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View Full Version : Coe, Brothers, Fort Loop, Baxter Park, Maine, 8/13/2012



BIGEarl
08-18-2012, 06:05 AM
August 13, 2012: Coe, Brothers, and Fort Loop

Trails: Marston Trail, Mt. Coe Trail, South Brother Spur, North Brother Spur, Fort Bushwhack

Summits: Mount Coe, South Brother, North Brother, Fort Mountain

Hikers: Trail Trotter (Sue), Whichway (Melissa), and me



For some reason, it seems that Maine miles are longer. The specs on this particular hike donít seem that bad but itís a full day. We started early and should have got started even earlier. Of the available choices to approach hiking these peaks we decided on a counterclockwise loop from the Slide Dam Trailhead. We had a typical August hot and humid day, which made the hike more of a test than it really needed to be.

Our warm-up was completed on the Marston Trail. From the trailhead to our first turn is an easy 1.2 miles. The trail is generally dry with only one muddy section along the way. We reached the trail junction with Mt. Coe Trail, made the turn and started hiking the loop. From the time we left the trailhead to the junction with Mt. Coe Trail the cloud cover had started to break and we enjoyed periods of sun and the heat that came with it.

Our first target for the day was Mt. Coe. After leaving Marston Trail, the Mt. Coe Trail climbs at a moderate rate along generally clear conditions with a couple small sections of mud to the bottom of the Mt. Coe Slide and junction with the OJI Link Trail. Then, it goes vertical and climbs to the top of the slide. The Coe Slide is generally clear slabs. There were areas of water on the slabs that needed to be avoided. We all made it to the top of the slide without a problem. As we were passing the junction with the OJI Link Trail, Sue commented she heard voices in the direction of OJI, but then did not hear them again. When we reached the top of the slide we could see others on the summit of OJI. I took pictures thinking they were probably part of our general group and it turns out it was Streve and Amicus along with two others that arrived to the summit shortly after.

We continued above the slide to the summit and found terrific views waiting there. The summit clearing isnít big but it offers 360 degree views. After relaxing on the summit for a while we were off to our second target for the day; South Brother.

We started the hike to South Brother with a short and steep descent from Coe and then the route moderated. It was a pleasant walk through fairly thick growth but the trail corridor was brushed out in good shape and there was nearly no mud along the way. The high humidity and heat from the day was really doing a job on me. I was working hard to stay hydrated and digging into the energy snacks to help keep my fuel level where it needed to be. South Brother was only #2 of 4 and the really tough part of the day was coming up. With lots of stops we finally made it to the South Brother Spur generally still on plan. The day was actually going a lot better than it felt. We made the turn and started up the final climb to the summit. Reaching the summit we found Amy and Glen already there. They followed a different route over Coe to S. Brother and were calling it a day.

We visited for a while, got our usual summit pictures, and set off for North Brother and Fort Mountain. After descending the S. Brother summit spur we had a very mild hike to the Mt. Coe Ė Marston trails upper junction. From there we found a very tight trail leading to North Brother. From the condition of the trail it almost seems it has been abandoned; the brush is really taking over much of the final .8 miles to the summit and there are multiple blowdowns that need attention along the way. Some trail maintenance is needed on this section. The .8 miles includes ~700 feet of elevation; I had my hands full. My hiking partners were patient with me and we continued to stay focused on our objectives (two down, two to go). The pace had slowed but we were making progress and we still had plenty of day left for the hike. We managed to reach the summit of N. Brother only ~50 minutes over book time; all things considered Ė not bad but really hard work.

The fun was getting ready to start. In the distance to the northeast was Fort Mountain, our forth and final target.

According to the Maine Mountain Guide:

ďThe best and easiest route to Fort Mountain is a trail leading left into the brush from the summit of North Brother. This trail is rough, unmarked, and obliterated in sections by blow-down trees.Ē

Theyíre sugar coating it; itís dense conifers all the way across with a couple small sections where the trees open up a little and provide brief relief.

