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Thread: My Glorious Trip to Maine 7/5 to 7/12

  1. #1
    Senior Member DreamFarmer's Avatar
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    My Glorious Trip to Maine 7/5 to 7/12

    (Saddleback, The Horn, Sugarloaf, Spaulding, Abraham, Baxter Peak, Hamlin, North Brother)

    Saturday ( 7/5) I drove to Rangeley and checked in to the Town and Lake Motel about 5PM. I grabbed a snack, unpacked and got my pack ready for hiking Saddleback and The Horn on Sunday.
    When I finished, I took a drive up to the Saddleback Ski area where I was meeting Pete Hogan & friends on Monday afternoon. I wanted to check out the condo we rented so I’d know where it was. We had rented the condo for our “base camp” for doing Pete’s hike that would conclude his quest for the 115. On the way back to town I saw 2 woman with packs walking along the road and looking a little stressed…no…desperate. I stopped to ask them if they had hiked Saddleback. Before I finished my sentence they were asking for a ride into Town or wherever I was headed. They had hiked Saddleback along the AT from the AT parking area on Rt 4. They were cold and beat after summiting Saddleback and didn’t think it was safe to hike back to their car along the trail. They figured they’d come down Saddleback to the ski area and take their chances catching a ride. They made the right call, because I drove them to their car. They were very relieved and I felt good about that.
    Then I went to Sarge’s for a dinner and a couple beers. There was a band playing and a small, happy, local group showed up in celebration of their High School -20 year- class reunion. There were 9 or 12 people in that graduating class, depending on who I asked. It was fun watching these happy people. I chatted at length with Rodney, a logger, about the logging business in the area. I got educated.

    Since I had all day to do my hike, I didn’t rush off on Sunday morning. I think I arrived at Saddleback ski area around 8AM and poked along towards the summit. I had some aerial photos with me to help find my way up the ski trails but they didn’t help much. I stopped to take a break and “bundle up” (cool and very windy) . As I sat there using the chair-lift building as a windbreak, I realized I was right where I wanted to be to catch the trail over to the AT. What a nice surprise! I pulled out my aerial photos and tried to figure out what I had done ..clueless. So, I proceeded up to the trail and over to the AT junction. It was very windy and cool. I was just so happy to be there. I had great views that day (and for my 3 other hikes). I saw a few people along the way including northbound and southbound Thru-hikers. I summited Saddleback, then The Horn, staying comfortable in the high winds and looking around at the views. The trip back down the mountain was uneventful and I finished around 3:30. I headed back to my room and had a nice nap, got cleaned up and headed to Sarge’s again. There was a band again, and another dose of education on logging from Rodney. I think it’s cool the way everyone in town seems to know everyone. I wonder what life is like there.

