Tuesday, June 23, 2015

White Cap (#96) and North Kennebago Divide (#97), June 20, 2015

White Cap (3,856') and North Kennebago Divide (3,775'), ME via logging roads, herd paths and bushwack, 6/20/15

Mileage: 5.1

Elevation gain: 1,763'

Trailhead: (Allow over an hour for this drive)

- From Route 27 Stratton, ME take Tim Pond Road (a left turn, 2.9 miles north of Cathedral Pines Campground - has a sign) for 17.3 miles. Road is graded but rough.
- Turn right on Kennebago River Road (which is opposite Kennebago Kamp) and proceed for 3.1 miles to the first major left.
- Go left and over the bridge and bear right onto Bear Brook Road (also a rough road). 
- Travel 3.8 miles on Bear Brook Road to the parking area on left (your vehicle will not be able to drive further due to logging debris). 

Special thanks to Matt's Hikes and Damselfly for providing the most useful information in preparation for this trip, and to Sarah who'd done this hike before but came anyway (doesn't get better than that).

Hiked with Sarah, Denise, Marielle, Frank, Matt, Dennis, Dolly, Danielle and Katie on the sunniest of days.  Temps were in the 70s and bugs were at a minimum. 

The plan was to hike the roads/paths up to the summit of White Cap, descend (backtrack) to the col and bushwhack over to the summit of North Kennebago Divide.

The group met at the campground and caravanned to the parking area that marks the start of the hike. Taking Kennebago River Road instead of Wiggle Brook Road was quicker, simpler and easier on our cars.  Bear Brook Road is rough, with parts of it covered in logging slash but our vehicles made it no problem (3 SUVs and one truck).

Crossing the bridge.
Bear Brook Road is RIGHT THERE, after the bridge.
Parking area.

The grassy road described in reports isn't visible from the parking area due to recent logging activity. Deep ruts, churned earth and three feet deep debris/slash accurately describes the portion of Bear Brook Road that's beyond the parking area.  

We trudged up that messy road trying to stay upright over the massive tangle of roots, branches and dead tree trunks until we found that grassy road, on the right a little further up.  

This mess of debris was hiding that pretty road.

The grassy road was muddy at first but the surface improved and we had a nice walk.

Take this road.

As we walked I remembered Damselfly reporting that she'd found a path coming in on the left at about 3,200' that leads up to the summit of North Kennebago Divide.  

Danielle and Katie were up front looking for it. 

Sure enough it was there marked with a small cairn. I set a waypoint (just in case) and we resumed our hike up the grassy road to White Cap. 

At 3,450' we saw a small cairn and went right.

Danielle adding to that small cairn.

At 3,700' we saw a bigger cairn and to our left, the log with the small cairn. This is the start of the path that leads to the summit of White Cap. Go left.

Larger cairn that marks the path.

Small cairn on log.

The path is easy to follow with a rough spot or two near the top.  We stopped at the summit canister to sign in and take a few photos before turning around. 

The path is easy to follow.
Dolly and Dennis at the canister.

Heading back down from the summit of White Cap we discussed where we'd start the trek up to North Kennebago Divide.  Previous reports indicate bushwhacking over from the White Cap summit is tough, with nasty spruce traps.  Many hikers descend and start their 'whacking from the cairn at 3,450' (where we turned right).

When we got down to that location we decided instead to try out Damselfly's herd path. We were desperate to avoid those pesky spruce traps!

So we continued to descend - all the way to Damselfly's herd path at 3,200' and immediately jumped on it.

Area where the 3200' herd path starts.

But, like all good plans, the key to success is actually paying attention to what you're doing and where you're going!

Not five minutes on the path (GPS showed us at an elevation of 3,257') we took a right at a small cairn which took us off the path and into open woods.

We should have taken a left (but didn't know it at the time). We searched the immediate area for the path. Try as we might, none of us could find it so we simply headed up the slope in a southerly direction, checking the GPS and our compasses regularly. 

Bushwhacking through the stick forest.

Bushwhacking continued with us braving the stick forest looking for that path. We were heading through the woods up the spine to the summit.  The path reappeared late in the game at 3,495' and with several cairns on the way to reassure us, we arrived at the summit in no time.  

On our way up we could see White Cap off in the distance.

The summit area is a small "bump" with a glass jar attached to a tree.  We signed in, had lunch, took photos and headed back down that same path.

The "canister."

The group resting before heading down.

As others have reported, the path down is easy to follow (down the spine), and toward the end we made sure we took a hard right where we'd made our mistake at that first (now last) small cairn.

Back at the grassy road, Danielle and Katie bolted ahead to the parking area as they planned to also hike Cupsuptic Snow.  The rest of us took our time getting back to the cars.

The herd path at 3,200' has a few tricky spots going up and we fell victim to them but the woods are open in this area and our ability to advance toward the top was rarely hampered.  We were able to avoid spruce and unpleasant terrain.  Many paths have small cairns and we added to them but since ATVs and snowmobiles may use the area in winter, there's no assurance these cairns will remain in place.