Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shelburne Redlining 5/23/13

Working title: I went for a peak, and ended up with waterfalls and ledges.

Peak: None

Trails: Austin Brook Trail, Dryad Fall Trail, Dryad Fall Spur, Peabody Brook Trail, Bald Cap Peak Ledges Trail, Giant Falls Spur, roadwalk

Mileage/time: 10.5 miles, ~2500 feet of gain, book time of 6:30, actual time of 5:31

For the second hike in a row, I forgot my camera. It's a problem. I planned on getting up earlier than I did (5:15), but there we have it. I managed to get out of the house quickly enough, but again, in Gorham, the important piece was found to be missing. There was a grimace, and a flash of anger, then I turned around, and fought with traffic on the way back into Portland. Camera retrieved, I set out... again. I made my way up through Evans Notch, for the third week in a row, and my GPS didn't like it. It kept telling me to backtrack, and that I had another 60 miles to go. Idiot technology.

There were a few glimpses of sun on my way up, but the cloud ceiling hung low when I pulled into the trailhead, but it wasn't raining! I was basically ready to go when I arrived at the Austin Brook Trailhead, so I set off through the turnstile, and up the trail at 8:39. There's a dam just off the trail, at the beginning, and the sound was nice to have, right off the bat.

The Austin Brook Trail follows a road for quite a while, before turning off into the woods for a bit. The trails up to this point were fairly dry, but that would soon change. The woodsy portion was nice and soft, but didn't last long, and just after I had a tricky crossing, it merged with another road.

Continuing up the road, I soon came across some cut over areas. While I understand that cutting of the forest is necessary, it's pretty ugly when you see the fairly recent after-effects, up close and personal. Though I will give it one thing, it does allow for some views.

View up to Dryad Fall from Austin Brook Trail
Now the wetness began. After the trail crosses near where a bridge used to be, it turns into the woods for good, and starts climbing. The trail had been damp up to this point, but there was now standing water and mud to deal with. Eventually, it just didn't matter. My trail runners are NOT waterproof, but they thankfully drain and dry quickly. Soon, I reached the junction with Dryad Fall Trail, a sweaty mess, and decision making took place. There was rain forecast for the afternoon, and the cloud ceiling was still hanging low, not exactly ideal conditions for a peak with a fantastic view. I therefore decided to skip it, just doing the planned "descent" loop, instead of going 6 miles out and back to the peak and plane wreck.

Just after making the turn, the sun came out, and stayed out for a while. Curses. I descended the spur to Dryad Fall, for great effect.

Next up, was more wetness. While the next two of pictures might belie dryness, it was not the case. Any non-rock area was saturated, and a stream occasionally ran in the trailbed. I gave up trying to stay on rocks, and found myself in 3-6 inches of water and mud at times.

My next objective was Dream Lake, and I was thankful when Dryad Fall Trail came to an end, and Dream Lake was visible through the trees. I decided to redline out Peabody Brook Trail, to its junction with the Mahoosuc Trail, and was treated to awesome views over the lake to Madison, and then to it and Washington.

Once returning to the junction, things got interesting. There were a bunch of bog bridges, but they were dangerously slippery. My wet shoes didn't help. I ended up with both arms out, shuffling when I was on them, and I slipped around a lot. On one section, still close to the lake, the bog bridges were about an inch above the water level. Until I stepped on them. Once I did that, they sunk in about four inches. It's lovely standing in three inches of water.

Slickery bog bridging
After slipping around for a bit, I came to a junction that wasn't on my map! There was a sign for the Bald Cap Peak Ledges Trail, and I had read about in a report by John "1HappyHiker" Compton. I didn't realize that I was on the trail that accessed it! The trail itself appeared lightly traveled, but was easy to follow with fresh blazing. Views from the various ledges didn't disappoint, looking out over the Androscoggin River Valley, the Carter-Moriah Range, and the Presidential Range.

Leaving the ledges, I returned to Peabody Brook Trail, which started to descend steeply, on slippery rocks. Fun times. Clouds were rolling in as I descended, and I found a nice trailside vista looking towards the Presidentials.

Painted Trillium

An old trail marker

A unique view of Washington and Madison
The grade eased as the trail wended its way into a gully, and the roaring sound of falling water filled the air. I reached the spur for Giant Falls, and again, took it for great effect.

