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.
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|
|North Crocker from the trail|
|Redington from near North Crocker|
|A strange cut path right off the summit, descending generally west|
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.