Friday, October 19, 2012

Whitecap (3856 ft.) and North Kennebago Divide (3775 ft.) 10/18/12

After taking a much deserved week off from hiking, it was time to get back into the fold. Some life decisions are in the works, so I figured it was time to buckle down, and try to get the 100 Highest done before said life decisions come into effect. I had big plans this week, but mother nature had other ideas, so when Dave called me and asked if I wanted to push Fridays plan ahead to Thursday, I said okay. The initial plan was to hike to Whitecap and North Kennebago Divide, get back to the car, then drive into Canada, and hike to Boundary Peak via the border swath. What follows is a lesson in success, failure, and learning not to always rely on your technology.

Up at 5am, supplies gathered, across town to Dave's house, throw my gear into his vehicle, and we're off and on the road by 6. The long drive north goes uneventfully, and we stop for gas in Rangeley, not far from where we head off the paved roads. He has the trailhead marked in his GPS, as well as directions to it, though the GPS initially sends us down a road that ends at a gate several miles in. Turn around, and try again! Eventually we find Morton Cutoff, and start down it. I won't bother with specifics, as this information is readily available. We wind our way along taking turns on Tim Pond Road/Lincoln Pond Road, Wiggle Brook Road, and Bear Brook Road, which eventually comes to a spot where you can't drive any further. Here's where we begin!

The "road"

We gear up, for some reason I'm wearing green (this guy needs to get a bright base layer for this time of year), and we follow the grassy road upwards. Its wet in spots, and muddy at times, but overall good walking. Shortly we come to a point where it appears the road may have continued straight, it actually takes a right here, and continues up the slope after a fashion. Thereafter, we notice several paths headed off to the left, one of which is flagged at the beginning. We remember these for later, and continue on up the ever diminishing road. Then we reach a spot where the road in front of us becomes grown in with small evergreens, there is a cairn in the grass, and to the left on a log is a small cairn, this marks the entrance to the herd path to Whitecap. You have to push through right at the beginning, but once you find the path, it's unmistakeable, and easy to follow. The path meanders through the woods, and we soon reached the high point and the canister. Number 91 for Dave and number 60 for me! In all, it had taken about 55 minutes from the car to the peak. Since we barely broke a sweat getting here, we signed the register (last entry from 9/21), and started back to the road.

Open woods along the herd path to Whitecap

Once back on the road, we descended to the point where the flagged path came in on our right. After consulting the map and GPS, we started off down it. The path was fairly wide and open at first, but then began to parallel Kennebago Divide and descend. We worked our way back up a bit, took a visual bearing on the peak, and started off down a likely path. This, of course, petered out after a short while, and we dove into the spruce. It was never extremely thick, and after a while, we found the ridge, and shortly thereafter, a herd path. The airway was never very open, but as long as you kept your eyes on the ground, the path was pretty easy to follow. Spruce needles rained down on us as we pushed through the growth, but we persevered and soon popped out on North Kennebago Divide, a repeat for Dave, and number 61 for me. Pictures and canister entries followed, then we started our descent, not before being visited by a couple of Gray Jays, who were probably pretty peeved that we didn't feed them. They also wouldn't pose for pictures... divas. We followed the herd path back down the ridge towards the col (if you notice a herd path continuing past the summit, don't bother following, it doesn't go anywhere), and we avoided most of the thick stuff we encountered on the way up. We did lose the path towards the end, but after a few hundred yards of moderate thickness, we popped out about 50 feet down the flagged path we left from. Solid navigation!

North Kennebago Divide from the "road"

We then made our way to the car, and arrived back at 12:45, 3 hours and 15 minutes after we left. That provided time, and the original plan was still on. Grab some food from the pack, hop in the car, and head to Canada. While this might seem easy, easy wasn't how it went down. Firstly, Dave had the "trailhead" for Boundary in his GPS from the last time he was there, so he set it, and we started off down the road. I'll explain that the GPS on the way in kept trying to tell us to turn onto Kennebago River Road (which doesn't exist to my knowledge), so really, we shouldn't have trusted it. What we wanted, was to find Tim Pond Road, and follow it all the way to Eustis, then go to the border from there. What happened, was we followed the GPS blindly, until we realized it was taking us in circles, and nothing around us was familiar. Megantic Winter Road, Cupsuptic Tote Road, on roads the GPS didn't even know existed. Eventually we saw a truck and pulled up next to it. The guy was from Seven Islands Land Co. (who owns most of the land in the area), and he told us to go back the way we came, which we did, supplementing his directions with those of another logger along the way. We eventually found Tim Pond Road, and after 18 long miles, we popped back out on 27 near Eustis. What a nice detour in the middle of nowhere.

So part three of our plan was underway. We soon neared the border, following a truck that was carrying several giant bundles of sticks, the one on the back was moving around... sketchy. We reached a line of vehicles at the Coburn Gore crossing (about 5), and found they were doing pre-screening on the U.S. side. Eventually, it was our turn, we stopped, turned off the engine, let the dog sniff around, and answered some questions. Then it was the Canadians turn to grill us. When asked where we were going, we showed the guy our directions, and told him we were going to hike on the border swath. He then informed us that we couldn't do that, and that the border swath was "no mans land". Also, that if we were caught on the swath, we would be arrested immediately, and then never be allowed to leave our country again because we would have criminal records. Note to self: if going to hike Boundary via the swath from the Canadian side, tell them you're going to hike Mont Gosford. I kept my mouth shut, let Dave do the talking, and we were cleared to pass through. However, once we reached the gatehouse for Mont Gosford (and being asked if we were going for a drive), we were told that the hiking trails were closed until the 21st for hunting season. Good thing we didn't try to bushwhack from Kennebago Divide to the swath... probably would have ended up getting shot.

After being in Canada all of 30 minutes, we successfully recrossed the border and headed south. We stopped in Carrabasset Valley to have a beer with our friend Brian, then made our way safely back to Portland. It was a long day, mostly spent on the road, but being able to cross two more off the list, and not getting shot, is priceless.


  1. I can't tell if it is eating my comments or what but the point of the matter is, I am glad you didn't get shot!

    1. I don't know what it's doing! Thanks, not walking into a shooting gallery of drunk itchy trigger fingered Canadians (while wearing green... way to blend in asshole), really made my day.