Giant Falls
After returning to Peabody Brook Trail, I descended a bit further, and then some more decision making took place. I could take the Middle Mountain and Yellow trails back to Austin Brook Trail, and my car, at a cost of 3.8 miles and 1000 feet of gain, or finish the remaining 0.8 miles of Peabody Brook Trail, and have a 1.9 mile roadwalk. I decided on the latter, as I had left 1 mile of Austin Brook Trail unhiked today, and I didn't want to leave any more stragglers.

At the junction with Middle Mountain Trail, the Peabody Brook Trail turned into a road, and the sun came back out briefly.

I then reached the road, where the trailhead isn't really well marked, and I don't think you could even see it unless you were traveling east on North Road. Then began my 1.9 mile roadwalk. Only two vehicles passed me, but the second one decided to mess with the hiker, beeping as it went past, the passenger yelling something unintelligible. Constantly harassed.

Reaching my car at 1:10, I had time, and I contemplated more redlining. But with the forecast, and the building clouds, I erred on the side of caution, drove to the Moat, and had a couple of Tripels... delicious. Thus ends my hiking for this week. Next week will be consumed by moving preparations (I leased a new apartment just yesterday!), and on Saturday, I'll be taking a go at a one-day Pemi Loop (excluding North Twin). It's going to be tough, but if the weather is good, it should be an epic day!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Baldface-Royce Range Traverse 5/18/13

Working title: Epic hiking season begins

Peaks: Eastman Mountain, South Baldface, North Baldface, Eagle Crag, Mt. Meader, West Royce, East Royce

Trails: Baldface Circle Trail, Emerald Pool Spur, Slippery Brook Trail, Eastman Mountain Trail, Baldface Knob Trail, Meader Ridge Trail, Basin Rim Trail, Royce Trail, Royce Connector, East Royce Trail

Mileage/time: 17.8 miles, 7036 feet of gain, book time of 12:24, actual time of 11:06

Excitement. The feeling was palpable before this hike, one I've looked forward to for some time now. Waking up at 4:30 didn't do me any favors, but there we have it. I organized this hike with the Meetup group, Random Group of Hikers. Right off the bat, things went south. I coffee'd up, and was rolling through Gorham, when I realized that I forgot my camera. Waffling for a second, I turned around. Lateness be damned, I was NOT going to do this hike sans camera. I called Mike to inform him that I was going to be late. All in all, I lost 40 minutes of drive time, and by the time I reached Gorham again, it was 5:30... and I planned on being there by 6. Some imprudent speed, and blind luck, landed me at the trailhead at 6:20, even before Mike!

Now we played the waiting game. Jesse was there before I was, and Maher pulled in shortly after I did (I blew past him back down 113). We chatted with a guy and his daughter who were cooking their breakfast in the parking lot, and soon Mike pulled in. Inna and Marta were supposed to join us as well, but poor directions, and zero cell phone reception, left them not finding the right trailhead. I later learned that they had found the East Royce Trailhead, with my spotted car, and ended up hiking East Royce and Blueberry. Waiting around as long as I thought prudent, and we set off up the Baldface Circle Trail at 7:48.

The first 0.7 miles of the trail are super easy, running nearly flat to the loop split, and the spur to Emerald Pool, which we took. It's a popular swimming spot in the warm months, and the water is as advertised, emerald colored. Which I couldn't capture for the life of me.

Upon returning to the junction, we took a left on to the southern part of the loop, which we were only on for a short time. Next up was the stiff climb up to the Eastman/Baldface Knob col, on the Slippery Brook Trail. We ran into some minor muddy patches, and a generally relentless grade, gaining 1850 feet in the 2.4 mile stretch. The woods were generally open, it got warm in the sun, and I turned into a sweaty mess. I guess my body is still attuned to winter, the heat disagrees with it.

Taking a break at the junction, I removed my pant legs, and would be a far more comfortable animal for the remainder of the day. But boy are my legs white! Trying not to blind my companions, we started up the Eastman Mountain Trail, for the first of seven summits on the day. Up through pretty woods, we soon arrived at the ledgy summit area, and got a peek at what was ahead of us for the day.

