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Thread: NE 115 Finish! 7.8.14: Sugarloaf Mt., Spaulding Mt. & Mt. Abraham

  1. #1
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    NE 115 Finish! 7.8.14: Sugarloaf Mt., Spaulding Mt. & Mt. Abraham

    NE 115 Finish! 7.8.14: Sugarloaf Mt., Spaulding Mt. & Mt. Abraham
    NORTHEAST 111 (115) FINISH
    July 8, 2014

    Sugarloaf Mountain (4250’)
    Spaulding Mountain (4010’)
    Mt. Abraham (4049’)


    My introduction to the Rangeley/Stratton region of northern Maine was extraordinary. It was during the blue moon of August, 2013 that I first visited this remote region of rugged mountains, vast wilderness and pristine waters. This time was no different.

    With a promising forecast, our priority was to go for a southbound, three-peak day starting at Sugarloaf Mountain. Since we had an extra vehicle, we spotted a car at the new Rapid Stream trailhead before driving another vehicle to the Sugarloaf Mountain base lodge. This process was time consuming so we didn’t start hiking until 9:20 AM.

    We hiked the Tote Road ski trail. There was nothing difficult about it, but it was hot because we were very exposed to the sun and high humidity of the day. The summit area was cluttered with towers, buildings and machinery, but the views were outstanding and quickly replaced the unsightly necessities of a ski area. We decided to eat lunch before heading on to Spaulding Mountain so we took some time to relax, refuel and enjoy the refreshing breeze. NE summit #113 had been achieved!

    The .6-mile descent from the Sugarloaf summit to the AT junction went quickly and we were soon headed southbound. The 2.1-mile ascent to the Spaulding summit path was inconsequential and our packless, 150-yard ascent to the summit had us posing for summit shots at the M.A.T.C. summit sign - elevation 3988 FT. Huh? We wondered about the posted elevation considering that the AMC’S Maine Mountain Guide lists Spaulding’s summit elevation as 4010 feet. No matter, NE summit #114 was now history!

    After returning to our packs, we started the .8-mile descent to the Spaulding lean to junction where we purified stream water and refueled.

    The next section of the AT gradually ascended a sidehill in the midst of a beautiful, open forest. There was also more moose poop than I have ever seen on a trail. Piles and piles of it, often at the base of a trailside tree. I could only imagine these great behemoths of the north woods leisurely walking along the AT relieving themselves at will. It was a veritable “poop parade.”

    Just before 4 PM, we arrived at the Mt. Abraham trail junction. With only 1.7 miles left to the final summit, we were at the point of no return. Whatever lay ahead, we were on our way to a Rapid Stream finish.

    We were on an old tote road that gradually climbed upward until the terrain got more serious. A late afternoon, soft light filtered through open woods to our right and spilled down a steep slope to our left.

    This forested approach abruptly ended at the start of a talus field. The summit was still not visible and the route, marked with cairns and paint blazes tracked to the left of the rock pile. In a few minutes we gazed upon our first views of the Abraham summit. It was an astonishing sight! The steep profile and open, alpine setting gave the feel of a much loftier peak. We were closing in and the summit adrenaline was starting to flow.

    The talus ended and we returned to a wooded path that came quite close to the edge of a thick section of balsam that precipitously fell off the right flank of the mountain!

    Under increasingly overcast skies, we started up another steep talus field. With the weather potentially deteriorating, my focus shifted from a leisurely summit celebration to getting off the exposed talus before any stormy weather compromised our safety.

    Our arrival at the summit of Mt. Abraham was spectacular! It is a stunning summit with exceptional views and so worthy as the anchor leg of this endeavor. The rugged approach through the talus fields was captivating and truly enhanced the experience of this wonderful adventure. NE summit #115 was the best of this triumvirate and an unforgettable way to end this memorable quest.

    Despite our enthusiasm to stay longer, we knew that it was time to go. Still thankfully rain-free, we started our 5-mile/2900’ descent cautiously on very steep and unstable talus at 5:36 PM. Mindful that even the slightest injury could change the outcome of this momentous day, we knew we had to walk wisely, refresh and refuel when necessary and take care of each other as we had done throughout this long and exceptional day.

    The steep descent continued and we managed to negotiate the clearly marked, blue-blazed Fire Warden’s Trail without incident. We hydrated at good water sources and kept our energy levels up by constantly grazing on trail food. As darkness overtook us, we stopped one last time to eat, drink and ready our night gear for two stream crossings.

