Thursday, November 8, 2012

South Crocker (4052 ft.) and North Crocker (4228 ft.) 11/7/12

Trails: Caribou Valley/Pond Road, Appalachian Trail, South Crocker summit spur

Mileage/time: ~7.2 miles, ~2900 ft. of gain, book time of 5:05, actual time of 4:05

It's been a while since I've done something quite this stupid, but as with last time, I've managed to come out of it no worse for the wear. While on my journey to complete the New Hampshire 4000-footers, I got the bright idea that I'd get out of work at 6am and go hike from there. That time, it was Mt. Waumbek, and I paid dearly for it. Sleep deprivation is a funny thing, and after almost 6 years on night shift, I'd like to think I know a thing or three about it. This hike worked out somewhat differently.

I left work at 3am, thumbing my nose at everyone that still had 3 hours to go, there were mountains to be climbed! After coffee and breakfast on the road, I passed the Sugarloaf access road, and kept my tired eyes peeled. Of course, I missed the turn the first time around, but quickly realized my mistake, turned around and headed on down the infamous Caribou Valley Road (signed Caribou Pond Road). The reports of the road having been repaired were factual (the internet? lie? no way), though I think "Superstorm Sandy" had a little bit of fun with it. For the most part, the road was in great shape all the way to the metal bridge and parking area, though there were some eroded areas, fresh from what I could tell. My Hyundai made it no problem, just take it with caution and your car will make it too.

Stepping out of the car, I was hit with bracing cold. That just meant I wouldn't be stopping much! Cranked the heat, changed into hiking attire, laced up my trusty La Sportiva Nepals, and took off up the road at 6:15. I worried slightly that the AT crossing would be ambiguous and I'd have trouble finding it... not so much. I crossed 3 bridges, passed orange flagging on both sides of the road, then reached the AT crossing (marked with blue flagging) shortly thereafter. Taking a right, I headed up towards Crocker Cirque.

The road walk was brisk, and helped to warm me up. The AT up to the Crocker Cirque spur was pretty gentle, meandering slowly upward, and the watching the light bleed into the day made it go by quickly. Soon I reached my first trail sign of the day, almost a mile and a half from my car. From here, the trail starts its relentless climb up out of the cirque.

The trail climbs a couple of short switchbacks, then just goes straight up the slope, almost like the builders said, "let's try this... well, this is boring, fuck it, just go straight up". Soon, the trail pops out on the bottom of a talus slope, with views up to North Crocker, and out over the valley to the Bigelows.

North Crocker

Bigelow Range
This was the part of the trail I was worried about, but there was no ice on the rocks, and just a dusting of snow. The trail climbs straight up the slope and reenters the woods at the top. It then climbs steeply to another talus slope, that it now traverses, with views over to Sugarloaf and the rest of the valley.

Now came the part of the climb that I keep going over my head. The section between the top of the second talus slope and South Crocker seemed to go on forever! It was pretty gentle, but it just didn't seem like it was going to stop, I don't know what it was... probably fatigue. Soon enough though, I popped out into a little clearing, the summit sign in front of me, and a spur trail to the true summit and viewpoint to my left.

Sugarloaf and snow guns

Spaulding and Abraham
I didn't linger long, as the sun wasn't doing much to warm up the day, and pushed on to North Crocker. I did see the start of the herd path to Redington, but I figure I'll save that for another day, when I'm not alone and sleep deprived. The trail drops steeply at times to a small flat col, with a couple of ice flows here and there, and snow clinging to the trees. Got my first snow down the back of my neck of the year, love it when that happens. There was one large tree down across the trail on the descent to the col, requiring a work around into the woods. The trail climbs fairly gradually up to North Crocker, which sports pretty much zero views, though a couple side paths provided some eye candy.

North Crocker from the trail

Redington from near North Crocker

Saddleback, maybe?

A strange cut path right off the summit, descending generally west
I checked out a cut path off the summit, which gave me limited views west, though I didn't follow it for far. I wonder what it's all about? I turned around, retracing my steps. The re-climb of South Crocker, and the descent went uneventfully, not seeming nearly as long as the ascent.

Back on the CVR headed towards the car, the rush of the river to my right, the silence of the woods to my left. I arrived back at 10:20, good time considering my footwear, lethargy, and trail conditions. It's all a moot point now, as it's likely snowing at elevation and raining here in Portland as I type.

Thanks for blocking the trail, tree

I managed to get home in one piece, not without the help of a LOT of caffeine. Home to a hot shower, a couple of cold beers, and a long sleep. All in all, glad I got one in before the storm. NEHH #'s 68 and 69!

Edit: I found out that the path leading off to the west was a surveyor's cut, from the late 90's. It was a visual impact survey for the proposed Black Nubble Wind Farm project, which even with a revised proposal was rejected by the Maine LURC in 2008.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely ice/snow pics. Bitchin solo hike. As usual, I am wicked jealous. :)