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Sunday, June 24, 2012

#77 Goose Eye, Maine (and Mt. Carlo), June 23, 2012

#77 Goose Eye (3,870') and Mt. Carlo via Goose Eye, AT and Carlo Col trails, June 23, 2012.

Mileage: 7.27 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 2,504'

Trailhead: Berlin, N.H. (Route 16) to North Main Street, right on to James Cleveland Bridge, Unity Street to Coos Street to Hutchins Street. Right on to Success Pond Road. 

Success Pond Road from Berlin is bumpy but doable for any passenger vehicle. There are two torn culvert pipes on the right side in the road in the first mile or so from Hutchins Street that must be avoided (which is easy as the road is fairly wide). Trailhead parking lot is approximately 8.1 miles from the Hutchins Street turnoff on the right; there's a sign. At one intersection there's a sign ahead on the left "Mile Marker 5," which will keep you going in the right direction. This is an active logging road, watch out for trucks.

Lesson learned: I think the Mahoosuc range is my new favorite!

This hike had everything one could possibly want in a day hike (well, except maybe a pond).  

Hiked with Rich, Gary and members of the AMC Boston Chapter.  Back in March I saw this hike on the AMC website and since Goose Eye is on the New England Hundred Highest list (a list I am working on), I figured it would be fun to hike with a group.  My friend Gary was easily talked into it (he usually hikes alone) and Rich as well.  

Group hiking allows for camaraderie, social interaction and teamwork.  It can be unpredictable too, which is often the case with posted events. AMC leaders screen group members prior to accepting them on the trip to be certain of ability and fitness level necessary to complete the hike, and to try to match abilities within the group so everyone will have a good experience.  Still, the larger the group the more uncertainly as to how everyone will do on a hike (and the Mahoosucs are known for their rugged terrain).  

We reserved a room at Joe Dodge Lodge (AMC lodging at Pinkham) for the night so we could meet the group at an early hour.  To accommodate those who travel from Boston, the leaders posted a later meeting time: 9:15 in Gorham, NH. Once the group was assembled we were to caravan to the trailhead at Success Pond Road in Berlin (a 30 minute drive, going slower the last 8.1 miles).  

Thunderstorms were predicted starting around noon and I was concerned about the late start of the hike and unknown pace of the group.  We considered breaking from the group and going earlier on our own but once we met Surya we decided to stay on the group hike.  

We got to the trailhead without incident and started our hike at 10:15 (not too bad for an eight mile hike).  AMC leaders on this trip were Bob and Surya. Members of the hiking group were Samantha, Rachel, Kat, Pai, Rich, Gary and me.

Mile markers on the left side of Success Pond Road. Marker #5 is just after an intersection.

This sign is at the entrance to trailhead parking.
We started hiking up the logging road and within five minutes turned left onto Goose Eye trail, heading down toward the first water crossing. Blue blazes appear often on Goose Eye and Carlo Col trails.



The left off of the logging road
Heading down toward the water crossing
There are a bunch of easy water crossings on both Goose Eye and Carlo Col trails. 


The path is generally flat with decent footing.  We came out on another logging road, went left and traveled for a short distance before ducking back into the woods on the right side of the road.
Goose Eye awaits in the distance.
Pai ducks back into the woods where the path continues.
The trail had a few muddy spots but was otherwise dry. It hadn't rained the night before where we stayed (Pinkham) and this region may have escaped the storms as well.  

We started heading up, moderate to steeper grades. It was hot and humid and we all got a good workout. We took a break here and there but they were short ones for the most part as we continued our chug upward.  

I was a little apprehensive about the scramble at the top. Normally I wouldn't be but the week before I had a tough time getting up The Horn's big summit rock and started questioning my ability to do any serious scrambling.  

When we got to the scramble it did look daunting at first but had good foot and hand holds.  No problem.


The scramble from a distance (photo by V. Pai).
Up close

As we were making our way to the top, our backs were to the most magnificent of views (yes, people still use the word "magnificent").  We arrived at the summit,  took a few photos and sat down to eat lunch. 

Me, Gary and Rich at the summit.  #10 of the 33 non-4k peaks on NEHH.

