Friday, August 31, 2012

Burnt Meadow Mountain (1575 ft.) 8/31/12

After yesterdays hike to the Goose Eye peaks, I felt awesome. That feeling persisted until I got home and cleaned up, as fatigue and soreness outmatched my feeling of awesomeness. I slept a good long while last night, and had a very leisurely start to the day. My friend wanted to go for a hike today, but he managed to get himself pretty hammered last night, and wasn't feeling up to much. Burnt Meadow seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Breakfast had, coffee in hand, we set off to Brownfield. I had first climbed Burnt Meadow in the run-up to my starting the 4000 footer list(s), and it had been more than two years since I had returned. Since then, a couple new trails have been added in the area (the Stone Mountain Trail, and the Twin Brook Trail), and signage has been added at the trailhead. Awesome news, considering it lies all on private land, and the Maine Chapter of the AMC has taken over maintenance.

We set foot on the Burnt Meadow Trail, and right from the trailhead, it starts its relentless march to the top, gaining 1200 feet in 1.2 miles. I remember it feeling a lot longer than that, but two years and some crazy experiences later seem to have tempered my perspective. It was quick, and steep, with some nice ledge scrambling near the summit.

Descent was by Twin Brook Trail, new since I was last on the mountain. The trail is unsigned from the summit, but if you head to the opposite side of the summit clearing from where you entered, there's a large cairn there, turn left following a path and you'll see yellow blazes a few yards in. The top part of this trail is great, with soft footing and easy grades, as you drop down and then climb up the knob to the south of the peak. The trail then becomes more rocky as it descends steeply to the col with Stone Mountain. The trail turns more easterly, heading down out of the col, with some minor uphill sections until it rejoins the Burnt Meadow Trail. With the dry weather, Twin Brook Trail should be renamed No Brook Trail, as there was one stream that was barely trickling.

Started at 1:30, ended at 4:10. Plenty of time spent looking at cool lichens, fungi, and bugs. A nice, short, but strenuous hike... I have to get here more often.


South view from ledges on the way up

Steeps on Burnt Meadow Trail

Off trail, they were there, I had to climb up them

Burnt Meadow Pond down below


Pleasant Mountain from Burnt Meadow

Twin Brook Trail


Water in a hole in a tree

Goose Eye (East Peak) 3790 ft. and Goose Eye (West Peak) 3870 ft. 8/30/12

This day involved many things. Returning to the site of a previous failed ascent, checking out an abandoned/closed/not recommended for use section of trail, and trying a new hiking partner on for size (terrible pun is terrible).

I first attempted Goose Eye on May 5th, and a variety of factors influenced the outcome. New boots that I didn't trust at the time, a new pack, and a backpacking setup in said new pack (for training purposes). All things conspired, it was wet, the streams were at capacity, and the heavy load... well... weighed me down.

I was not to be weighed down. Recent gear purchases, especially the trail runners and the pack, have reduced my carrying weight significantly. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bounding or skipping up and down the trail, but it feels like I'm more fleet of foot, and far more comfortable on steep/technical terrain. Glad I finally learned that burly/bomb-proof equipment isn't always the answer, and that more lightweight/minimalist gear can make a difference.

After a wait for my companion (I was at the trailhead, she was at the parking area a mile down the road... and I didn't see her when I went past... dammit!), we started up the Wright Trail at the gentlemanly/ladylike time of 10:20. It took us a little over an hour to reach the campsite and trail split 2.5 miles in. Along the way, we followed Goose Eye Brook past several small cascades and pools, and plentiful interesting woodsy scenes.

Goose Eye Brook


Goose Eye Brook

Just above the campsite, a small stream merges with Goose Eye Brook, and this is where the trail "splits". Last time, there was flagging tape between two trees, and with all the water coming through there at the time, and the mess of blowdowns, it looked like the north fork of the trail was closed. This time, no tape, no signage, no blowdowns, and a little cairn on the other side of the stream marking the entrance. The suggestion was made, let's go up the north branch! The story I had heard, was that due to erosion, the north fork had been closed, until it could be repaired. The MBPL (Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands) website now states that the north fork is eroded and damaged, and that its use is not recommended... doesn't say its closed!

