape differently.  This is one of the things that makes Maine’s A.T. so special: the existence of trails, history, recreation and heritage all in one place.

The total distance we covered was about 13.5 miles, but this included a number of detours and anybody can hike any distance of the Arnold Trail depending on how far they want to go.  We didn’t quite make it to Arnold Point, but it was a wonderful hike nonetheless!

If you are interested in hiking the Arnold Trail in Maine, head over to http://www.arnoldsmarch.com/ for more information.  See you out on our next hike!

Trail Maintenance

New sign will be located here.
Conant Stream
Blue blazes
Last snow
More views.
Ryan, volunteer for the day.
Saddleback Mountain

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust conserved the land on the east side of Saddleback Mountain in 2004, and there’s a recently-opened trail through the property to the Appalachian Trail in the section between Saddleback and The Horn (two of Maine’s 4,000-footers in the High Peaks region).  As part of the land trust’s stewardship duties, we send volunteers to help maintain the trail under the leadership of Maine Appalachian Trail Club.  MATC maintainers maintain and manager 267 miles of the A.T. in Maine.  Many of the land trust’s members, directors and staff are members of MATC.  Some maintain sections of the A.T. in their own right.

Maintenance trips are usually done 2-3 times per year, depending on the condition of the trail.  Both the A.T. (white blazes) and official A.T. side trails (blue blazes) are maintained by these volunteers.  Being a relatively new trail, the Berry Pickers Trail did not require much maintenance this year – just a few blowdowns and encroaching spruce branches.  The land trust will have another trip in September to tackle low-growing vegetation and generally check in the trail.

If you are interested in maintaining a section of the A.T. or a side trail, or in corridor boundary monitoring, you can find more info at matc.org.  This article is a pretty good summary, too.

Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Summer Trips

As we move into spring (finally…), the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is planning our roster of summer hikes.  These trips are free to the public if space is available, and members get initial access to the RSVP.  We also lead groups on guided hikes – if your organization or group wants to hit the A.T. with us this summer, please contact us at info@matlt.org.  This service is free.  You do not have to pay anything to have your group to this.  Hike availability is subject to scheduling, however.

Here is a sampling of our summer trips.  We are aiming to have one per weekend, so check back when the schedule is up (a week or so).  If you have a request that didn’t make this list, let us know!

Berry Pickers to Saddleback and The Horn
Goose Eye via Wright Trail
Old Speck
Baldpates
Puzzle Mountain
Old Blue
Bemis Mountain
Four Ponds (early season)
Caribou Mountain (early season)
Piazza Rock/Eddy Pond (early season)
Sugarloaf
Crockers
Cranberry Peak
Bigelows/West Peak
Little Bigelow
Arnold Trail hike (early season, scheduled hike TBD)
Pleasant Pond Mountain (early season)
Bald Mountain Pond (scheduled hike TBD)
Buck Hill (early season)
Barren Mountain
Gulf Hagas
White Cap

Maine Appalachian Trail Club Spring Meeting Report

David Field discusses workshops for the 2017 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference.

The Maine Appalachian Trail Club held their annual spring meeting last week.  In addition to tackling ordinary club business – trail maintenance responsibilities, officer elections, etc. – there was considerable time devoted to planning for the upcoming Appalachian Trail Conservancy 2017 Conference which will be held right here in Maine.  This biennial event is a gathering of people from all over the country who are connected to the A.T. – maintainers, volunteers, past thru-hikers and more.  The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust will be a part of this great event.

This year’s conference will feature guided hikes, workshops, an art and land conservation symposium and more.  The event will be held at Colby College and registration information can be found here.  Registration opens on May 1st – sign up for this great event because it will be the last A.T. conference of this kind!

Enduring Heights: Maine High Peaks

The Maine A.T. Land Trust had the pleasure of attending a review session for an upcoming book by John & Cynthia Orcutt, who have been fixtures in the High Peaks, both for their spectacular photos of the natural environment and for their work in the Kingfield area in the Schoolhouse Gallery.  Funded partially with tax increment financing (TIF) funds for the Unorganized Territories of Franklin County, the purpose of the book will be to illustrate the beauty of the area and raise awareness for those who may not be familiar with the High Peaks region.  The book will feature images from both the Organized and the Unorganized Territories of Franklin County through a large-format presentation of about 80 fine art nature photographs.  Also, working in partnership with the Maine Chapter of the Trust for Public Land, there will be an essay discussing conservation in the region with several supporting maps.  Maine U.S. Senator Angus King, has agreed to write the Preface.

As one of the goals is to support economic development, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust was invited to participate from a recreational tourism standpoint.  The book should be an important tool for economic development and conservation in the region.

Thanks to the Orcutts for their hard work!  The book will be available for sale beginning in the summer.