  I heard several rolls of thunder in the not-so-distance.  Just over our shoulders was a black mass of cloud heading toward us.  I suggested we consider going back down.  The group decided to press on instead, hoping the weather would hold off long enough to hike the exposed col and get down from any ledge or slab before rain and lightning was upon us.  I had my doubts; I'd been caught in storms before.  

A beautiful view (dark clouds are hard to see in this photo - on left).
Lunch was cut short.  We started out, quickening our pace as we jumped on the AT.  

Heading across the ridge from the summit of Goose Eye (photo by V. Pai).

Immediately we were at the tall ladder that leads down vertical slab.

Descending the ladder.
The vertical terrain continues but with good footing and a series of staples (metal rungs) down a particularly daunting drop.

(photo by V. Pai)

Staples to hang onto made a world of difference.
The thunder stopped but we could see the storm was moving in our direction. Still, we had blue skies directly above and this portion of the hike went in and out of the woods so I began to feel less threatened by the impending weather.

Goose Eye in the distance behind us; storm clouds calling our names (photo by V. Pai).
The group was "tightly dispersed" with the leaders at opposite ends.  There was a bit of a slinky situation on the hike up to Goose Eye (faster hikers eager to continue once the group is reunited) but on the way to Mt. Carlo we hiked as a group.

AT blazes (there are lots of bog bridges on this hike).
In and out of the woods we went (views still magnificent) and eventually we stayed in the woods descending and then ascending with the help of steps chiseled in the rock slabs.

Eventually we arrived at the clearing - the summit of Mt. Carlo. By this time the weather had arrived (somewhat); a mist tumbling past Goose Eye and onto Mt. Carlo. 


Mt. Carlo - quick group photo in the clouds (camera was teetering on the top of a pack).
We started our descent and soon came to a trail junction. We headed down the Carlo Col trail which had a lot of mossy and muddy spots.


On the way down I peaked into the Carlo Col shelter, well built with a roomy loft. We met two hikers headed here for the night, the only people we saw on the trail.   


Just below the shelter the trail runs through a brook with mossy round rocks and wet terrain. Thankfully this uneven footing did not last long and the trail went back to dry with good footing for the remainder of the trip. 

It appeared that threat of storm had left us; we could see blue skies above the trees. A breeze kept the bugs at bay as we chatted our way down the trail. A bunch of small water crossings later, we emerged from the woods into tall grass. 



Out of the woods and heading to the cars.
The Carlo Col trail spilled us onto the logging road where we started (note: if doing this hike counter-clockwise, go left of the fork in the log road as you head to Carlo Col trail). 

If hiking Carlo Col trail first on this loop, go left of the fork.

The road is adorned with many beautiful wildflowers and there was some discussion as to whether or not the red-orange flowers are called Devil's paintbrush. 

Daisies on both sides of the logging road.

As we passed the entrance to the Goose Eye trail, thunder clouds appeared directly above us.  

The rain fell in big splashy drops just as we were unlocking our car doors.  I am still amazed we were able to hike over three hours with the bad weather so close to us with no consequence until our drive back home. 

The group had dinner together in Gorham.  It was a great group to hike with.  

***

When hiking alone we prepare, plan and make key decisions for ourselves based on time, ability and safety (weather especially).  Hiking in a large group calls for consensus and the leaders make the tough decisions. The decision to continue on an exposed trail with thunderheads coming toward us was a tough one but in this case it was the right decision.  There are wooded areas on top in which to duck into should bad weather occur and on this day the rain held off until we were back at the cars.  

This hike had everything a day hiker could wish for.  The weather was spectacular, warm enough to bring a good sweat, breezy on the way down.  A gradual trail that steadily increases in steepness. A fun exposed scramble at the top.  Breathtaking views with stormy weather off in the distance heading our way, making for a thrilling trek on a partly exposed col.  Many steep areas, a tall ladder and staples for descending vertical slab.  No bugs for a good part of the trip.  A clear summit (Goose Eye) and a socked in summit (Carlo), a gentle breeze on the descent, a cool shelter, lots of brooks and wildflowers at the end.  Berlin is far away from points south but this hike is worth the extra 45 minutes north it takes to get here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

#75 and #76 - The Horn, The Bulge, and Mt. Cabot, June 16, 2012


#75 The Horn (3,905'), #76 the Bulge (3,950') and Mt. Cabot (4,170'), counter clockwise via Unknown Pond, Kilkenny Ridge, Bunnell Notch and York Pond trails June 16, 2012