    We eventually reached the former Mt. Abraham trailhead where there was a sign. Surrounded by darkness and having never been here before, we needed to choose one of three logging roads that would take us the extra half-mile to the Rapid Stream crossing.

    Our choice turned out to be correct as we ended up in another half-mile at a junction with the unmistakable sound of rushing water to our left.

    We headed toward the sound and ascended a slight incline where our headlamps illuminated the wooden infrastructure of a washed-out bridge and a wide stream that we believed to be Rapid Stream.

    The current was powerful and finding a stable pole position was challenging. Some chose to rock hop and managed to reach the other bank relatively dry. Even the rocks above the fast-moving water were wet and slippery. As we searched for a safe passage, Luna Moths appeared and flitted in and out of our headlight beams. Wading across the deep water in the pitch black night was otherworldly as five searchlights and crazed Luna Moths pierced the darkness!

    We reached the other side, walked up a dirt ramp connecting us to the main road again and continued on until we heard another stream ahead. Our headlamps then found the reflectors on the vehicles at the trailhead! It was 9:22 PM and we had made it back safely!

    This 29-year pursuit has been as much about the people as it has been about mountains. The people I’ve hiked with have enriched my life beyond the triumph of reaching a mountain summit. I am better for the journey and so thankful for the thoughtful, patient, caring people that have shared in this remarkable adventure.

    Here is a link to the photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/1073739...eat=directlink
    Last edited by Pete Hogan; 07-19-2014 at 07:13 PM. Reason: Fix photo link

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Well written and well done my friend! Congratulations and welcome to the club!

    Only problem is the link does not work.

    Here is the correct one

    https://picasaweb.google.com/1073739...eat=directlink
    Tom Rankin
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
    CEO

  3. #3
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Congratulations!

    Tim
    p.s. I fixed the link...
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

  4. #4
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    Thanks Tom! I am elated with the outcome! Sorry about the photo link…..not sure what happened!
    Last edited by Pete Hogan; 07-17-2014 at 10:36 AM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks Tim! I've read many of your TR's over the years and have learned much from your experience. Thanks for the photo fix!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    Congrats and welcome to the club!

    Nice to see another Saratoga County resident finishing off the best list East of the Mississippi.

    - #317

  7. #7
    Senior Member marty's Avatar
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    Pete,

    Congratulations on the 115 and thanks for such a great TR. Felt like I was there with you. Loved the Poster Boy photo and the crossing of Rapid Stream!

    Sorry our paths did not cross when you were in Oquossoc.

    best regards,
    Marty
    So when you reach the bottom line
    The only thing to do is climb
    Pick yourself up off the floor
    Anything ya want is yours


    Song: Bottom Line
    Artist: Big Audio Dynamite
    Album: This is Big Audio Dynamite
    Year: 1985

  8. #8
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    Thank you Puma concolor!
    Rangeley is a long way from Saratoga, but both my trips there were exceptional.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the town, shops, dining and people.
    I also experienced some of the best hiking in the 29 years I've been practicing!
    Last edited by Pete Hogan; 07-18-2014 at 03:51 PM.

  9. #9
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    Hi Marty,
    Well….you were there with me…in spirit at least.
    Poster Boy did well on this one! It took longer to finish the poster than the hike!
    The Oquossoc strawberry festival was outstanding! That place is really special.

  10. #10
    Senior Member dom15931's Avatar
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    Congrats! You report makes me glad that Baxter Peak is all I have in Maine. I have all of the 115 outside of Maine, but need the 13 other peaks in the state. I never ventured into the Stratton area, wishing to leave something new for the last leg of a long adventure. Reading your report has me exited. Thanks for posting.

  11. #11
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    dom15931,

    Thanks for your thoughts! I had no previous experience in the Rangeley/Stratton region until last summer (August, 2013). It is an outdoor paradise with great people, places and opportunities for adventure! If you care to read some of my TR's on the other peaks in the Rangeley/Stratton region, use the search window for; "Once in a Blue Moon: The Maine Event". There are some photos included with the narratives as well. Spoiler alert. I don't want to preempt your quest to experience your own adventure, but perhaps the reports will peak your interest. Good climbing, dom15931!

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