We located a couple cairns off to the left of the North Brother summit and after setting a bearing on my compass (just in case), we took off. In a short time we were diving into the thick conifers. If you move slowly, watch carefully, and are really patient, you can follow this trail between North Brother and Fort. We made only one small error in each direction (to Fort and back to North Brother). Each error was recognized almost immediately and corrections made. We lost a lot of time on the round trip hike to Fort Mountain taking twice the amount of time expected. Along the way I started thinking about the condition of Marston Trail leading to North Brother and decided it is in this condition as a preview of what to expect on the hike to Fort.

Back on North Brother we stopped for a few minutes to relax and refresh a little. Soon it was time for the exit hike part of our day. It was late afternoon and we had 4.5 miles back to the trailhead.

We worked our way down from N. Brother to the upper junction with Mt. Coe Trail. Even though we had gravity working with us on the descent it was still a little unpleasant; some brush needs to go. We made the turn to stay on Marston Trail and followed it back past the lower junction with Mt. Coe Trail and on to the trailhead. A little under a mile from the trailhead we pulled out the headlights Ė we ran out of daylight. From there to the truck was a mild cool-down lap. Sue and Melissa were both in great shape. Going from N. Brother to Fort, and back is a bushwhack that shouldnít be done in shorts. I was wearing shorts, Sue and Melissa had long pants. I ended the day with a lot of blood on both legs (a fall I took on the final Marston segment added to the mess). As the man said Ė you canít make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

The day would have been better with a little less heat and humidity, but it was still a good day and a terrific start.


Pictures will follow.


:cool:

Amicus
08-18-2012, 07:58 AM
According to the Maine Mountain Guide:

ďThe best and easiest route to Fort Mountain is a trail leading left into the brush from the summit of North Brother. This trail is rough, unmarked, and obliterated in sections by blow-down trees.Ē

Theyíre sugar coating it; itís dense conifers all the way across with a couple small sections where the trees open up a little and provide brief relief.

An apt description of the Fort herdpath. You have to look down every other step just to follow the damn thing and you still get stabbed repeatedly by stickers you can't see from all the needles, which may be carwashing you, depending on the conditions. I've hiked it twice, which is once more than optimal. I also agree with you that Maine miles, on these Trails, seem longer. I too have taken longer and felt more fatigued on them than the mere mileage would predict.

Steve and I heard you too, on our extended sojourn on the O-J-I summit. We saw somebody at the top of the Coe slide when we crossed its bottom from the O-J-I Link a little later, but can't say who.

KRobi
08-18-2012, 08:45 AM
Great report as usual Earl. We did the same hike about a week ago with Beth (Damselfly) and Steve. Started out on the Mt. Coe trail and Karen slipped and hit her head. First a nice lump then a great shiner. Did not make her really want to do the slide but we did. All your info on the trail is spot on. N. Brother needs lots of work. We were lucky enough to have a cool cloudy day. Clouds were high so we still had all the views. Actually had to put on shells to stay warm on N. Brother. It was a bigger day than we thought. Over 2000' more of elevation than our other hike of Baxter and Hamlin.
Looking forward to your next adventure.
Ken

akafuzzjones
08-18-2012, 12:09 PM
It wasn't the upper body that got whacked when we did this trip the last time, I remember my legs (mostly below the knee) getting shredded by those little bushes at the beginning of the trip when leaving from North Brother. Will be returning there in a couple of months and already dreading that little side trip.

BIGEarl
08-18-2012, 12:58 PM
Iíve posted some pictures from the day.


BIGEarl's Pictures (http://community.webshots.com/user/BIGEarlshots)


Straight to the slideshow (http://outdoors.webshots.com/slideshow/583273565oByuCP)


:cool:




........

