Boundary, Benchmarks and Bugs (7/11-15/2006)

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Papa Bear

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Sep 3, 2003
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New York City
Boundary, Benchmarks and Bugs (7/11-15/2006)

Last year I finished the New England Hundred Highest and Fifty Finest lists. Friends asked "So now what will you do?". Good question. The last year or so of my peak bagging had got me interested in the lesser known peaks, particularly those on the FF list. It was fun to climb peaks that only a few people manage to get to per year. Or sometimes being the first to climb a peak in 2 or 3 years.

So that might point me in the direction of the 3K list. But let's face it, I'll never live long enough to finish that list. So why follow a list at all - just climb what you feel like. Problem with that is I need a little structure for my goals. Doing just "what you feel like" might mean I never get myself out the door. So I am toying with the idea of subdividing the 3K list into manageable and attractive groups. What I have come up with so far is 1) all the 3Ks in Baxter Park, and 2) all the 3Ks on or near the US-Canada boundary (which would include those entirely in Canada that aren't on the 3K list). My recent interest in benchmark hunting (benchmark bagging?) has also added a third group: 3) all the 3Ks with benchmarks. BTW: I don't have a copy of the 3K list. Why bother? When I go with others, they all seem to know what they want to climb. It's one less Excel spreadsheet to worry about.

Last week I went out and did a number of peaks from category #2 (boundary peaks), some of which were also in category #3 (benchmark peaks) and I threw in a little of "what you feel like" peaks on the side. It was a great week. The first part of the week I met up with Oncoman and we climbed peaks in Canada (on or close to the border) which were on the Quebec 1Km list he is working on, and on Friday and Saturday the two of us joined Onestep who is pursuing the 3Ks.

Here's an overview:

Tuesday July 11: Mont Megantic, Saint Joseph and Victoria in Megantic National Park near Woburn Quebec.
Wednesday July 12: Saddle Hill, East Saddle and Marble plus an attempt at Twin Peaks, all boundary or near-boundary peaks.
Thursday July 13: Mont Gosford, West 443 (Belvedere), Boundary (HH) and Peak 447 (all had benchmarks). Oncoman also added Peak 441 and Peak 450 from his list.

Thursday night we went down to Stratton and met Onestep at the Maine Roadhouse.

Friday July 14: West Smart ("Layton") and Smart. In the afternoon I returned to Kibby in search for a couple of BMs while the others pursued "Brown" and West "Rain".
Saturday July 15: West Caribou, Peak 411, Peak 410, "Bump" and East "Bump".

Onestep has written a nice report of the last two days, so I'll be brief when I get to that part.

You might wonder where the names "Layton", "Brown", "Rain", and "Bump" come from. They appear on the topo maps in small print but they are not official names. It turns out they are the names assigned by the surveyors in 1915-16 to the benchmarks (triangulation stations to be more precise) when the border was surveyed. It was this survey that established the exact Latitude and Longitude of the boundary markers which were set in the 1840s. The names were just made up by the surveyors, and some of them were probably in-jokes. Some of the others they used were 'Boots" and "Boggy". Sometimes they used names that were probably crew members. For example the one on Boundary Peak (HH) is "Dutch" and the one on West 443 is "Moran". These markers were one of the reasons I was out there and I spent not a little effort wherever one of these were supposed to be on a peak to actually find it. They are all documented in the NGS database for those who are interested.


They were occasional quite bad, you don't really want to know. Occasional use of deet and even the use of a bug net once or twice helped keep us sane.

Photos: Here's a link to the meta-album that contains 5 albums - one for each day's hikes: 5 Albums by the day

Now on to the reports ...
Tuesday July 11th: Mont Megantic, Saint Joseph and Victoria

I slept well as the only resident at the Maine Road House just west of Stratton. But I had to meet Oncoman in Woburn Canada at 6:00 so I set the alarm for 4:30 and had everything packed into the car and was off at 4:45. I had a meager bite to eat but was hoping for coffee in Woburn.

