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Thread: Five Maine 4Ks – A “rocky” start with a spectacular finish

  1. #1
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Five Maine 4Ks – A “rocky” start with a spectacular finish

    This trip began with well laid plans to hike Sugarloaf, Spaulding and Abraham as a backpacking trip, followed by a dayhike of Saddleback and the Horn. Brian and I left NJ at 8pm on Friday evening and took turns sleeping and driving up to Sugarloaf Ski area in Maine where we met up with our friend Meri. We parked in one of their overflow parking lots, geared up and begun our soon to be turned upside down trip at 6:15am. Given our early start, we expected to have no troubles and hoped to be more than halfway to the summit by the time the lifts began running at 8:30am.

    We saw 3 different groomers and 2 ski patrol snowmobiles and all of them waved and smiled, leaving us with a false sense of security that all would go well. Then about 90 minutes into our hike up the trails (we stayed well over to the side at ALL times), we were approached by ski patrol. Though she was very polite, she told us in no uncertain terms that our hike on their property was over. We had to turn around and head back down and it mattered none to her that we had driven 9 hours and taken 2 days off work to attempt the Maine peaks. When I explained that I wanted to add Sugarloaf (which is a Maine 4000-footer) to my winter list, she said I could do so as long as I did not BEGIN my trip on their property. Her issue didn’t seem to be our presence on their ski trails as much as it was that we started the hike on their property. She also said they were worried about skiers being on the trails and even assuring her that we would stay way over to the side made no difference. She said that due to liability issues, our trip must begin off Sugarloaf property. She was polite and we were polite back but it really put a HUGE damper on our 4 day weekend plans.

    Nonetheless, we turned around as instructed and headed back to our cars, trying to figure out how we could salvage our plans. Having driven for 9 hours through the night, I was feeling pretty down about the whole experience. I have skied at Sugarloaf dozens of times in previous years and seen hikers on the trails and know that many others have hiked up the ski trails without any issues. So, we left one car at Sugarloaf and headed over to the Firewarden’s Trailhead to hike up Abraham and “reverse” our plans, allowing us to end on Sugarloaf after the lifts closed. Once again, this was all well and good until we attempted to drive down the road to the trailhead. The recent rains had made the road impassable to all but the most rugged of 4 wheel drive vehicles and none of us were feeling like risking dumping Meri’s car into the raging river. So, thwarted yet again, we came up with our third plan of the day and three times was a charm.

    We drove to Caribou Valley Road, shoveled and squeezed the car into a spot beside some huge snowmobile trailers and FIVE long hours after our start up Sugarloaf began hiking down Caribou Valley Road. With every step I kept wishing we had known that this would be our approach because I really could have used my pulk on the road. But, we carried our heavy packs and did our best to keep our spirits up as we made our way to Caribou Pond. We set up camp at Caribou Pond for the night, since our late start left us with little time to attempt the bushwhack to the ridge that day. On Sunday morning, after springing our clocks ahead an hour we began bushwhacking up to the ridge, aiming our route at about 140 degrees hoping to head straight for the Spaulding leanto, our intended home for the night.

    Relatively soon after some thick spruce areas, we opted to follow an open swath that was initially a little closer to East than we wanted and then more South than we wanted but it kept our large packs from being yanked and pulled by the trees. Quickly we made the ridge and the swath ended, at this time, given our limited views towards Caribou Pond, we opted to bushwhack through the trees in an easterly direction and found the AT, which was indeed good luck because the blazes are mostly covered and when visible, were at best, ankle height. We hiked South on the AT as we determined from the terrain that was the direction to the leanto. After dropping our overnight gear near the leanto, we proceeded with daypacks to Abraham. The snow was crusty and consolidated so we only broke through a little, which was wonderful since there was only 3 of us to do all the trailbreaking. The route finding was difficult and time consuming at moments but all-in-all we made good time to Abraham and back.

    Our views from the summit were obscured by the low clouds and poor visibility but it felt GREAT to stand on Abraham knowing that the corporate man that is Sugarloaf and a litigation fearsome rule did not stop us, atleast from this one summit. Back at the leanto, we shared food, hot jello and lots of good times before getting another good night’s sleep.

