Saturday, May 11, 2013

Caribou Mountain 5/10/13

Working title: There are rules

Peak: Caribou Mountain

Trails: Mud Brook Trail, Caribou Trail

Mileage/time: 6.9 miles, 2156 feet of gain, book time of 4:31, actual time of ~6:30

Today, was the epitome of a classic, northern New England, spring day. Extraordinary, changing weather conditions, great company, and interesting terrain, defined this hike. An early start for me, meeting my friend Heather in Naples for breakfast, and then heading north. I hadn't decided quite what to do for a hike, but figured it out on the way north, and we pulled into the trailhead off of 113 just before 10.

There were some ground rules for the day. 1.) No falling. 2.) No breaking anything. 3.) No dying.

Simple enough right? With all those in mind, we started up the Mud Brook Trail, at a very leisurely pace. Heather broke her leg (the tibia if I remember correctly) last year, and self-rescued herself, walking 2 miles out of the woods on it! Wicked strong. However, that has made her recovery longer, and it still pains her. In the interest of taking it easy, the hike was to be short, and the rules were there... for me as well, but doubly for her!

The Mud Brook Trail is really mellow in its lower reaches, and Mud Brook never really lives up to its name. Its flow was very clear, and there were some very picturesque spots along the trail.

The weather had really shifted since the time that I woke up. It was drizzling in Portland when I left, damp in Naples during breakfast, and moody, with peaks in and out of the clouds on our drive up. Now it was nice and sunny, and a little bit warm in the open woods, so we stopped so I could zip off the legs of my pants. Today made me realize that I sometimes move too fast, and that I miss important details, and scenes, when I'm so busy concentrating on the ground to make my next step. Solo hiking is going to be one thing, I'll get in the zone, and just go. Keeping the pace of another proved to be pretty awesome.

Forty-five minutes of easy hiking, brought us to the boundary of the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, where a crooked sign, and mud, greeted us.

We crossed Mud Brook for the last time, the trail turning north, and upslope. Climbing slowly, taking ample breaks, sweating like pigs, avoiding mud and slippery rocks, all were the name of the game. In addition to the rules, can't forget them. Transitioning from open hardwoods, to close softwoods, the woods cooled down, and the smell of balsam filled the air. Soon we hit a ledge with some views out over the eastern half of the wilderness.

Dropping down to a small col, we then hiked up some steeper areas of rock, with a couple small scrambles, and soon popped out on the southern end of the summit ledges. The clouds were dour to the west, and impressive all around.

On the way up, I had alluded to something I was carrying in my pack. Guesses ranged from cake to a brick (seriously), but when I pulled a bottle of Allagash Curieux from my pack, there was much rejoicing! While we sat on a southeast facing part of the summit area, enjoying the beer, there was rain encroaching from the west, and we could see it. I insisted that it was going to be all set, seeing that the wind direction would blow it just south of us, and we continued to relax. I wasn't exactly right, though the rain did dissipate, and all we felt were a few errant drops. Perfect! Finishing the beer, we wandered back over to the south summit knob.

Evans Notch

Southeast view

Carter-Moriah Range
Coming back to our packs, me via a scramble up to the north knob, we decided to descend via the Caribou Trail. We took in some final views, to the north and west, before we descended into the trees.

North towards the Mahoosucs

West towards the Pilot-Pliny Range
I think I had promised no snow, and there was much disappointment, as we ran into a couple short sections of monorail just as we hit the woods. They were stable, and extremely short lived, and we quickly arrived at the Caribou Trail junction. It was here the trail became narrower, and wet as we turned west to begin our descent. Passing out of the flat col between Caribou and Gammon Mountain, we ran into a patch of snow, and I had the irrational urge to build a snowman.

Snowman, in May
We now descended on a fairly soft trail, though very narrow in spots, with a couple of blowdowns to contend with. Descending further, we came alongside Morrison Brook, which we would criss-cross numerous times. It has many picturesque cascades and pools, though we missed out on Kees Falls. You can see it from the trail, but it looked gnarly to try and get down in there for a view. Apparently, there's a side path before the crossing above the falls, but I didn't see it. More reason to come back.

Clouds now obscured the sun, and the trail moderated substantially, with the understory starting to fill in. Trillium of the Painted and Red varieties were blooming, and the woods felt more alive.

I think I may have also promised no rain, again, much disappointment. All in all, it may have rained for about 10 minutes total, ending as quickly as it began, and it was never a downpour. It felt good, and besides, I love the sound of rain in the woods. After crossing the brook one last time, where a bridge clearly used to be, we rolled into the parking lot around 4:30. Thanks to Heather for an awesome day!


  1. We never had rules, Bill. Is this a new thing?

    1. Rule #3 has always been there, the other two are (mostly) optional.

  2. Bill . . . just discovered your truly excellent Blog. No idea why it took me so long!
    Regardless, I'll be looking forward to reading it on a regular basis.


    1. Cheers John! I've been reading yours for quite some time, and it never fails to provide ideas for excursions to new places.