I was set to beat the road construction crews and logging trucks on Route 27 if I could make it to the border by 6:00 AM But I forgot how foggy the road would be at this hour and on some stretches of 27 I had practically zero visibility. There were a few flashing lights ahead of me from time to time but I basically saw no other traffic. I reached the border at 5:30 and answered a few questions from the groggy guard ("Where are you from?", "What will you be doing in Canada?", "Any alcohol?", "Any fire arms?") and was in Woburn 5 minutes later. I parked at the side of the street and waited for Oncoman's gray van with the bike rack on top. He arrived at 10 minutes to 6:00 and after introductions we went to the nearby Hotel Arnold Cafe for coffee.

At first the waitress spoke to us in English (Did we look like hikers? Are all hikers from the US?) but then when Oncoman replied in French she spoke to both of us in French. Eventually it was established that there was one French speaker and one English speaker, and we had our coffee.

Over coffee we set our agenda: this would be our "easy" day and we would drive up to Mont Megantic and do the 3 1K peaks (we were in Canada: 1K means 1000 meters) using the short loop. Then we would undertake a more ambitious plan for Wednesday and Thursday. We would be hitting everything on Oncoman's list and everything on my list (what list?), so everyone would be happy (and tired). It was still a bit of a foggy day and rain was threatened for later in the day.

The drive from Woburn was about 10 miles west on Rte 212 to the village of Notre Dame des Bois. It's the only village on the road, and there's a big church just were you turn onto the road to Mont Megantic (Route du Parc - there's a sign). Drive north about 2.5 miles to where the road turns left, and in about 3 more miles you will reach the parking area. The park office had not opened when we arrived, so we self-registered and got ourselves ready and we were off on the trail around 7:30. The largest elevation gain of the day would be in the first few miles. We would climb north up the ridge to Mont Saint Joseph, then along the ridge to Mont Victoria, then we would cross to the SW over the col to Megantic and finally back down to the parking lot. The total length would be about 11 or 12 miles.

As expected, I was sweating heavily and breathless within 10 minutes. Then, prompted by a question from Oncoman, I realized I had done no real hiking since the Fall, although I had done plenty of miles running and walking since then. But running and walking don't cut it when you hit the hills, so I just had to push myself to get back into climbing shape. The day was warm and humid, but there was a cloud cover so we were spared the worst of it.

Mont Saint Joseph: Mont Saint Joseph has an uncommonly ugly and cluttered summit. Oncoman said there was a chapel, but there was much more: a radio tower, two or three buildings, a parking lot and some religious structures that had the artistic quality of Christmas tree ornaments. Oh well, to each his own. There was a nice patch of Lupine on the side of the knoll at the highest point and that made a nice photo op. But when I looked at the picture back home I saw ever that was marred by utility wires and poles.

It was not yet 9:00 AM, and we quickly moved on towards Mont Victoria. The trail suddenly became extremely well groomed, almost suitable for wheel chairs. We realized this was designed to get the tourists who had driven up to Mont Saint Joseph over to Mont Victoria with a minimum of hardship. But we moved along quickly and when we were about 3/4 of the way over we stopped at an observation platform. This was a lovely spot with views up and back along the ridge and good views across the valley to Mont Megantic with it's observatory. And this is where the "easy" trail ended.

Mont Victoria: We then got on a fairly normal trail to Mont Victoria. We reached this viewless summit about 9:35 and soon moved on towards Megantic. We had thought this traverse might involve more elevation loss and gain, but in fact there was not much of that and the hike over to Megantic was rather easy.

Mont Megantic: When we got near the summit we got onto a road which skirted one observatory and led us to the main observatory. In spite of a sign saying no cars on the observatory grounds, a few lazy tourists saw fit to drive the last 100 yards from the parking lot to the observatory. Hey they drove all the way up so far, might as well drive up the last .1%! It was around 11:20 when we arrived.