    The next day brought clear skies and more route finding fun to the top of Spaulding with its tremendous winter views. We could see for miles around and reveled in the sunshine and joy. In addition, another group had found a way around Sugarloaf ski patrol and broken trail to Spaulding from Sugarloaf. We followed those packed tracks to the summit of Sugarloaf, finally tagging our 3rd peak of the weekend at around 5:30pm on Monday evening. We finally made our way back to the car and went to the Roadhouse for a much needed shower and a night’s sleep in a bed.

    During the day, we had called Saddleback Ski Area to ensure that we wouldn’t be turned around on their trails the following day. We spoke to 3 different people at Saddleback, all of whom assured us that they were a “Hiker Friendly” mountain. We asked if there were trails they preferred we take and they told us we could choose between Gray Ghost and Hudson Highway.

    So, on Tuesday, with bluebird skies, low winds and temps in the 40s, we hiked up Gray Ghost, soaked up the sun into our souls, took in views on the almost entirely exposed and above treeline 1.7 miles to the Horn and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We took a couple of long breaks to eat and relax and it was just the best day in the mountains all winter. On the way down, we took Hudson Highway and talked to ski patrol who said they could see us up on the ridge coming back from The Horn. Wished us a nice day and told us to come back anytime. My next downhill ski trip in Maine will be to Saddleback Ski Area. YAY Saddleback !!!

    All-in-all it was a wonderful 4 days with my good friend, Meri and my wonderful hubby, tagging 5 Maine 4Ks that I needed for my Winter 67 list. With 2 NH peaks left to finish the Winter 67, I wonder if my legs have 2 long dayhikes left in them since next weekend is the last for this winter. But, regardless . . . this trip was just what I needed, YAY !!!

    I will post a few pictures when I get home tonight.

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  2. #2
    Senior Member MichaelJ's Avatar
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    top of Spaulding with its tremendous winter views
    Wow, I would never have suspected ... I can't wait to see those pics!

    Bummer about Sugarloaf, but huge congratulations on a successful finish nonetheless.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelJ View Post
    Wow, I would never have suspected ... I can't wait to see those pics!
    Yeah, the extra 6 feet of snow on the ground allowed us to have a view above the tops of the trees. We were pleasantly surprised too.
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

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    Senior Member donna's Avatar
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    Wow! Awesome bagging 5 peaks. You're sounding more like me.
    What's left? Are you hoping to finish this weekend?
    donna

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    Senior Member roadtripper's Avatar
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    Good stuff! Glad it ended up working out for you guys.

    The intense ski patrol @ Sugarloaf doesn't really surprise me though. They've had quite a year in terms of legal exposure (the chairlift first, and then a death a month or so after). If I had to guess, management has probably done a full review of all legal risks and made sure every single employee was following things to a T.

  6. #6
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by donna View Post
    Wow! Awesome bagging 5 peaks. You're sounding more like me.
    What's left? Are you hoping to finish this weekend?
    Haha . . . yes, Donna, the peakbagging bug always bites me near the end of winter. Congrats on your NEHH finish. I am sorry I couldn't be there.

    I have Carrigain and Madison left. I am not sure my Jello like legs can handle those 2 peaks as dayhikes on Sat and Sun but I think given the most recent weather reports, I might try. The winds I think are predicted to be low this weekend.

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  7. #7
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadtripper View Post
    Good stuff! Glad it ended up working out for you guys.

    The intense ski patrol @ Sugarloaf doesn't really surprise me though. They've had quite a year in terms of legal exposure (the chairlift first, and then a death a month or so after). If I had to guess, management has probably done a full review of all legal risks and made sure every single employee was following things to a T.
    I didn't know there was a death on the mountain as well? I knew about the chairlift. Yeah, I know she was just doing her job but it is a bummer that liability fears have to ruin all the fun. I also wish they had told us when they first saw us at the bottom of the mountain, instead of 90 minutes into our hike. Anyway, it kinda all worked out for the best anyway, it was fun to come up to the ridge from Caribou Pond.

