Tuesday, July 28, 2015

#99, #100 South Brother and Mt. Coe, July 25, 2015

#99, #100 South Brother (3,970') and Mt. Coe (3,795') via Marston, South Brother Spur and Mt. Coe Trails 7/25/15

Mileage: 11.2 (RT)

Elevation gain: 3,700'

Trailhead: Trail begins at the Slide Dam parking area on Park Tote Road in Baxter State Park, Maine ($14 entry fee). Parking area is on the right side of the road about 45 minutes from the Togue Pond Gatehouse (14 ish miles).  The small lot rarely fills up but may on weekends (so get to the gate early).

This route avoids the Mt. Coe Slide, instead hiking the back way to the summits.

Hiked with Ed, Jill, Ken, Robin, and two Riches.  All but one of the Riches had also done yesterday's hike up Fort Mountain, which damn near broke us (see previous report).  They survived to return the next day to accompany me as I completed my New England Hundred Highest list. Today, South Brother would be my penultimate peak  and Mt. Coe my 100th.

Yesterday's ordeal had me wondering if we had any energy left to hike a second day. And, I felt so beaten I'm not sure I even cared! 

But, the group looked forward to a new day and a more interesting trail and the challenge of the Mt. Coe Slide. And, hiking in drier, warmer weather. 

It was not to be.  

It had rained off and on through the night.  Heavy fog clung to the park and rain was predicted again for the most of the day.  It was cool and damp.  Not at all what we'd hoped for.

No one wanted to hike up a wet slide so the group opted to bag South Brother and Mt. Coe the back way, a total of 11.2 miles out and back. 

The route is as follows: Marston trail to the upper Mt. Coe trail junction and along the Mt. Coe trail to the summit of Mt. Coe (which includes an up and back to the South Brother summit via the South B. spur).

Still reeling from the yesterday's nasty hike, the last thing we wanted to do was go back up that wet Marston trail. 

We parked at the trailhead, eased out of the car and put our packs on (quite stiff - us and the packs!).  We stumbled onto the trail and managed put one foot in front of the other. 

That first mile was painful, but  - slowly - our legs loosened up and momentum took over. 

The first part of the hike was mundane, we'd just done this trail yesterday.  At the first Mt. Coe trail junction we gazed longingly at the right turn that would've brought us to the Mt. Coe slide - then obediently headed straight, back up to the upper Mt. Coe trail junction.

At the upper Mt. Coe trail junction we turned right. This part of the Mt. Coe trail is narrow and tree branches soaked us (seems to be a common theme this weekend). 

 Mt. Coe trail is closed in, wet branches drenching us.

For the most part the trail is mellow, descending as you leave the South Brother spur junction, and ascending as you approach Mt. Coe. 

As we reached the South Brother spur trail the rain intensified. We turned left and headed to the summit of South Brother.

Believe all the reports of "annoying" rock scrambles on the spur to the summit of South Brother  - and they're slippery in the rain, too.   A short haphazard stretch of boulders with deep holes between them add a level of excitement which would be most welcome in the good weather, treacherous and not so fun in the rain. (BTW, give yourself one hour to do the up and back - the small distance is misleading).

A steady sideways rain pelting our heads and filling our ears discouraged any relaxing on the summit. We took just a few photos and returned to the Mt. Coe trail. 

Rich at the top of South Brother. 

From here, the Mt. Coe trail widens up in open woods. We met several hikers who'd braved the slide, reporting running water and slick rock - which validated our decision to take the back way in.

As we headed to the summit of Mt. Coe (my grand finale), the rain stopped and the air warmed.  The group relished in the bright, and set their sites on our next summit. 

Heading toward Mt. Coe on a sweet trail.
Eventually we popped out of the tall trees and into the scrub. The trail becomes a narrow goat path along a steep cliff (for just a short time) before turning up those last several hundred feet to the summit. 

Out of the trees and heading up that little path to Mt. Coe.
My friends saluted my accomplishment as the clouds moved on, giving us great (partial) views of Katahdin.

Note the clearing sky.

The hike back to the car didn't seem so long - maybe it was the feeling of accomplishment that goes with completing the list. 

Heading back. (Robin Plumley's photo)
Trail in the sunlight. (Robin Plumley's photo)
I think though that it was the sunshine and drying trail and general good spirits brought on by good weather.

Seahorse and witch slides can be seen through the trees.

Nice view down the Marston trail.(Robin Plumley's photo)
Robin, back at Teardrop Pond off of Marston trail.

I'm amazed we got it done this weekend given the spirit-crippling weather.  My friends weren't going to leave (or let me leave) Baxter Park without bagging those peaks. I am so grateful to them.