Steve and I heard you too, on our extended sojourn on the O-J-I summit. We saw somebody at the top of the Coe slide when we crossed its bottom from the O-J-I Link a little later, but can't say who.
The slideshow has a picture I took from the top of Coe Slide and has you, Steve, and two others on the summit of OJI. You may need to go with a "Full Size" display to see the detail (Webshots display option). You guys are left of center on the ridge.

:)




Great report as usual Earl. We did the same hike about a week ago with Beth (Damselfly) and Steve. Started out on the Mt. Coe trail and Karen slipped and hit her head. First a nice lump then a great shiner. Did not make her really want to do the slide but we did. All your info on the trail is spot on. N. Brother needs lots of work. We were lucky enough to have a cool cloudy day. Clouds were high so we still had all the views. Actually had to put on shells to stay warm on N. Brother. It was a bigger day than we thought. Over 2000' more of elevation than our other hike of Baxter and Hamlin.
Looking forward to your next adventure.
Ken
Thanks Ken.

I wish we had cooler temperatures but sometimes you take what you get and make the most of it.

;)



It wasn't the upper body that got whacked when we did this trip the last time, I remember my legs (mostly below the knee) getting shredded by those little bushes at the beginning of the trip when leaving from North Brother. Will be returning there in a couple of months and already dreading that little side trip.
Yup.....

From the knees down - all cut up. Don't do this hike in shorts! Some folks call it a trail, some call it a herd path. Sugar coat it any way you want - it's a bushwhack. :eek:

Enjoy the return visit.

:D

eddie
08-19-2012, 07:03 AM
Some folks call it a trail, some call it a herd path. Sugar coat it any way you want - it's a bushwhack. :eek

I remember leading our group on this section and "feeling" my way through at times with my feet and legs looking for the path of least resistance. You can generally keep an eye on your target going either way so never felt like you'd be lost. I've been through much worse stuff before where my feet never touched the ground so I'd classify N Brother to Fort as a semi-bushwack. I think it was 50 minutes each way.

BIGEarl
08-19-2012, 01:22 PM
I remember leading our group on this section and "feeling" my way through at times with my feet and legs looking for the path of least resistance. You can generally keep an eye on your target going either way so never felt like you'd be lost. I've been through much worse stuff before where my feet never touched the ground so I'd classify N Brother to Fort as a semi-bushwack. I think it was 50 minutes each way.
As far as bushwhacks go, I've been through worse too (Scar Ridge, Vose Spur, Elephant, ....). I've also been through much better (Black Pond, Isolation, ....).

I wish we were able to follow the route you took. We followed the route of the so-called trail in both directions. The only time we could see the target was before we got into the thick conifers or when we emerged. In between we could not see either Fort or N. Brother. The posted pictures of "open" areas we encountered along the way I think show the lack of visibility to the targets.


I checked the time stamps on the pictures.

Our time from N. Brother to Fort was 1hr 30min

Our time from Fort to N. Brother was 1hr 15min

I'm sure many others can move much faster than we did - we weren't in any sort of race.

I would be willing to do the hike again. But, if for no other reason than this one peak, I have no interest in gridding the NEHH.

;)

tomcat32
08-19-2012, 08:22 PM
The Coes/Brothers Loop is a nice hike. I've done the loop in both directions. Up the slide is definately better and easier to follow. The N Brother trail can be a river if it has just rained. Earlier this year I did Fort including the wack to the plane crash. I was still probably have needle in my pack from it. My shirt was pretty tattered after that day too.

kerry13
08-20-2012, 09:13 AM
Great trip report as usual Big Earl. Always look forward to you and Sue's adventures. This TR is very timely. Heading up to Baxter this week and this trip was on the agenda for Friday. You have me wondering now. You said you started early, how early might I ask. Was hoping to get done fairly early and head down to Rumford for Old Speck on Sat, but if you guys didn't finish till dark I may have to make some adjustments. I'm taking some friends on the Baxter Peak-Hamlin Loop on thurs. Thought this might be a nice easy Friday hike but it doesn't sound like it now. Thanks again for the timely report and any additional info.