    Monday I got up and headed for the Laundromat to wash my stinky hiking clothes. I knew I had to check out by 11 and then would have to kill 5 hours or so until Pete & friends Tom, Jessica and Emma got to town. After the Laundromat, I found a nice chaise-lounge at the Lumber Supply Store and bought it. I figured it would be nice to take an afternoon snooze while I was waiting for Pete. I also thought it would come in handy at the Lean-To I had reserved in Baxter State Park (Abol Campground) later in the week. After checking out of the Town & Lake, I decided to find the Rapid Stream Trailhead where we would drop my car Tuesday morning. The location of this TH shown on my map is not reachable by car ( on public roads) since the bridges washed out. My map showed 2 ways to get there so I wanted to see what worked. The route off Howard Rd in Salem lead me to a place where signs indicated the road was private so I turned around and headed for Kingfield. West Kingfield road, off Rt16&27, was the way to go. At the end of West Kingfield Rd, the pavement stops and you continue straight on to Rapid Stream Rd (there is a sign).
    Rapid Stream Road was rough and I was concerned that after our hike, I’d have 5 people in my Corolla and I’d have to be careful not to “bottom out”. I had previously mentioned to our party that everyone might have to get out of the car in rough areas.
    Weaving my way along Rapid Stream Rd, I looked for a sign indicating where the trailhead might be. Eventually I saw a hand-made sign (“Appalachian Trail”-“Mt Abraham”) pointing to the left. Going left, it’s about 100 yards to where the road ends at a tributary to Rapid Stream ( there’s a sign naming a “brook”). There is a small parking area here and I would drop my car here the next morning.
    The road used to continue on , crossing 2 bridges, and then you’d take a right and drive ½ mile to the official trailhead shown on various maps(there is a sign at the official TH indicating the trail to Mt Abraham). The 2 bridges are gone now and there are not even remnants of the bridge next to the brook where we parked.
    I was glad to have found the trailhead and turned around to head back to Kingfield, then Rangeley. I was concentrated on the road, hoping I would remember the bad spots for the next day. There was one place where the road was washed out leaving a ditch completely across the road. A few logs were laid into the gap to fill in the space. I “bottomed out” there on my way out, so I bought a package of firewood at the market in Rangeley and used the pieces of firewood to fill in the gaps a little better when we drove in the next day for the car-drop. I had lunch in Kingfield and headed back towards Rangeley and our condo at Saddleback. I set up my new lounge in the shade of the deck, looking over the valley…and zzzzzzz.
    Late in the afternoon, Pete called and announced they had arrived in Rangeley. I drove in to town to meet everyone, have dinner, and get supplies. We headed back to the condo, unpacked and had a strategy meeting for the next days hike. We would drop my car at the parking area I had visited, and then drive around to the Sugarloaf Ski Area to begin our hike. We would hike Sugarloaf, Spaulding and then Abraham, Pete’s #115. Then exit down Abraham and hike the 4.5 miles to my car. We decided to leave the condo by 6AM.

    Tuesday, I woke up around 4:30 and got ready to roll. It was going to be a long day but a great day for Pete. It took us a little longer than expected to leave the condo and by the time we dropped my car and drove to Sugarloaf it was around 9:30. We didn’t see any signs about where to park or what trail to hike. Pete went in one of the buildings and asked someone how we should proceed. We parked in one of the resort parking lots near the Security Office ( one level down the hill). Our route would be the Tote Road ski trail and we would find our way by looking at the occasional trail signs along the slopes. There was a dirt service road to our right most of the way up and I will guess that would have worked fine but we were warned there would be a lot of heavy equipment using the road that day. It was steady climbing until we reached the open rocky top. Jessica and Emma led the way and seemed unaffected by the climb. Us guys were not as fast and had to stop from time to time. The sun was beating down on us and I was going faster than I would normally go.
    We took a break at the summit and I went looking for a wind-break downhill from the summit. I found a building near the top of a chairlift with a nice place to sit down. I was ready for a lengthy break but when no one else showed up I went looking for the group.
    I spotted Pete and the group near the trail to Spaulding and they appeared to be ready to go ! (the trail to Spaulding is easy to find. There is no sign but it’s downhill from the summit in the direction of Spaulding in the vicinity of a fenced-in area). I went back to my spot to get my pack and when I returned to the Spaulding trail only Tom was there. Hmmm…now what ? Tom didn’t know where the rest of the group was either, so we assumed they had taken off towards Spaulding, so we did too. We walked down to the AT intersection and still didn’t catch them so we knew something was goofed up. I got out my whistle and occasionally gave it 2 blasts to let Pete, Jessica and Emma know where we were. There was no response ( they never heard my whistle). We reasoned that they would never continue on towards Spaulding from the intersection so we just waited. They showed up in a few minutes, blowing their whistle as they came. After discussing what had happened it seemed there was a perfect combination of incorrect assumptions. I learned something, like on most hikes.
    On to Spaulding we went ! At the intersection of the trail to the summit we dropped our packs and scampered to the summit. #114 for Pete ! One more to go. I still was craving a long break and when we got to the Spaulding Moutain Campsite I got it. There is a good water source there and I filled my bottles, had a sandwich and a smoke. I drank 6 Liters of water that day-the most ever on one hike.
    From the Spaulding Mountain Campsite to the Mt Abraham Side Trail it was a very pleasant walk. The pleasantness continued as we hiked the Side Trail all the way to the open talus field that took us to the summit of Abraham. Pete surmised we would run out of daylight on the way out and the sky looked threatening so we didn’t linger too long on Abraham. We had some banners commemorating Pete’s #115 and took a bunch of pictures then away we went. Pete is such a class act and a very wise and experienced outdoorsman. I continue to learn from him.............continued
    --Rookie

