Thursday, July 11, 2013

#64 Spaulding Mountain (and Sugarloaf), Maine July 4, 2013

Spaulding Mountain (4010’) - and Mt. Sugarloaf - via Sugarloaf ski runs, Sugarloaf cut-off, Appalachian (AT) and Spaulding cut-off Trails, July 4, 2013.

Mileage:  10 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  4,000'

Trailhead: Ski trail is located at Sugarloaf Ski Area, Route 26 in Stratton Maine. At the parking lot (hotel on your left) look to your slight right and you will see the quad lift up on the hill.  Walk to the lift and facing the lift you will see the maintenance garage and the maintenance road on your right.  Follow the road up until just before it swings to the right, by the condominiums. Head straight (off the road at that right curve) onto the ski runs. In front of you will be three areas separated by trees. Take the run to the left of the electric meter, to the right of the lift.  This is the Tote Road ski trail.

Lesson learned:  Heat, humidity and miles of steep ski runs make for wiped out hikers!

Hiked with Rich, Sandy, Joe, Charlie, Norm and Barbara today.  We'd planned this 4th of July hike for months.  Since these peaks are located three hours from our homes on the NH seacoast we made reservations to stay at the Three Stanley Ave B&B in Kingfield.  The B&B has really nice rooms at reasonable off-season prices and is located only 25 minutes from the Stratton, Maine area (home to ten peaks on the New England 4k list). 

The seven of us planned to hike the AT trail accessed from Caribou Valley Road (see my Redington report for directions).  But recent heavy rains changed our minds; this leg of the AT crosses the Carrabassett River known to be dangerous in high water.  And since one member of our group had to leave on Saturday, we felt the pressure to minimize risk and take the "safe" way up (it certainly wasn't the "fun" way up).

Now normally I don't mind hiking ski slopes.  That route wouldn't be my first choice but give me a nice view and a breeze and I'll make the best of it.  I'd hiked Sugarloaf via the runs a few years ago (you can read about it in a previous posting).  I remember it being pretty long and steep.

We got on to the slopes around 8:40 and proceeded up the Tote Road run.  The ground was soaking but conditions improved as we ascended.

Summit is not as close as it looks!

It wasn't long before we all felt like we were melting into the tall grass.

Slogging up the slope. Hazy Bigelow range in the background.

If you've ever hiked in the heat under pressure to "get it done," you know that can sap the fun right out of your trip.  We were sucking through our water to combat the heat; the steepness of the slopes gave most of us heel blisters!.

Damn it was hot!  It took us two hours to get up the slopes; we were drenched and exhausted. The summit was a welcome sight but thunderstorms were predicted and we wanted our peaks so we didn't stay long.  After a bit of food and a photo we started looking for the trail to the AT.   

Happy to be done with those ski runs!

From the summit cairn you'll see blazes marking the way to the Sugarloaf side trail, which meets the AT.

Side trail heads down to the AT to the right of this building.

We hopped the rocks to the side trail.

Joe and Barb coming down the side trail.

The side trail dips steeply toward the white blazes; we have to truck back up this later, I heard behind me. Once on the AT we headed to the Mt. Spaulding side trail. 

It's a tame hike from one side trail to the other.

The steeps were done for the time being but the trail meanders indecisively going right and left, up and down.  Hot and tired, we were not amused.  I heard a whine or two as we made our way southbound to Spaulding.

"Spaulding 150 yards" < that way.

The side trail is a short up to the wooded, unremarkable summit.

Side trail to the summit of Spaulding.

 We weren't thrilled that the sign on the summit indicated the peak was less than a 4k but all sources indicate this peak is 4,010'!

Pay no mind to the disturbing information on this sign.

After lunch (the bugs were having lunch too!) and brief trip to the overlook which offers mad views of Sugarloaf (which made us cringe thinking about those ski slopes), we headed back from whence we came. 

The AT is much nicer on the way back - how can that be?

The group zipped across the AT and weary legs turned right to ascend the Sugarloaf side trail back to the slopes. 

Our route down Sugarloaf began via the resort's gravelly service road but we wound up hopping onto the slopes when it got too steep (gravel kept yanking our feet out from under us).  Spent and out of water, each step brought our ragtag group closer to the cars.  As soon as we got down we took off our shoes and opened the cooler (maybe the other way around, don't remember).

The heat, humidity and pressure to get this peak done did us in!  There is a reason this is one of my last New England 4ks - it's not easy to reach and not all that pretty, but sometimes you don't have to do something well, you just got to get it done. That's how it went today.