BIGEarl
08-20-2012, 09:58 AM
Great trip report as usual Big Earl. Always look forward to you and Sue's adventures. This TR is very timely. Heading up to Baxter this week and this trip was on the agenda for Friday. You have me wondering now. You said you started early, how early might I ask.
.......
Thanks Kerry,

We were on-trail at 8:30am and returned to the trailhead at ~8:30pm. The heat and humidity probably cost two hours - it was a very tough day due to the conditions. I had expected to finish around 5:30 - 6:00pm.

The trip from North Brother to Fort took a little longer than expected.

Starting earlier by an hour or perhaps more would have helped get to Coe before the heat started to take over. That probably would have made a difference.

Enjoy the hike - it's a really good one!

:)

brobichaud
08-20-2012, 10:20 AM
This TR is very timely.

And so is this (http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?46058-Doubletop-Mountain-ME-8-14-2012) one!

I'll be up in Baxter Wednesday and Thursday, planning on hitting Doubletop after I arrive Wednesday, and then this one Thursday. I may or may not do the whack out to Fort, as I'll be solo. The plan is to do the same counterclockwise loop, then make the decision once I reach North Brother. I probably wouldn't be so sketched out about it if I had someone with me. Any advice if I were to tackle it alone?

Cheers,

Bill

BIGEarl
08-20-2012, 10:30 AM
And so is this (http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?46058-Doubletop-Mountain-ME-8-14-2012) one!

I'll be up in Baxter Wednesday and Thursday, planning on hitting Doubletop after I arrive Wednesday, and then this one Thursday. I may or may not do the whack out to Fort, as I'll be solo. The plan is to do the same counterclockwise loop, then make the decision once I reach North Brother. I probably wouldn't be so sketched out about it if I had someone with me. Any advice if I were to tackle it along?

Cheers,

Bill
After going through it once I can say going solo wouldn't be a concern to me.

Be patient, the trail can be followed all of the way across, it's just very hard to see in many places. If you take your time and keep your eyes open it's an easy-to-find-and-follow route. Sometimes you'll need to stoop down to see under blow-downs or the thick growth, but the trail is there. There are a couple places along the way where the growth opens up a little and it's tempting to turn on a little speed. Don't do it! It's easy to lose the trail - we did it once in each direction. It isn't that far and the extra speed won't gain very much and may cost a lot.

Stay with the patient, focused approach and you'll do fine.

;)

peakbagger
08-20-2012, 10:56 AM
I did a solo years ago intending to do a clockwise loop via the "new" Marston Trail. It was hot day and I ended up just going up North Brother and over to Fort. As described the "trail" was grown in. The biggest challenge was finding the start as there were at least three cairned points which eventually all led to the ridgecrest. I also remember the last 100 yards or so as being quite gnarly with lots of steep mossy holes but maybe I was just off the "trail". I was going slow due to the heat and humidity and had other hikes scheduled alter in the weeks so I headed back down Marston trail and bagged Coe and South Brother on another hike.

brobichaud
08-20-2012, 10:57 AM
After going through it once I can say going solo wouldn't be a concern to me.

Be patient, the trail can be followed all of the way across, it's just very hard to see in many places. If you take your time and keep your eyes open it's an easy-to-find-and-follow route. Sometimes you'll need to stoop down to see under blow-downs or the thick growth, but the trail is there. There are a couple places along the way where the growth opens up a little and it's tempting to turn on a little speed. Don't do it! It's easy to lose the trail - we did it once in each direction. It isn't that far and the extra speed won't gain very much and may cost a lot.

Stay with the patient, focused approach and you'll do fine.