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  8. #8
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    I am curious as to what liability is saved when a hike does not begin on their property. Wildcat has rather unfriendly signs at all the bottoms of the trails requiring a ticket. The FS says we don't need one, but we are at the discretion of WC as to which trail(s) we can use and when, for safety, liability, and maintenance reasons.

    The ticket clearly states they are not liable and by purchasing one, you agree to those terms...

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

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    Senior Member Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sli74 View Post
    I have Carrigain and Madison left. I am not sure my Jello like legs can handle those 2 peaks as dayhikes on Sat and Sun but I think given the most recent weather reports, I might try. The winds I think are predicted to be low this weekend.

    sli74
    If you decide to go for it, let me know!!
    "I once met a man with a sense of adventure,
    He was dressed to thrill wherever he went,
    He said, 'let's make love on a mountain top,
    under the stars on a big hard rock.'
    I said, 'In these shoes? I don't think so.'
    I said, 'Honey, let's do it here.'" -K. Maccoll

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    Senior Member BobC's Avatar
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    Great report. The col between Saddleback and the Horn is incredible. I think I enjoyed that more than the peaks themselves when I did this hike a couple of seasons back.

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    Senior Member swamp's Avatar
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    Great trip report (as usual) Seema.
    Between Christmas and New Years Day(I think it was the day before the lift failure) Skimom,her friend ,and myself hiked up the ski trails of Sugarloaf. We used the trail that we were told was the "hiker-friendly" trail. We were immediately set upon by a ski-patrol person who I will,from here-on-out, refer to as Attila the ski-patrol chick. She demanded to see lift passes (I guess the heavy breathing and the snowshoes pointed up-hill isn't enough evidence that we don't have lift passes in some circles). She went on and on about liability and all that crap but eventually told us she wouldn't stop us from continuing (basically we exceded the .4 micron of a second ski-patrol attention span)
    We continued onward and upward on our merry way. Every single ski patrol along the way stopped us (and asked us questions that made it obvious that they knew we were coming (with their new-fangled walkie-talkies))
    Apparently ,in the outdoor-recreation actuarial tables, all the risk is loaded in uphill walking because as soon as we turned around and headed down we didn't have another conversation with ski-patrol (and I feel intellectually poorer for it).
    I agree with Ranxerox !!!!

    Swampyankee

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    Senior Member Silverfox's Avatar
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    Way to persevere on your amazing adventure. !!

    Fantastic

    Love the Saddleback Horn region..they give you a map at the ski area showing what trails to use
    # 44

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    Very nice trip report, Seema. Persistence in face of serious adversity paid off.
    It's a real shame everything has to be about litigation now, but wonderful to hear that you found a way "around and UP it!"

    Happy trails!
    Last edited by Maddy; 03-19-2011 at 07:33 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    I am curious as to what liability is saved when a hike does not begin on their property. Wildcat has rather unfriendly signs at all the bottoms of the trails requiring a ticket. The FS says we don't need one, but we are at the discretion of WC as to which trail(s) we can use and when, for safety, liability, and maintenance reasons.

    The ticket clearly states they are not liable and by purchasing one, you agree to those terms...

    Tim
    The entire liability conversation confused me but I guess since it is private property, it is their right to set whatever rules they wish. However, I think it isn't so bright to alienate hikers considering hiking and skiing are not mutually exclusive and I for one will remember this experience the next time I have a choice of where to pay my money for lift service skiing. I have previously planned almost a half dozen group trips totally over 200 attendees to Sugarloaf and as of this past weekend all future Maine skiing trips will be to Saddleback.

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  15. #15
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    If you decide to go for it, let me know!!
    I am still trying to decide but I thinkl at the minimum, we will head up and hike Carrigain on Saturday. If after our Saturday hike we are feeling up to doing Madison on Sunday, we will go for it. I will try and put up a post on Facebook on Saturday night. We would love to have you join us.

    Seema
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

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