Saturday was a fine day for our next A.T. Next Century hike, and the destination didn’t disappoint. Old Blue Mountain is right on the A.T. between Grafton Notch and Maine’s High Peaks, in a stretch of 3600-foot peaks that also includes Elephant Mountain (3,772 feet, trail-less, not the one near Moosehead Lake) and Bemis Mountain, a long ridge with a high point of 3,592 feet. This is not a section of the A.T. that sees many day hikers, as they tend to favor the areas above. Nonetheless, the terrain is as rugged and the scenery as spectacular as it is elsewhere.
We started out right at 10am – another factor in favor of this part of the A.T. in Maine is the accessibility. No logging roads to drive on and exactly 2 hours each way from Portland. We didn’t see anybody else on the trail except for three sets of thru-hikers. One group was just being picked up by a shuttle service in Andover, another was just being dropped off, and the last was a guy from Tennessee section hiking to Dalton, Massachusetts. The weather was warm for this time of year and there were plenty of vehicles headed up to South Arm Campground just up the road.
Since the hike is only 2.8 miles each way, we took it slow, enjoyed the scenery and each other’s company. There are several steep sections sandwiched around a nearly-flat climb, so we were on the summit by 1pm. We spent about 45 minutes on top eating lunch and talking. The weather by this time of day was actually hot, despite the summit breezes.
The trip down is easier, but the terrain is so steep that it’s more of a challenge than it is on the ascent. More than any other hike, it almost feels like you are on a different trail due to the differing views (it’s an up and back hike). Even the view of the Black Brook valley down to Andover and Ellis Pond seemed to be different. We somehow missed seeing the Andover Earth Station on the way up, but it was prominent on the way down!
It was another great hike to round out the summer season. Check back on our website for additional hikes for the fall!
We had a great hike up Puzzle Mountain for Labor Day weekend! As you can see we had a large group hit the trail and the weather was perfect. Normally we’d have trip leader Mike Morrone do the write up but he’s getting married in a week. So instead, we posted lots more picture than we normally do. Enjoy! See you out there on the trail!
As part of the recent Maine 2017 A.T. Conference, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Executive Director Simon Rucker led a group hike to one of the Land Trust’s past conservation projects: Mount Abraham. Conference attendees had been going to seminars to hear about A.T. maintenance issues, threats, successes and, yes, land conservation, and many were eager to get out on the fabled Maine landscape to see what it had to offer.
Our group was composed of members from all over the A.T. landscape: Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Maine and Quebec. We headed up to the summit via the Fire Warden Trail, the most common route. Though some of the group had travelled in Maine before, none had hiked in this rugged landscape. And they were pretty impressed. Abraham has the largest alpine zone in Maine and we had a spectacular day to enjoy the views in all directions. The weather was brisk above treeline and the southern contingent compared the Maine climate to that of the southern Appalachians. There were lots of questions about the conservation status of the landscape: from Sugarloaf down the Rapid Stream valley – almost the entire viewshed from the Fire Warden Trail – is unprotected, but spectacular and remote.
Once on the summit, the group explored the alpine zone between the two summit cairns – “there’s nothing like this in ________” was heard fairly often. On the way down, we left the alpine zone, headed through high-elevation spruce/fir forest, and then were back in mixed spruce/fir and hardwoods until re-emerging at the trailhead.
The special nature of Maine’s Appalachian Trail is a an asset to be treasured and used, and our hike exemplified that.
Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s latest Next Century Hike was a trip to the Berry Picker’s Trail – partially over land owned by the Land Trust – up to The Horn. This traditional trail up the ridge to the A.T. was recently re-opened and is now a blue-blazed official A.T. side trail. The normal route to The Horn (4,023 feet) via the A.T. from Route 4 is 14.6 miles round trip. Taking the Saddleback ski trail will shave off a few miles at the expense of some ugly terrain. But if you take the Berry Picker’s Trail, the route is significantly shorter – 7.8 miles round trip – and follows a steady but not too steep open ridge with excellent views all the way up.
However – to access the Berry Picker’s Trail, you need to first drive over a rough logging road for a little over three miles and then park at an ATV gate. This road has deteriorated significantly since the fall so if you are heading in please use caution and have, at a minimum, a high clearance vehicle with all-wheel drive. From the ATV gate, you walk up the ATV trail for one mile before you reach the true trailhead of the Berry Picker’s Trail.