So up the north fork we went. It was very nice in spots, but there were quite a few muddy sections, and plentiful blowdowns. Probably the biggest challenge of this trail was the blowdowns, they threw all kinds at us, mocking people of all heights. I didn't really see the erosion that supposedly caused the trail to be closed in the first place, and there were some beautiful cascades and slabby views from various points along and slightly off the trail. 

Climbed up a giant slab just off trail to glimpse Sunday River Whitecap

We popped out on the Mahoosuc Trail, and turned south on the AT towards our destinations. I wish I had gotten pictures of some of the ladders and trail structures on this section... all the more reason to come back. There were some small, fun scrambles on nice grippy rock, mica and quartz were everywhere! All too quickly, we were on East Peak, and the views were absolutely stunning.

The New Hampshire north country

Old Speck and West Baldpate

West from East

Presidentials from East
While the views were stunning, the wind was whipping and we had stopped to put on a layer just before cresting the summit. We kept these on as we wound our way down to the col, then up to West Peak... whos views were equally spectacular.

Alpine grass

Pilot/Pliny Ranges from West

Mahoosuc Notch and Old Speck

Success Pond from West

Lenticulars reforming over the Carters
We managed to get somewhat out of the wind, just behind the summit rock, basked in the sun, and ate. After a fashion, we headed downward, and checked out the south branch of the Wright Trail. I had made it up to the second set of ledges on my previous attempt, and I now found out that those ledges were significantly further than I at first thought. This section was a joy, views every once and a while, a few minor PUD's, and fantastic lichens.

East Peak

Beautiful lichens

More lichens

South Branch
We soon arrived at the split, and retraced our steps back to the cars. The golden afternoon light made the miles just fly, and when we checked the time at the cars... it was just after 4:30... killed it!

Goose Eye Brook


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Doubletop and a CoeSoBro Loop: Two days at Nesowadnehunk (BSP) 8/22-23/12

Day 1: Doubletop (North Peak 3489 ft., South Peak 3455 ft.)

I left Portland under sunny skies at about 6:20 in the morning, destination, Baxter. After a stopover in Newport for breakfast with a good friend, I was in the park by 11:30, headed north on the park tote road at 20 miles per. Nesowadnehunk bound!. Impressive views of what I was about to climb, towered above me as I wound my way along the road, glimpsing it rising above the road as I came around corners. I checked into my site, a nice little lean-to set off in the bushes, then headed past the ranger station, and up the trail.

The Doubletop Mountain Trail starts off innocuous enough, pretty woods, and a smooth, soft trail. This persists, with only a couple rocky sections, until about a mile in, you reach Doubletop Brook, which is where the fun begins.

Doubletop Brook

The trail becomes rocky, and full of roots as you climb away from the brook, and it went on like this for what felt like quite some time. Lack of decent sleep, the 5+ hour drive, and the heat of the day took their toll on this section, and I felt like I was crawling up the mountain at times. The reprieve came, however briefly, as the trail leveled out for a bit, with a gravely footbed. It then continued steeply to the summit.

Old sign, after the first steep section

Steeps on Doubletop Mountain Trail

At the summit, I was greeted with spectacular views in all directions. Across the Nesowadnehunk to the Brothers, Coe, and OJI, over to Barren, The Owl, Katahdin, and the Traveler off in the distance. Equally impressive were the views to the South and West.

The Brothers from North Peak

Coe and OJI (front), Barren and The Owl (middle), Hamlin, Pamola, Baxter (back)

Looking South down the Nesowadnehunk

West view

The Traveler in the distance

Looking down from South Peak

After going out and back to the South Peak, I lounged around on North Peak for a while, chatting with a couple from New York. Once I had my fill, I worked my way uneventfully back down the trail.

