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Thread: Sugarloaf and Spaulding, 8/21/2011

  1. #1
    Senior Member BIGEarl's Avatar
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    Cool Sugarloaf and Spaulding, 8/21/2011

    August 21, 2011: Sugarloaf and Spaulding

    Trails: Appalachian Trail, Sugarloaf Spur, Spaulding Spur

    Summits: Sugarloaf, Spaulding

    Hikers: Trail Trotter (Sue), and me



    For the second half of our back-to-back weekend, Sue and I returned to Caribou Valley Road (CVR) to hike the east side of the road. The plan included Sugarloaf and Spaulding. We lost a little time on the way in and got some pictures and a video of CVR entertainment. There are washed out culverts, exposed rocks looking to grab the bottom side of anything that passes over them, countless potholes, quite a few ugly bridges, and several of the bridges are combined with washouts on one or both sides. It’s a fun trip for sure. Just don’t try it in a car – at least not one for which you pay the maintenance bills.

    We parked in exactly the same place as the day before. We knew the routine; get our things out of the back, back the truck into the parking spot, and go hike. It didn’t take very long before we were leaving CVR on the A.T. to Sugarloaf. The forecast for the day wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either. We had broken clouds, comfortable temperature, and a light breeze from the south. Throughout the day we enjoyed nice periods of sun with broken clouds. According to the National Weather Service, we needed to finish by 6:00pm, which was when the weather was expected to get bad. Very soon after leaving CVR we passed through a campsite clearing and then crossed the South Branch of the Carrabassett River. Almost immediately after that the fun started.

    The trail started up. At first it was a moderate climb but we needed to warm-up quickly because the trail got steep in a hurry. Soon after steep came the rocks and ledge, including several sections of steep scrambles on ledge that really made Sue smile (Sue really enjoys steep rock climbs). We had a very pleasant climb to the ridge and passed through a couple open sections of ridge walk along the way. The trail then passed through some thick wooded sections, the slope moderated, we found some mud pits, and finally worked our way up through the final short climb to the Sugarloaf Summit Spur. From there it was a ~.6 mile steep final approach to the summit, which was loaded with various tower structures and the upper portions of the Sugarloaf Ski Area lift buildings.

    I was still a little beat from the previous day on the other side of the road and needed a few more stops than usual. Even with the extra stops we made good time and were close to plan when we hit the summit. We got the usual summit pictures, a bystander assisted with a picture of both Sue and I at the summit cairn, and Sue snapped off quite a few distance view shots in all directions. Soon we were done with Sugarloaf and our attention was focused on Spaulding.

    Roughly a third of the way back down from the summit to the A.T. we met the first trail runner. From there to the col between Sugarloaf and Spaulding we met at lease twenty-five to thirty more. We also met a couple plain old hikers moving at a “normal” pace. The trail between the peaks is a pleasant walk with several small PUDs along the way. As we climbed to Sugarloaf we had the opportunity to take a look at the ridgeline that the trail follows and developed a good sense of what to expect. After we cleared the final drop we knew we were in the col and ready for the final climb.

    Spaulding is like so many others; the final section leading to the summit is steep and rocky. In this case we climbed around from the northeast side of the summit cone to the northwest side before reaching the summit spur that leads to the actual summit. At the spur junction we could clearly see more steep and rocky trail but it was only 150 yards – that’s background noise. We made the turn and headed up.

    At the summit we stopped for the usual pictures, and then some summit cookies, and then a candy bar. We also saw some of the biggest and fattest black flies I have ever seen. I don’t understand how they actually can fly but they’re able to get airborne.

    By now it was mid afternoon and we had roughly 4.5 miles to walk back to the truck (and then a five hour drive home – six for Sue). In addition, the NWS had predicted a 6:00pm deadline forecast for a significant turn in the weather. We needed to get moving and keep moving. We headed north on our exit hike.

    The walk back to the Sugarloaf Summit Spur went well with few stops along the way. I think we may have actually gained some time on this section. The two “normal hikers” we previously met were now headed in the opposite direction. The map seems to suggest they were looking at a late day, perhaps including a re-hike of Spaulding and Abraham. Sue and I understand late days but this one was going to also be a very wet late day. The man had a focused and frightened expression on his face. The woman had that expression that a wife gets when her husband is in way over his head. I have a feeling neither was happy for some reason. We greeted each other as we did earlier, and kept moving.

    At the Sugarloaf Spur we had a brief stop to prepare for the final climb down to the truck. We only had 2.3 miles to go. Sue pulled out a new bottle of water, I had a quick snack, and we started down. Soon after leaving the Sugarloaf Spur the thunder started. Then, a light shower joined the action. All of a sudden, Sue and I are mainly interested in losing some elevation. We were both moving well as the intensity of the rain increased and the frequency of thunder also increased. Occasionally, we had a view to the south and southwest, which was the general direction from which the weather was coming. There we could see occasional lightning. I think we both realized there were a couple open sections we needed to pass across and sooner would be better. We kept moving at a deliberate pace.