We had a small group of just three for this hike, but the weather was spectacular. Once we reached the A.T., we saw several southbound and northbound thru-hikers, including one from Spain. We reached our destination – The Horn – at 12:30pm, and had a leisurely hike down. Even at this pace, we were back at the car at 4pm. It’s not often you can get into terrain as remote as it is on this side of Saddleback, ascend a 4000-foot peak, and then be home in time for dinner two hours later!
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!
Great hike on Saturday! Ladies Adventure Club handled the trip report this week, head over here to check it out.
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.
The most recent Next Century Hikes was up Cranberry Peak in the Bigelow Range. Cranberry (3,213 feet) is at the western end of the Bigelow ridge and is lower and more accessible than the higher, more rugged summits that mark the most prominent part of the range. Still – on a winter day when the temperature is hovering around 0 degrees and the winds are gusting, it feels like a much more rugged climb.
Our group set off at 10am for what we thought would be a five-hour hike. The winds were forecast to die down but as the day went on it remained breezy, especially up high on the northern side of the ridge. But the sun was out and all were in good spirits. A few of us had trouble with the hoses of our water bladders freezing up because it was so cold. We were moving at a slower pace than expected, despite only needing traction aids and not snowshoes.
We reached the ridge and headed east to Cranberry Peak. There were views through the trees to the south – Black Nubble, Sugarloaf – and to the north – Flagstaff Lake, the western Horn. We stopped for lunch just a few tenths of a mile below the summit of Cranberry Peak. After lunch we resumed and quickly encountered very difficult conditions. The trail followed a contour line around the summit cone but it was very steep and icy due to the trail angle (see photos). Moreover, the snow at higher elevations is still very deep and we were unable to find the blue blazes that mark the trail. With more robust equipment – crampons and ice axes at a minimum – the group could have continued. As it was, with the hour getting late and the shadows bringing the temperatures down on the northerly-facing ridge, it was quickly decided that we should turn back.
Though we didn’t make it to the top, we had a great day on the trail! Check our calendar if you want to come along next time – we’ll be having a few more winter hikes with all the snow on the way!
The Maine A.T. Land Trust’s latest Next Century hike took place over President’s Day weekend and featured a hike up West Baldpate Mountain (3,680 feet). The snow depth in Bethel, the nearest measuring station, was 79 inches and there was likely more than that in Grafton Notch. We hopped out of the car, strapped on the snowshoes and headed out with temperatures in the mid-30’s.
Our group was small (four total!) and we progressed quickly since the trail up to Table Rock had been broken out the day before. The snow was wetter than is typically experienced at this time of year, and it was hard going nonetheless. Everybody warmed up rapidly and there was some idea that maybe we should have worn shorts and less layers. Despite the conditions, we made great time. After the junction with the Table Rock side trail we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Appalachian Trail to the Baldpate summits was also broken out.
This proved to be critical as we reached the col alongside of Hedgehog Hill – here there were snowshoe trails through the open woods where a previous group struggled to find the trail since many of the white blazes (typically at eye level on trees) that mark the Appalachian Trail were buried by the deep snow. We were able to stay mostly on the trail and reach the summit in three hours. There, the warm temperatures at the lower elevations were replaced with snow showers, biting winds and bitter cold. Lunch would have to wait until we retreated from the summit. After a two hour hike down, we completed the hike in good order. It was another great day on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
Check our calendar page for our March hikes, which will be posted shortly!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust had a great hike as part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, a series of events held twice a year focused on Maine’s outdoors and connecting people to the natural wonders of Maine. The location for the hike, the State of Maine Four Ponds Public Reserve area through which the Appalachian Trail winds, was carefully chosen because it is not a heavily traveled area in the winter, the scenery is spectacular (as you can see from the photos) and the terrain is mild.
Since the Height of Land parking lot was not plowed, the group parked in a turnout up the road, and headed south along Route 17 to the A.T. crossing. Weather conditions on the road were bitter, with temperatures below 10 degrees and with gusty winds coming off Bemis Mountain and across the open expanse of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Fortunately, once we entered the woods heading up Spruce Mountain, the winds were mitigated by the trees and everybody warmed up with the effort of the short climb. Trail conditions couldn’t have been better for a snowshoe hike – there was a packed base of about three feet of snow, covered by a foot or so of fresh powder.
The conditions made for some spectacular sights and a great experience in the Maine woods. We stopped for lunch where the A.T. winds along Four Ponds Mountain along the northern edge of Long Pond, and due to increasing winds and falling temperatures, we all decided to turn around. Everybody agreed that this made for a great experience on the way back so there were plenty of photo opportunities and time to talk.
Thank you to the Maine Outdoor Coalition and everybody who participated in the event! See you in the fall for the next GMOW!