I loaded up some wood into the car, and drove over to my lean-to, started a fire, cooked dinner after a fashion, and was ready to sleep before the light was out of the sky... that's unusual for sure. My only company were rabbits and chipmunks, the neighbors at the nearby sites were quiet. Tomorrow will be challenging, as back to back hiking days aren't something I usually experience.

It's just a rabbit...

A sliver of moon

Day 2: Mt. Coe (3795 ft.), South Brother (3970 ft.)

Alarm went off, I went back to sleep. I eventually got up at about 6:30. Thought ahead and made "iced" coffee (a relative term when camping, see: cold coffee), and had a cold breakfast, which I ate in the Marston Trail parking lot. Part of a trail crew arrived while I was eating, and headed up to do some work on the Mt. Coe Trail, I'd run into them later..

Doubletop, a nice breakfast view for sure
I set off up the Marston Trail under bright blue skies, gusty winds, and a chill in the air that would linger all day. The goals for the day included 3 peaks, Mt. Coe, South Brother, and North Brother. Stretching out my legs felt good, but they remained sore and protesting for a good part of the day. Don't underestimate anything in Baxter.

Nice rock work on Marston Trail
After being passed by several straggling members of the trail crew, I turned onto Mt. Coe Trail. The climb up to the junction took it out of me for some reason, but I was able to pick up the pace a bit, as the grades were mostly moderate. Views started to open up behind me as I popped out into a gravely area, nearing the base of the slide. Most of the crew was at the base of the slide, starting their brushing, the corridor should be much improved now. I never did see the sign for the OJI Link, I'm sure its there. Next came the slide!

View from near the base of the slide

Coe Slide

Coe Slide

Coe Slide
This was, to date, the least terrifying slide climb that I've done. The rocks, with the exception of the black lichen covered ones (which I only found near the base), were dry and grippy, and what seeps there were, were few and far between. I found myself wishing there was more of it as soon as I reached the top, so I lingered a while, before diving back into the trees.

Top of the slide
Presently, I came across the other two members of the crew, brushing out the trail above the slide, they weren't thrilled at the thought of going down the slide after they were done. A few moments later, I popped out on the bare summit of Coe. The views were tremendous, and I set myself up out of the wind, and took it in.


Slide down into the Klondike

The Owl and Barren nestled up against Katahdin

Lenticular clouds forming over Katahdin

Fir waves on the Brothers

Lenticulars over Katahdin
I watched the spectacle for a while, the wind buffeting the scrubby trees, the lenticular clouds forming over Katahdin. A truly special piece of time. Shouldering the pack, I made my way off the summit, and back into the woods. The Mt. Coe Trail seems to descend nearly all the way to the spur going up South Brother, and only starts climbing within a couple tenths of the spur. That led me (rightly) to believe that the spur trail would be steep. I wasn't disappointed, as the trail was basically a jumble of boulders. I topped out on the flat summit of South Brother, the wind started to knock me around a bit, and I couldn't find a decent place to get out of the wind.

Mt. Coe Trail leaving Mt. Coe

Mt. Coe Trail

South Brother

Coe from South Brother

North Brother from South Brother

Northwest Basin from South Brother
So I retreated down the boulders back to Mt. Coe Trail. By that point, my body was no longer a willing participant, and complained of being under extreme duress. I decided to skip North Brother, but I'll be back. Descending from the col went well, steep at times, and there were several viewpoints, and small pond along the way. The clouds had started to roll in while I was on my descent, and it was cloudy by the time I reached the trailhead.

Along Marston Trail

Along Marston Trail

Doubletop from Marston Trail

South Brother from Marston Trail

At one end of the pond
Seeing as it was early in the afternoon, I drove up the road to Ledge Falls, made myself some proper lunch, and hung out on the rocks, watching people sliding down the natural waterslides carved into the rock. No sooner did I get back to the car after lunch and pictures, that it started to rain. I then made my way back to Nesowadnehunk, and hung out in the lean-to reading, enjoying the soft sounds of the rain.

Ledge Falls

Ledge Falls

Ledge Falls

Ledge Falls