The observatory looked rather majestic sitting there, dormant in the day time. We circled around and I found a Canadian benchmark but did not see the IBC mark that was set here in 1915. The entire summit area seemed to have been cleared and groomed, most certainly when they built the observatory. So I was not surprised. Even the highest point we found looked like an artificial pile of rocks.

(click for larger image)

Interestingly, the IBC benchmarks are in the NGS database, even the ones that are in Canada. But this one was "non-published", which means it's not available to the public. The non-published code says: "Outside NGS Publication Area". Evidently there is a limit (perhaps around 5 Km) beyond which these datasheets are not available.

There were a few tourists roaming around and some distant thunder. So after a bite to eat we set off down the trail which went pretty much straight down to the parking area. After about 5 or 10 minutes we got a little drizzle and later on a fairly close thunder clap. But we were well below the danger zone and we appreciated the cooling affect of the rain. We passed a few camp sites which all had "astronomical" names, like "Little Bear", "Andromeda" and "Pleiades".

We got back to the cars at around 1:20 PM. The rain had stopped and we had some real food (= pizza) at the snack bar. I also bought a map (for $3) in case I come back. I Like maps.

We had some time on our hands, so we explored the area near the border where we would drive the next day to get to Montagne de Marble. The road to that area was directly across Route 212 from the Mont Megantic Road wer were on, but it soon became a dirt road. It was a buggy farm area with lots of "Defence de Passer" signs but we eventually found a spot to park (with the help of a local ATV driver) for the next day and headed back to Woburn.

We checked into the Motel Arnold, cleaned ourselves up and drove up to Lac Megantic, about 20 miles to the north, for a drive-through tour and a nice meal at "Morison's", right across from the church. This was a tourist town and was a cut or two culture-wise (and price-wise) above Woburn.

Photos: Megantic, Saint Joseph & Victoria album

Distance hiked: 15.8 Km or just under 10 miles.

Continued in next note ...
Wednesday July 12 - Marble Mountain, Saddle Hill and East Saddle

Wednesday we were up at 5:00 AM and had breakfast at the restaurant next door when it opened at 5:30.We decided to take one car so we piled into Oncoman's car and were off by 6:15. The drive was the same as the previous day, but when we got to Notre Dame des Bois we turned left instead of right. The map I have from Sentiers Frontaliers (SF) labels this road "Route du 10e Rang" but I don't recall seeing the name at the turn. But it's unmistakable - turn left at the church. Once on this road you will see the route laid out before you straight south all the way to the border range, about 5 miles away. You go all the way to the end and take a left at Ch. du 10e Rang Est. Don't take a left at Ch. du 8e Rang Est (like we did Tuesday afternoon). The road is dirt the whole way after leaving town. After the left you go about a mile to a cross road with International paper Company signs in French and English. Park off the side of the road and don't block the road. There are trucks that are passing by here. I satrongly suggest that you get a copy of the Sentiers Frontaliers (SF) map of the area if you plan to climb these peaks. It's available at the gatehouse at the entrance to the Gosford Park area ("ZEC Louise Gosford") about 4 miles south of Woburn.

We started our hike on the rocky road straight ahead at about 6:45. An ATV driver we had met yesterday said with a high clearance car you could drive about 2 Km further to another place to park, but we were doubtful. The road was easy walking, but it was a hot, humid and buggy day. It would be nice when we finally got some elevation and a breeze. There were occasional glimpses of Marble Mountain with it's dramatic cliffs on the south side as we moved along. We passed a trail (#1) coming in from the right and then our road dropped down and crossed a stream and eventually at about 7:20 we were at the start of trail #5 heading up to the left. This trail skirts around the west side of the mountain and we decided it would be a much easier way up. We would take the steep path on the way down.