South towards the Sandwich Range

South Baldface looming large

Evans Notch, East Royce to the left of center
Descending back the way we came, we blew through the junction, and started up Baldface Knob Trail. Maher had been in the lead, and must have been in the zone, because he didn't even see the signs when we went past them! Shortly arriving on Baldface Knob, we took a short break, the climb and views continuing to be breathtaking.

Eastman and the Kearsarge Group
Dropping into a shallow col, we soon popped out at the junction with the southern leg of Baldface Circle Trail, that we circumvented by going to Eastman. The ledges on that section are awesome, I highly recommend them. The bulk of South Baldface lorded over us, just begging us to hit the summit. So we obliged.

Awesome bench at the junction

Washington over the Wildcat Ridge

Pleasant Mountain

North Baldface, in view
Deciding to break on North Baldface, and seeing several groups headed up from the knob, we continued on.  Passing over a minor hump in the col, we scrambled our way steeply up to North Baldface. The Royces now looked like they were getting closer.

Carter Range over the Wild River Valley

Follow the ridge, that's where we're going
A fairly lengthy break was taken, as we gazed all around, especially to the north and the remaining four peaks that the day demanded of us. Some rain drops fell here and there, but they never amounted to anything. Next, the downs and ups accompanying our journey to Eagle Crag. Topping out on the ridge leading up to it, past the junctions with Bicknell Ridge, and the northern Baldface Circle Trail, I realized something... I never went to the actual summit of Eagle Crag on my previous trip here. I scrambled up the boulder sitting near the summit, and tagged the actual high point.

Once we dropped into the woods, the fun began. Meader Ridge Trail had a myriad number of blowdowns, of all varieties, forcing us to crawl/climb under, over, and around them. They never really slowed our progress, but they were a pain, and there were a lot of them. There was some patchy snow here and there too, in the shadier spots. Just so you don't think that it was blowdown hell, there were a bunch of nice sections, and some views along the way.

Closer to the goal

We took the view spur to the top of Mt. Meader, where a group of six backpackers were hanging out, and I got a crappy picture, which I won't bother to share. Beyond here, the trail was less blowdown ridden, as it dropped steeply down to Rim Junction. We stopped at a clear running stream, and I finally got to use my gravity filter to get some extra water. It was good that we stopped here, because the only other water sources that we passed (one before, and one after) didn't look appetizing. The water here was cold and tasty.

There was talk about taking a break on a view ledge that I knew existed, looking out over the Basin, down to Basin Pond. After going through the junction, about 0.5 miles up the Basin Rim Trail, I realized my mistake... the ledge was slightly down the Basin Trail, back at the junction. I really needed to take a break, but Mike was gone. Yelling to him a few times yielded nothing, and when I finally heard him shout back, my body was fighting me. When we all caught up with him, we all took a break, ate and drank. Pushing on, Maher shortly hit the wall too, and needed a break. We ended up putting him up front, and having him keep what pace he could for the rest of the day.

Basin Pond

Mt. Meader

Pushing on slowly towards West Royce, the false summits presented themselves, and I made false promises, like "last one...". One thing I had been looking forward to, was finding the remains of the fire tower that once stood on West Royce. I must have been delirious the last time I was here, because they were plainly visible from the trail, where it jogs right just before the summit. We checked out the remains, and then tagged the summit of West Royce, with its restricted views to the northeast and southeast.

Now was a slow descent down to the col between the Royces, with some more nice blowdowns to contend with, and we passed inconspicuously into Maine. You wind down to the north of West Royce, then turn east across the col, then turn north around the east side of East Royce. It's disorienting when you're on the trail. Maher was feeling up to it, so we pushed it, the last 0.5 steep miles up to the summit of East Royce, to finish the range traverse!

Looking back at all we conquered, Eastman on the left of the frame

The 1.5 miles down to the cars passed uneventfully, though it was steep going. Jesse rode back to the lot with Mike and I, as Maher figured out which way he was going to head home. Mike and I decided on food, though when we pulled up to the Moat, it was super busy... so we decided on Thai.

It was an exhausting day, but one that I'll be repeating for sure. For me, it was two more 52 With a View peaks (halfway done at 26!), and 9 more miles of redlining done, on one of the most spectacular ranges in the Whites. Thanks to Mike, Maher, and Jesse for an awesome day in the mountains, and congratulations for slaying it!