Mileage: 11.4 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 3,538'

Trailhead: Berlin, N.H. (Route 16) then west on Rt. 110 for approximately seven miles towards Milan. Turn left at the Berlin Fish Hatchery sign onto York Pond Road. Follow paved road through a residential area and into the White Mountain National Forest. Continue straight and pass through a gate marking the entrance to the Berlin Fish Hatchery. You will then pass a small pond on your left and several hatchery tents. Continue going straight onto an unpaved road and the trailhead parking lot will be on your right. (Note: the fish hatchery is gated off hours with a locked gate - sometimes they close the gate but don't lock it. Hatchery hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  It's best to call them to make sure they will leave the gate open, 603.449.3412.)

Lesson learned: Upper body strength is key to rock scrambling.

Today I hiked with Bob and Matt.  This hike was scheduled by AMC leader and friend Bob, who'd done the loop many times.  I asked him in February if he was going to offer the hike this year as I wanted to bag Horn and Bulge for my New England Hundred Highest list.  I'd hiked to Mt. Cabot before (see previous report).

I've always had a great time hiking with Bob and looked forward to this adventure. He posted the hike on the AMC website as a hike to "Mt. Cabot, bagging two 'hundred highest' peaks along the way."  The plan was to hike the loop counter-clockwise to be certain we would get Horn and Bulge before we arrived at Cabot.

A group of eight dwindled down to three as participants dropped out the week before the hike (injury, illness, scheduling conflict).  The three of us met at McDonalds in Gorham on the most beautiful of days (weather is always a gamble when hikes are scheduled months in advance).  

We piled into Bob's van and headed out to the Berlin Fish Hatchery.  Just past the hatchery is the parking lot for the Unknown Pond trailhead (on the right).  Parking for the York Pond trailhead is a few hundred feet beyond on the left (across from the fish pool, walk over and peek into it - very cool).

Though we arrived around 8:00 a.m. (late for us) there were no cars in the lot.



The trail is flat and non-descript in the beginning. The grasses and ferns were high but you could easily see where to go; there are no blazes on this trail.  The trail eventually started going up, very gradually, with some muddy sections (with several bootsuckers).  

Trail is distinct but overwhelmed by ferns (no blazes).
There's a handful of stream crossings; the recent hard rain made for a healthy flow of water. Matt got his boot wet during one of the first crossings but kept on until we reached Unknown Pond.  By then the boots had drained out; Matt changed socks, putting his feet into plastic grocery bags before putting his boots on (moisture barrier).

Who knew?  Pristine Unknown Pond, 3 miles into the wilderness.


The Bulge and Mt. Cabot. I used to think they should call the Bulge the "Bugle" - just switch the letters around so visitors would summit the Horn and the Bugle - cute?  After seeing this photo, the peak is definitely a "Bulge!"

There is a trail junction at the pond which we found somewhat confusing.  Checking the map it was clear we skirt the pond and turn left on to Kilkenny trail.  We walked a few hundred yards down the path and sure enough there's another set of signs that pointed us left.  At this point we had had the trail to ourselves, surprising for a beautiful Saturday in the Whites.


Lichen on this sign makes it hard to read.
We headed left and started to climb (moderately). The Kilkenny trail has yellow blazes and is easy to follow. We hit the side path to The Horn in no time.  


A sweet, moderate climb on a well cut path.
I stopped to take a picture of the sign while Bob sprinted up the side path.


Horn side path on the left (right if you are coming from Cabot).
Our pace had been leisurely up to this point. I sprinted up the path to get my adrenaline flowing and discovered that I couldn't keep that pace for 3/10 of a mile - I was not in shape!  A group of cyclist/speed hikers (fit, thin guys) blew past me with their two dogs.  There is a bit of a scramble at the summit easily avoided by a side path in the woods. 

Except for the top rock that is the summit of the Horn.  

There I stood looking at a huge boulder with smooth steep sides and big vertical crack in the middle.  I had to get up this rock, which wasn't gigantic but big enough - with no handholds and only one foothold.  

I took off my pack. Matt wondered how we would get down from there once we got up. Bob was already up on top. I found a foothold but nothing for my hands - there is a metal ring in the rock (the top has four of them, not sure if there was a structure there at one time). I put my finger in the ring (bad move) and my foot in the hold but still I could not secure my hands anywhere to hoist up.  I just didn't have the core strength.  I cursed the days I blew off my upper body workout at the gym.  Thankfully Bob grabbed my wrist and I was able to make it up the rock.