  2. #2
    Senior Member DreamFarmer's Avatar
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    My Glorious Trip to Maine 7/5 to 7/12 part 2

    As we slowly headed down Abraham’s talus fields towards my car it was apparent everyone was anxious to see if we could get back to the car before dark. At that point, none of us were real sure about the relationship between where we parked, and where the trail was going to take us. It was the first time there for all of us. We had done our research and thought we new what to expect, but you never know for sure until afterwards. I was a tired slimy mess from sweating all day and the thought of wading across 2 streams near the car sounded mighty good. In fact, I intended to lay down in the stream and get refreshed since it was so close to the car. I had a change of cotton clothes waiting for me in the car. Oh yeah, I did it and it was dreamy !
    We plodded along in the waning light. Pete insisted on making sure we kept hydrated and nourished as the “death march” carried on into the deepening darkness. We made the old Rapid Stream TH ( the one you can’t drive to ) around dark and proceeded down the dirt road looking for a turn to the left which would have us crossing 2 streams to get to the car. It took a while and tested our confidence but we reached the road going to the left and immediately saw a stream and the remnants of a bridge. AHHHH, we were going to be OK ! I waded into the cool water with my hiking shoes on. The water was so cool and refreshing after the long day. We crossed the first stream (Rapid Stream) and quickly came to the second stream ( the brook--a tributary to Rapid Stream). We could see the car on the other side ! We made it. ! Uncertainty was gone !
    After a few minutes people were ready to get going. So we piled into my corolla and slowly made our way along Rapid Stream Road. We had to get Pete’s car back at Sugarloaf, then drive back to Rangeley. We were hoping to find a store open along the way but no such luck. We got back to the condo around 11PM. It was a good days work.

    Wednesday morning was spent chatting and doing my laundry. I said my goodbyes to my wonderful hiking companions around 11AM and headed for my adventure at Baxter State park. I had reserved a LeanTo for 4 nights at the Abol campground in case I ran in to weather delays for my 2 hikes. Everything went smoothly including a stop for supplies in Millinocket. I was setting up camp in my small LT by 6PM. I say “small” because there wasn’t much floor space left after I blew up my queen-size air bed. My bed was inside a 4-man tent used as a bug screen and attached to the ceiling of the LT to keep it off me. It was a great set-up and yes, I like my comfort when I can get it. After getting camp set and organizing my stuff, I munched-down a tuna sub that I picked up as I passed through Millinocket. For beverage, I had a supply of “Summer Ale” on ice in my cooler. I was in bed before dark and so excited to finally be making my hike to Katahdin. I wondered how many hours I had looked at maps of Baxter State Park and it’s trails.

