Working title: Beast-mode in Evans Notch
Peaks: Blueberry Mountain, Speckled Mountain
Trails: Bickford Brook Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Blueberry Mountain Loop
Mileage/time: ~9 miles, ~2954 feet of gain, book time of 6:00, actual time of 3:38
The weather was the determining factor for this hike, rather the forecast for my usual hiking days was looking terrible. So the WSDS (Wednesday Sleep Deprivation Special) went into effect. I got out of work at 6 am, packed my things, and had breakfast with my buddy Wendell at the Bayou Kitchen in Portland. I then took off, and made slow progress into the mountains, where I arrived at a deserted trailhead lot. I wouldn't see another soul during my hike.
It was chilly, and partly cloudy as I started up, in a long sleeve base layer, with an orange t-shirt over it, just for safety. My start time was 9:41. Now I've driven past Brickett Place on ME 113 so many times it's not even funny, and after a decade or more, I was finally hiking out of it. In contrast to other areas of the Whites, there was still some foliage to be had on the lower portion of Bickford Brook Trail, and a deep cover of downed leaves covered the trail. It starts out moderately steep in the first few tenths, and then moderates as it turns right onto an old jeep road that enters from the left. This old road climbs all the way to within a stones throw of the summit of Speckled Mountain, and used to service the fire tower that once stood on it.
Soon, I crossed into the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, and the junction with the Blueberry Ridge Trail. Already sweating, I stowed my hat and gloves, before I commenced my ascent. I decided against redlining out the Bickford Slides Loop, saving it for another day. Sometimes it pays to save small sections, sometimes it doesn't... like the case of the Guyot Shelter Spur. Crossing just above the Lower Slide, Blueberry Ridge Trail got a bit steep in spots, and there was some ice on the rocks, all avoidable. Some excellent views started to open up to the west, and the lenticular clouds I'd seen forming on my drive in, were still stacking up. I sure know how to pick 'em!
I passed the junction with the White Cairn Trail, and soon was at the Blueberry Mountain Loop (signed alternately as the Lookout Loop, and Outlook Loop), which I took for great effect.
Reaching the other end of the loop, I backtracked about 0.1 miles to redline out the missed section of Blueberry Ridge Trail... no stragglers! Climbing back up, I continued along, up and down, through really pretty sections of woods, alternating with open ledges, which had commanding views for their height. The lenticulars continued to build over the Royces and over the Wild River Wilderness.
Pretty quickly, I reached the upper junction with Bickford Brook Trail, and had a mere 0.5 miles to the summit of Speckled. The trail passes through a fairly flat, open area on the ridge, before diving back into the woods and climbing to the highpoint. Concrete footings are all that remains of the fire tower that once stood on the summit, and the views are far reaching. The whole of the Baldface/Royce Range, the Carter/Moriah Range, the Mahoosucs, and beyond were visible. The Presidentials remained in the clouds, but I could see white on their lower slopes. Temperatures on the summit were easily in the 20's, and though the wind wasn't strong, it was biting.
I descended slightly to the junction with Red Rock and Cold Brook trails, again leaving no straggling sections, and after making a call to Mike, to see if he was around that afternoon, I began my descent, apparently in earnest. I jogged occasionally, enjoying the wintery temperatures, the dusting of snow up higher, and the leafy bits down low.
I must have been flying, because before I knew it, I was back at my car. The time was 1:19. All that, on no sleep, and having worked the night before. Here I was wanting to be done in 5 hours! As I headed towards Conway, my phone got a signal and Mike called. He was around, so I stopped in and chilled out with him for a while, before heading home.
Looking forward to more solo beast-mode action on Saturday!