This is the view of the rock from the top.

The side of the rock from the bottom.
It bugged me that I did not have the core strength to get up this rock on my own.  I vowed to do sit ups and push-ups every day for two weeks to get myself in shape for rock scrambling. The cyclist/speed hikers threatened to do push-ups right there on the top. Their trail names were Maddog and Dogman. The third one did not reveal his name so I nicknamed him Beerkeg which he either found hysterically funny or outrageously inappropriate - couldn't tell.  

Matt, Bob, Dogman, Maddog & Beerkeg, who thought I named him "beercan."  I'd never do that.
 Unable to let go of my failure to negotiate this damn rock without help, I asked Bob how he got up so quickly. He'd scouted around the rock and found an easier way up the back, where he was rewarded for his efforts by one of the dogs (who apparently had no problem getting up this thing).  Why didn't I think of that?!  My lesson learned on this hike should be to think before you scramble.  

At the top of my #75 - The Horn, with Matt and Bob
Getting down was so much easier.  We just sat and slid and we were off to bag the Bulge, my 75th Hundred Highest.

Back on the Kilkenny trail; it flattened out for a bit and then made a steady ascent.  We met several couples heading down; they'd already summitted Mt. Cabot.  The trail got steeper and we eventually came to a bump and a cairn: the Bulge.  


Really?  This is one of the New England Hundred Highest?
After a quick photo shoot we departed to hike our last "up" - the trek from the Bulge to Mt. Cabot.  

Terrain started out mellow but heavily wooded with a few old blow-downs.
It was evident that this section of trail is not as popular as the others.  As we ascended we saw some serious work done on a huge tree that had fallen in the path, all with hand tools - impressive!

The trail got steeper and, well, crappy.  There are signs of storm washouts, erosion and going is rough (though it was easy to tell where the trail was headed).  This is the toughest part of the hike (already forgot the scramble on the Horn) and we all struggled a bit.  Matt needed Mt. Cabot; his #36 of the NH 48. He went ahead of us and met us on the summit.  The summit was busy.  We stopped for lunch and met several couples.  About 30 feet behind the Mt. Cabot sign is the true summit.


Matt on the true summit, back in the woods about 30'.
After lunch we continued down the Kilkenny trail to the fire tower site and the cabin, heading toward Bunnell Notch trail.

I'd forgotten how beautiful this hike is.  The fire tower site.


Glad to see the wood stove has been removed from the area. Pieces of it used to be on the front lawn.

It was getting late and hot and we were ready to be off the trail and back at the car.

  
There's a small side path to a very nice overlook on the way down.
Around the junction of the Bunnell Notch trail is a sign for the Mt. Cabot trail.  This is an unmaintained trail of less than a mile, on private land. I don't know of anyone who has hiked it recently.  

Before long we were walking by a brook. The sun, the mellow trail, the gentle breeze and the sound of rushing water made us glad to be out on this day.  The trail spills out onto an overgrown logging road where we turned right. I remembered this from my first visit up Mt. Cabot.  

If doing this route clockwise, this is the entrance from the logging road into the woods.
Immediately we were walking through very tall grass and beautiful wildflowers.  No ticks, thankfully. There are several water crossings before you reach the junction of the York Pond trail. 
This is the path on Bunnell Notch trail The area has a history of logging - this was a road.
We were on the York Pond trail for less than five minutes, crossing a stream via a well built bridge.  We arrived at the York Pond parking area, crossed the street to look at the fish in the large rectangle cement pool, and then headed to our car (diagonally across the street at the Unknown Pond trail).  

The hike took us about eight hours, just slightly over book time.Some hikes you must do in good weather due to exposure or steep rocky conditions and smart hikers save the stellar weather days for such excursions. Since this is a very sheltered trek, you may opt to keep this loop in your back pocket for those times when weather is misty or wet.  It is just that much nicer to do it in the fine weather; I highly recommend it.  









.   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

#74 East Baldpate Mountain (Maine), June 10, 2012

East Baldpate Mountain (3,812') via Appalachian Trail (northbound), June 10, 2012.