    Eventually the showers seemed to peak and start to diminish. We were still seeing lightning but it was a safe distance away. We made it through the open sections and back into the trees and onto the ledge scrambles. Then, the showers stopped along with the thunder and lightning. We had a quiet descent to a short distance away from the river crossing.

    By the time we reached the river crossing the rain started, only harder this time. We walked the plank and went back into the wooded section between the river and road. At that point Sue stopped and suggested I get the truck keys out while we were in the shelter of the trees. I already had them in my pocket and ready to go. We hit the road and the sky opened up. Turned right, the truck was ~100 feet from the trail, Sue grabbed my pack and I jumped into the truck to pull it out. We quickly tossed our things into the back and jumped into the front. It was coming down too hard to worry about changing footwear.

    The forecast indicated a significant change at 6:00pm, it happened at 5:45pm – not bad forecasting if you ask me. We pulled onto the road and started back out CVR. The rain was coming down at a rate that completely filled all of the potholes in the road. We were able to easily see where they were but not their depth. It was a fun ride out. We made it across all bridges without any problems at all. Roughly twenty minutes after leaving the A.T. crossing we were on pavement and headed toward I-95, roughly an hour and a half away.

    The drive back went well. Eventually we stopped and changed footwear to something more comfortable. Our arrival in Nashua was a little later than we had planned but that’s not unusual for us. Sue transferred her things from the truck to her car while I transferred the pictures from her memory card to my computer.

    We had a good weekend; took a shot at five and hit them all. Thanks Sue, sorry for the late return and short night.



    I’ve posted some pictures from the day.


    BIGEarl's Pictures


    Straight to the slideshow



  2. #2
    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Quite an adventure! Looks like the excitement began with the drive to the trailhead, and then continued from there!

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    Senior Member freighttrain48's Avatar
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    I dont think my 99 camry would like that road to much. Great report as always earl, I like how you can look at all the photos in your album and sugarloaf doesnt look like a ski area.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BIGEarl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1HappyHiker View Post
    Quite an adventure! Looks like the excitement began with the drive to the trailhead, and then continued from there!
    CVR is a very interesting way to start and end the day. It reminded me of my younger days when I enjoyed looking for such places – usually with my father’s car. The hike in between was a lot of fun too.





    Quote Originally Posted by freighttrain48 View Post
    I dont think my 99 camry would like that road to much. Great report as always earl, I like how you can look at all the photos in your album and sugarloaf doesnt look like a ski area.
    Thanks freightrain48,

    A great deal of the road is reasonably car-friendly but the last .2 mile is probably best done by foot, even if the car belongs to somebody else. After Marc Howes finishes back-filling the wash-outs on the really bad bridge in a couple weeks it might be a different story. The road leaving the steel grate bridge is probably not suitable for any car. Sorry for not getting pictures or a video of that section.

    Hiking from The A.T. crossing on CVR meant our route stayed on the wild side of Sugarloaf. We actually saw more of the ski trails when hiking The Crockers a day earlier. On this hike we only saw the summit structures; that was enough.


  5. #5
    Member Randalls's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BIGEarl View Post
    CVR is a very interesting way to start and end the day. It reminded me of my younger days when I enjoyed looking for such places – usually with my father’s car. The hike in between was a lot of fun too.

    A great deal of the road is reasonably car-friendly but the last .2 mile is probably best done by foot, even if the car belongs to somebody else. After Marc Howes finishes back-filling the wash-outs on the really bad bridge in a couple weeks it might be a different story. The road leaving the steel grate bridge is probably not suitable for any car. Sorry for not getting pictures or a video of that section.
    I bet the CVR is going to take a pounding from Irene. We did these same peaks at the beginning of the summer and Im now glad that we did.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BIGEarl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randalls View Post
    I bet the CVR is going to take a pounding from Irene. We did these same peaks at the beginning of the summer and Im now glad that we did.
    Yeah, but……

    Irene has never met Marc.

    Marc Howes is planning to be in the area next weekend, and he’ll be bringing a shovel with him. I’m pretty sure after Marc is finished you’ll be able to drive a Volkswagen to the summit of Redington and never spill a drop of beer along the way.



  7. #7
    Member Randalls's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BIGEarl View Post
    Yeah, but……

    Irene has never met Marc.

    Marc Howes is planning to be in the area next weekend, and he’ll be bringing a shovel with him. I’m pretty sure after Marc is finished you’ll be able to drive a Volkswagen to the summit of Redington and never spill a drop of beer along the way.


    Like him already

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