;)

Thanks for the encouragement Earl! Patient and focused will be the name of the game! ;)

kerry13
08-20-2012, 11:39 AM
Thanks for the encouragement Earl! Patient and focused will be the name of the game! ;)

Gee Bill, if you were a real nice guy you'd bring some loppers along and open up the darn trail for me, for Friday. You know I'd do it for you if I were heading up first. Do have a good trip.

The Unstrung Harp
08-20-2012, 11:40 AM
I agree, great report. Sounds like the summit trails have grown in a bit since I was there a few years ago. I've never tried to hit Fort but the rest of the loop is really lovely, in my opinion. The slide is challenging/beautiful for sure. Tons and tons of moose tracks on the lower areas of Marston. I was there midweek and saw not a single other human hiker all day.


Editing to add: I just remembered -- I did randomly meet Kim & Hui-Yeng on this hike, near the summit of one of the Brothers, which was awesome! But they are not humans, they are hiker beasts. So, other than them, no other bipeds. :)

BIGEarl
08-20-2012, 11:53 AM
I did a solo years ago intending to do a clockwise loop via the "new" Marston Trail. It was hot day and I ended up just going up North Brother and over to Fort. As described the "trail" was grown in. The biggest challenge was finding the start as there were at least three cairned points which eventually all led to the ridgecrest. I also remember the last 100 yards or so as being quite gnarly with lots of steep mossy holes but maybe I was just off the "trail". I was going slow due to the heat and humidity and had other hikes scheduled alter in the weeks so I headed back down Marston trail and bagged Coe and South Brother on another hike.
Hey Peakbagger,

We followed the cairns off to the left from the summit of North Brother. Eventually, they bent back around to the right and seemed to just end. After the last cairn there appeared to be nothing. Surprise Ė dive in here and thereís a trail. You only need to get half-way in and the trail is obvious. Suddenly youíll also know what itís going to take to follow the thing.

I donít recall any steep terrain at all, in either direction. There were a couple blow-downs that needed some caution to get over without damaging anything important, but thatís about it.

When we emerged from the thick stuff and followed the cairns toward the ridge, we saw a large rock with a small cairn on it marking the summit off to the left. After making a stop there we headed to the other end of the ridge and the stuff sitting over there.

Iím glad I did it but donít plan on running back to do it again right away.

:rolleyes:




I agree, great report. Sounds like the summit trails have grown in a bit since I was there a few years ago. I've never tried to hit Fort but the rest of the loop is really lovely, in my opinion. The slide is challenging/beautiful for sure. Tons and tons of moose tracks on the lower areas of Marston. I was there midweek and saw not a single other human hiker all day.
Thanks.

I agree with you - Marston and Mt. Coe trails are really nice. This was my third time on Marston and each one has been a pleasure. The section leading to North Brother needs some attention.

Amicus
08-20-2012, 11:59 AM
I did a solo years ago intending to do a clockwise loop via the "new" Marston Trail. It was hot day and I ended up just going up North Brother and over to Fort. As described the "trail" was grown in. The biggest challenge was finding the start as there were at least three cairned points which eventually all led to the ridgecrest. I also remember the last 100 yards or so as being quite gnarly with lots of steep mossy holes but maybe I was just off the "trail". I was going slow due to the heat and humidity and had other hikes scheduled alter in the weeks so I headed back down Marston trail and bagged Coe and South Brother on another hike.

I did a very similar solo in October '06, except that No. Brother/Fort were my intended destinations from the begining, since I'd hiked the Coe/So. and No. Brothers loop a few months earlier (with a companion who hated bushwhacking, ruling out Fort, although I persuaded him to give it a try, until we hit the first blowdown patch). I also visited the Fort wreck, which was easier to find then than it was when I revisited it last October.

I too recall very vividly a couple of areas of deep mossy holes, some of which I could easily have stepped in, possibly breaking a leg, which is unwise when hiking solo in such an area. I didn't pay sufficient attention to the herdpath and managed to wander off it in both directions. So my one bit of advice to anyone hiking this solo is to stay on the herdpath.