Mileage: 8 miles RT

Elevation gain: 2,888'

Trailhead: Appalachian trail road crossing on Route 26  - Grafton Notch State Park (Newry, ME). From the intersection of US Route 2 and ME Route 26 in Newry, follow ME Route 26 approximately 12 miles north to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. Coming from US Route 2, the trailhead and parking area will be on the left. 

Lesson learned:  There is a reason why an 8 mile hike has a book time of over 6 hours!

East Baldpate is on the New England Hundred Highest list (one of my lists).  Today I hiked with Sandy and Jen. It's been a while since we hiked with Jen and we were excited to be spending time with her. 

 The trip to Grafton Notch State Park took about two hours and twenty minutes, which I've decided is about the driving time limit for a day hike (double that for the trip back and it's a lot of hours in the car).  We left Stratham around 6:30 arriving at the trailhead at 8:50.

Truly one of the nicest trailheads - bathroom, lots of parking and good signage!
We put on our boots and packs and headed to the kiosk, turning right on the AT (left would take us up Old Speck - see NE 4k report September 3, 2011).  We crossed the road and passed the AT sign, but not without seizing a photo opportunity.

This large AT sign by the road was more than Sandy and Jen could resist.
AMC's Maine Mountain Guide had a book time of over 6 hours for this 8 mile hike. We thought we'd have no problem doing it in 5 and contemplated heading up the Table Rock trail (which joins the AT about .9 miles up the trail) to explore the caves but figured we could do that on the way down if we had time.  

We didn't have time.

With rest stops and lunch (and chatting with other hikers) this trip took us over 6 hours - about 15 minutes longer than the book time we scoffed at before we got on the trail.  

Many bog walks were constructed at the beginning of the trail. It was clear the MATC trail crew takes very good care of this stretch of the AT. Erosion is a problem, though.  

There was a lot of erosion on this popular trail.
We ascended gently, crossing several streams. Trail conditions were much drier than anticipated. I'd been checking the weather reports for the week (after days of steady heavy rains) and saw that the Bethel area had cleared up mid-week. Hiking on Sunday instead of Saturday allowed for one more day of dry weather and drier conditions - a good call.   The several muddy areas were easily avoided.  

After 20 minutes of a moderate climb, the trail leveled out -  even dipped in a few places.  We met Gadget and Hikerbiker, two section hikers from New Jersey.  This was their second attempt at this stretch; weather kept them from finishing the last time.  Hikerbiker has one section left to hike (which includes Katahdin) to finish.  

After the nice mellow section of flat, we were met with rock steps - lots of them.  They were well placed but steep and never ending, even continuing as switchbacks.

Lots and lots of steps!

At the Baldpate Lean-to the MATC trail crew was working on a section of trail. The rocks were frosted with mud.  We saw this same "frosting" about 1/4 mile up the trail. There was one area above the Lean-to that was very damp and mossy but the rocks on this trail were sticky for the most part and we didn't worry about slipping even on the wet ones.

West Baldpate was uneventful, not even a sign and no view but lots of hungry bugs. We avoided bug repellent up to this point but abandoned that as soon as they attacked us.

Even Jen couldn't make the summit of West Baldpate exciting.
A few yards north we saw our real prize: the summit of East Baldpate. 

We had a quick snack (so did the bugs) with the view of East Baldpate in front of us.

Down we went, the descent steep at times; there are two ladders on the steeper areas.
Not as steep as it looks.
A small col with bog walks got us to the rock slabs, a bit steep in places. Cairns pointed the way.

Slab up Baldpate (hence the name "Bald Pate").

We were happy to finally reach the summit and have lunch.  



On a clear day like this the views are spectacular, with wind farms to the north and west.  A breeze kept the bugs away and we spent some time trying to name the peaks.  


View of West Baldpate from East Baldpate
It was getting late and we had to get back so we flew down the trail and back to the car.  
We changed our clothes at the car (trading our boots for sandals) and headed home, amazed at how long it took us to bag this peak..  

This was a lovely hike that offered more challenge than most 8 mile hikes with its steep stairs and rock slabs.  This area is particularly fun in August as thru-hikers are plentiful!

Comparing our route to a prior GPS route, it is evident that part of the AT had been rerouted, which would explain the change in mileage on the most recent AMC map, increasing the RT mileage to 8 miles from 7.6 miles.