    Thursday--I was fully rested by 3:30 AM and started preparing for the day. By 6AM I was hiking. The Abol trail to Baxter Peak was closed so I would have to drive to the Katahdin Springs campground and park at the “day use “ parking lot. From there the Hunt Trail would take me to Baxter Peak. The Hunt Trail is the AT. I figured it had to be a nice easy trail to the summit, after all, it was the last “leg” of a 2100 mile journey for the Thru-hikers and surely they should have earned a nice easy stroll to the summit, Right?—WRONG !
    It’s more like one final test of your determination ! The last 1000 feet of elevation gain before you reach the talus plateau tests your nerves and scrambling ability. All hikers I encountered in this stretch had similar feelings. Many of us exchanged comments about what a drag it would be coming back down. It was the toughest stretch of trail I have ever encountered. The cold strong winds had me in long pants, wool base layer, winter hat, double gortex shell with hood up and snugged tight around my face to stop the wind from pulling it off. But, it was still great to be there and the views were awesome. I snapped pictures along the way and was eager to finally get a picture of me at the famous Katahdin sign at the top of Baxter Peak. I had been waiting for years for this ! As I waited for my chance at “the sign” ,I sat down and had a sandwich, drink and a smoke. The views were astounding ! What a great place to be ! I couldn’t help snapping a few pics of the unique geography looking towards Pamola and the Knifes edge. I considered climbing over to Pamola but I had enough thrills for the day getting to where I was.
    Uh oh ! The camera (a disposable) ran out of shots..OMG…WTF…there would be no picture of me at the sign. What a bummer..what a dumb ass ! I think I’m going to take someone else’s picture and “photo-shop” my face over their’s ! It’ll make a good conversation piece for the family room wall !

    Onward to Hamlin Peak, a 1.8 mile walk across the open talus. The cool, strong wind continued but I was comfortable. There were plenty of hikers around (many looking cold) and I chatted with them occasionally. I was looking for water at this point but didn’t see any at the Saddle Spring. There was nice water at Caribou Spring. I have to guess this must dry up once in a while since it’s .2 miles from the Hamlin summit. I summited Hamlin and reflected on how lucky I was to finally be there as I had a snack. I was anxious to get back down the trail and get the tough “down-climb” section behind me. I was also anxious to get out of the wind. I headed back towards Baxter Peak and took the “cut-off” trail back to the AT (aka Hunt). I stopped and took a break before the tough climb down off the talus plateau. I wanted full energy for safety’s sake. I was dreading this all day. I proceeded slowly and found it not nearly as bad as I anticipated (like many situations in life, aye?). On the way down I saw additional foot and hand holds that weren’t so apparent on my way up. I was very relieved to safely get down the hard section and start bopping along taking big steps and stripping off some clothes. I signed out at 7PM, it was a 13 hour outing and I was beat.
    I decided to have dinner in the morning and settled for 2 beers and some Dorito’s, good’nuff, I was happy, good night !

    Friday- My Mountain House Beef Stroganoff made a good breakfast, along with a cheese sandwich and OJ. I was a little sore but knew it would be no problem to go get North Brother via the Marston Trail. This required a drive north along the Park Tote Road towards the Slide Dam area. The parking area/trailhead is on the right and very obvious.
    I registered around 8AM and signed out around 2PM. It was a hot sweaty hike and the North Brother trail to the summit was very tight in terms of having branches rubbing against you (it reminded me of doing Couchsachraga). There was lots of water sources on this hike but the stream next to the pond tasted funky.
    I saw one other party as I was heading down. It was another day of great views.

    I was anxious to get home in Eden,NY (south of Buffalo), so I packed up my camp and drove a few hours, ending up at a Comfort Inn in Waterville, Me.
    Ahhh..a shower, shave and a restaurant.

    Saturday 7/12--- a 12 hour drive to home sweet home. Mission accomplished !
    --Rookie

  3. #3
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    Clay,

    You really hit the jackpot on this trip! As we know, none of this is easy, but all those hours on the treadmill really pay off for a hike plan as complicated and aggressive as this one. So congratulations! We have hiked nine, 4000' Maine summits together in the last two years and I couldn't be more happy to have such a thoughtful, dedicated hiking partner.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Little Rickie's Avatar
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    You are just plain AWSOME! Great job!
    Peace

    "How one parses a question tells you as much about the person as how they answer the question."

    Oldee Won Balogeena

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