Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#82 Mt. Breadloaf and #83 Mt. Wilson, Vermont 8/18/13

#82 Mt. Breadloaf (3835’) and #83 Mt. Wilson (3790') via Skylight Pond and Long Trails, August 18, 2013.

Mileage:  10.2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  2,589'

Trailhead: Trailhead is located on Forest Road 59 (also called Steam Mill Road) in Ripton. (FR 59 runs behind the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College.) Take I-89 north to Route 107 West to Route 100 North.  Turn left on Route 125 (Middlebury Gap) for 6.2 miles.  There's a big sign at the entrance Forest Road 59 with distances to trailheads (Skylight Pond trailhead is 3+ miles).   FR 59 is in fine shape and there's ample parking at the trailhead (road may be partially closed in the winter).

Lesson learned:  Find out what the summits look like and where they are before you go!

Hiked with Rich.  We used Green Mountain Club's Long Trail map on this hike.

We'd not hiked in Vermont for over a year and I was itching to spend some time on the Long Trail.  The weather forecast was great and this hike has some cool things to explore: Skylight Pond and Lodge, Emily Proctor Shelter and several overlooks with fabulous views - plus I knew we'd meet plenty of hikers on the trail on this warm Sunday.   

"Vermont? You're kidding - right?" was Rich's response when I suggested the trip.  From our home in Stratham it's a three hour drive to the trailhead.  But these peaks are on the New England Hundred Highest list, a list I am working on.  Besides, we haven't hiked the Long Trail since we bagged Stratton Mountain in 2011 (see trip report).  Rich has obviously forgotten how nice the Long Trail is! After much discussion, he agreed to the change of state and scenery.

We didn't get to the trailhead until 10 a.m. but were on the trail in ten minutes. 

Parking area well marked.

Parking area is quite spacious.

Trail is off to the right and well marked. 

Skylight Pond trail is wide at the beginning; easy grades.

We crossed the first of about a dozen water crossings.  The water was so low we didn't have to rock hop; we just walked over the pebbles poking up through the wet.  We walked a bridged crossing soon after.

Skylight Pond trail intercepts the Long Trail.  It's a walk in the woods and felt that way for most of the trip. Not until we closed in on the trail junction and the last series of switchbacks did it feel like we were on a mountain.  Views peek through the trees and the trail makes its way up the side of the ridge.  At 2.3 miles we arrived at the junction.

Junction of Skylight Pond and Long trails.
We deviated from our route to check out the pond and lodge (just 1/10 of a mile from the trail).  The Lodge is self-service cabin that sleeps 14.  I guess a ranger comes by in the evening and collects a small fee from guests.

Skylight Pond.

Back on the trail things get a bit steeper and soon we were on the top of the "loaf."  We stayed on the ridge until we reached a hairpin turn (right heading north) which is the summit.  Rich's two borrowed GPS tracks showed that we were on the top of Breadloaf but I looked around the area for some indication that we were on the summit.  I'd read about a cairn on one of the two peaks and couldn't remember which one (I thought it was on Mt. Wilson).

Just before the hairpin turn.

In the woods we found what appeared to be the height of land and a small cairn on a bump.  

Now THAT'S a small cairn!

After visiting the cairn we went down to a small overlook and had lunch.  The view is partially obstructed but views aren't plentiful on this hike; we made the best of it.  After lunch we took that hairpin turn heading north toward Mt. Wilson.  The trail steepens and before long we reached the col between the two mountains. The shelter is located at the junction of Emily Proctor and Long trails. 

Slabs made the trail interesting.

Section hikers chill at Emily Proctor shelter.

The Long Trail continues behind the shelter.  Take a right just before the shelter and head toward the white blaze, turning right at the blaze.  I went straight over a small stream and had to double back. 

No blazes from this point until Mt. Wilson but the path is wide and you'll know you're on it if you pass a sign for the tenting area.

The trail heads up and soon we were rolling over a series of bumps. I kept an eye out for a path to an overlook, which I'd read intersects at the Mt. Wilson summit.  We found a height of land with a path to the overlook.  This must be it.

Nice overlook, though tiny. We're balancing on two steep slabs.

Now I was thinking Mt. Wilson is the peak with the cairn and started to look frantically for it. I'm such a stickler for details and annoyed that I didn't get a clear description of the summit before heading to the trail.  (I've hiked almost to a summit a time or two before, thinking I was there only to find afterwards that the real summit was waiting for me around the bend.)  

I headed further down the Long Trail a bit, checked the map, looked at the GPS (which had beeped, indicating this was the summit). The trail beyond descended then leveled out; no other bumps in sight. The mileage was right; we were at 5.3.  We turned around and headed back, over the bumps toward Breadloaf. 

A few minutes later, Rich saw it.

And the GPS beeped. Again.

This cute artistic cairn by my knee is the true summit of Mt. Wilson.

A tiny cairn sat next to the path; we'd walked right by it looking for that overlook.  According to the elevation numbers on the GPS, this bump was higher than the one we'd just left.  We marked a waypoint and continued on back to Mt. Breadloaf.  The hike back up to Breadloaf was no problem and the trip down was uneventful.  By 4:30 we were glad to be off the trail and headed for a good meal.

After dinner and a beer at Tozier's Restaurant, we headed home.

Driving back home was sobering.  We saw "WATER MARK - IRENE 2011" painted on one Hancock house - just below the second story window!  That house is across the street from the White River.  In Bethel, hillsides were filled in with large pieces of quartz where the river scoured trees and soil  - fifteen feet up.  Some places will never be the same. 

When I got home we checked the GPS track and AMC's "Routes to the New England Hundred Highest Peaks" which confirmed that Mt. Wilson's true summit is on the bump south of the overlook.  Sheesh.

Breadloaf and Wilson aren't the most spectacular peaks but this hike was a nice way to spend the day. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

#67!!!! North Brother, Maine July 16, 2013

North Brother Mountain (4151’) via Marston Trail, July 16, 2013

Mileage:  9 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  3,001'

Trailhead: Trailhead is at Slide Dam parking area on Park Tote Road in Baxter State Park, Maine. Parking area is on the right about 45 minutes from the Togue Pond Gatehouse, 14 or so miles.  The small lot rarely fills up but may on weekends.  The gatehouse keeps track of that lot but I'm not sure if they'd turn you away at the gate if their tally indicates it's full.
Lesson learned:  Sometimes rangers can overstate things.
Hiked with Rich and Lindsley today. The day before this hike we stopped in at the ranger station to buy some patches and look around. 
The ranger there described North Brother as "just like hiking Katahdin only not as difficult."  Seriously?  Not what we wanted to hear!  Our legs were fried from hiking Katahdin's Baxter and Hamlin peaks two days before.  We were looking for a hike similar to, say, Carter Dome; something mellow with wooded trails and just a few steep sections (see Carter Dome trip report). 
We certainly didn't want hours of boulder scrambling in the sun the likes of what we'd tackled on Hamlin Ridge trail.  So we questioned the ranger further:
Are there big boulder scrambles?  No.
Will we be hiking on exposed rock? A little at the top.
Is it steep?  It gets steep right at the beginning and there is another steep spot just before the summit. 
His answers reassured us. We got to Millinocket, bought ice and the next day's lunch and headed out to dinner.  Since the next day's forecast indicated warm and humid our plan was to hit the trailhead early. 
"Humidity is high with temps soaring into the 90s, not a common occurrence in Baxter Park.  We are weekend warriors moving stiffly on blistered feet attached to “fourth day legs,” wearing sweat drenched shirts and shorts for the third time in as many days. We have bug bites on our bug bites, using our Deet to repel the swarms, and remove the pine pitch from our hair and hands.  We smell terrible as we step onto the Marston trail headed toward the peak of North Brother."

It wasn't anything like that but it sounds pretty badass doesn't it? 

We were up at 5:00 and out the door by 6:00. The ride from Millinocket to Baxter State Park takes 30 minutes and the trip from the gate to the Slide Dam parking lot takes at least another 45. 

We almost missed the parking lot (keep an eye out - Rich stopped only because he saw an outhouse).

Slide Dam parking area

We could feel the heat of the day creeping in as we pulled our packs out of the car.  

Once on the trail we enjoyed the cool of the many water crossings - none really substantial.   The trail steepened a bit about ten minutes into the hike (just as the ranger described). 

Rocky and steeper.

We took a badly needed break at the Mt. Coe trail junction; the humidity was kicking in. Fortunately a little Gatorade and something to eat got us back on track.

A tired Lindsley & Rich at the trail junction - trying to smile.

After the junction there's a 2.3 mile stretch before the next Mt. Coe trail junction. Mt. Coe trail intersects the Marston trail twice: here, and after it passes over Mt. Coe and South Brother. We'll arrive at the next junction about a mile before the summit of North Brother.
This flat section of trail takes you along open woods and low vegetation.

You pass Teardrop Pond on this stretch. Lots of moose tracks.

  The second Mt. Coe trail junction is pictured below.

Only .9 miles to the summit!
What's most noticeable about this area is the erosion.  The trail appears to be falling in on itself.  We found ourselves ducking under and around trees and vegetation.  Not the prettiest part of the hike.
Rough patch of erosion.

The trail levels again and things brightened as the sun shone through the trees.  It was getting hot but the elevation and occasional breeze kept us comfy.
Another sandy and smooth stretch.

We advanced to a steeper section of rock.  I wouldn't call it scrambling, more like hoisting and rock hopping.  Busy negotiating the few large boulders on the trail we barely noticed we were out of the trees and on the summit cone.

Lindsley and Rich walking through the scrub.

The sky was bright and view clear with Mt. Katahdin off in the distance (not as close as I thought it should be).

Katahdin. (Lindsley's photo)

Terrain got a little rough.

After a bit of picking our way through the alpine boulders we saw the summit sign on the top.

The sign of our 67th New England 4k!

There's no discernible path the last 20 feet, you just head for the sign.  It's about twenty minutes exposed and out of the trees before you get to the summit (good to know if there's a thunder storm coming).

Celebrating our final New England 4k!

After way too much congratulating and too many silly photos, we found a stable rock and had lunch. The bugs were fierce.  Before we headed back down I scouted out the herd path to Fort Mountain, a peak on my New England Hundred Highest list.  It is easy to see where the path begins.

Cairns and path in scrub lead to Fort Mtn.  A hike for another time.

 We started back down the mountain feeling victorious. 

Some of the boulders just above tree line.

Descending was easy; so much flat, sandy trail!  As we descended the heat enveloped us so we took a bunch of breaks (we were in no hurry).  Our "day four" tired bodies were nourished with caffeine and electrolyte products.  Replenished, we made it down without incident.

Hey Lindsley & Rich- there's ice cold drinks in the cooler & champagne back at the hotel!

Loved this hike!  And not just because it was our final New England 4k. The peak was remote, and trail peaceful and fairly easy (silly ranger).

Back at the hotel Rich and I proved once again that we are lightweights and drank just two glasses of champagne before we had to hand over the car keys. Hiking and heat make champagne twice as potent, that's a fact!
(For you, brother.  Here's the thing.  67 is too soon.)