The trail meandered back and forth across old woods roads but was not too steep. In about an hour after getting on Trail #5 we got to the boundary. At first I didn't recognize it. Being used to the wide, well cleared swath around Boundary Pak (HH), this looked more like a badly maintained woods road. There were ferns and brush across the area, with lots of small trees and the tall trees along the margins were encroaching the swath. It was clear that this section received less maintenance that the more familiar part.

Saddle Hill and East Saddle: We headed up to Saddle Hill and it got worse. There were old deadfalls and slash under foot and often you would not see the ground and ran the risk of falling. Be prepared for slow going along this section.

We reached Saddle Hill about 8:40. It has two sub peaks, about 5 minutes apart. A summit sign was on the former and boundary monument 470 was on the latter. I'm not sure which was higher, but it didn't matter since we hit both. Without much of a break we headed over to the East Peak of Saddle Hill, about 1/2 mile away. The boundary turns SE at this point and drops to the col and then climbs. There was a lot of slash and blowdowns on this moderately steep portion of the swath and it was slow going.

We reached the East Peak about 9:05. It was flat, with the highest point at the far, most easterly end. It was here I would search for the triangulation station "FISH". The description from 1916 says only "The station is near the southeast edge of the flat top of the peak", and it also said "Monument 469-12 is 8.68 feet distant S 83 Deg 21 Min E from the station". That would have been a great help, except we couldn't find monument 469-12. These intermediate monuments (between the large monuments) are easy to find near Boundary Peak, but in this rough overgrown section, we didn't find any of them. There was a witness sign (a sign warning of a nearby survey marker) which was for 469-12 so I probed around between the witness sign and the center of the swath, checking for significant rocks and boulders. I was also aided by my GPS which had my station's coordinates set as a waypoint and to the accuracy available (perhaps +/- 10 to 20 feet) I knew I was in the right area. If you saw the area you would give little chance of finding anything, since there were about a gazillion rocks everywhere, all covered by moss, with small trees goring everywhere. Talk about a needle in the hay stack.

Nevertheless I soldiered on and Onestep gamely helped by probing rocks with a stick. Suddenly voila! I found it. On a flat rock at ground level in the midst of small trees and boulders, under about 2 inches of moss. I had a small garden trowel for probing and clearing and I was elated at this first success. The station "FISH" was officially recovered at 9:13 AM. The requisite pictures were taken and the we headed back the way we had come. (Oncoman asked "why do you need to take a picture?" I said "the same reason you take a picture when you reach a summit". But of course - we like to document our obsessions!). Ironically, even after finding the station, we still couldn't find monument 469-12 even with an accurate distance and bearing. How hard can it be to pace off 8.68 feet at 83 degrees east of south. Well, go there and you'll understand! I'm sure it was there somewhere under slash, rocks and moss.

The station under the moss

(click for larger image)

Here's a link to my log for "FISH" on my benchmarking web site.

Benchmark log: IBC station "FISH"

Marble Mountain: We headed back the way we had come, doing some slipping and sliding down the rough slope from East Saddle and over the more gentle slope from Saddle Hill. Meanwhile it was getting rather hot and humid, especially along the open boundary swath - open for the heat and sun that is, not so open for our feet. Climbing Marble Mountain from this side was also rather easy and we arrived at the outcrop where the boundary suddenly drops off to the south at about 10:15, just about an hour from East Saddle.

We took a few pictures and the I looked at my next benchmark goal, station "MARBLE". The 1916 directions stated "The station is on the highest point of the peak. About 20 feet north from its south edge on outcropping rock and about 250 feet southwest of the boundary". Wait a minute. We were on the boundary and were on the highest point (or so we thought). What was this 250 feet southwest nonserse? So I checked my GPS and it said the station was 270 feet that-a-way. Well, the trail didn't go down the boundary (it was a veritable cliff) and it went more or less southwest, so we followed the trail and watched the GPS readout. There was a dip of perhaps 30 or 40 feet and then another knoll in that direction, so we prowled around at what looked like high points. Finally we followed a sign for a trail to a view point and my GPS suddenly said, "You are there!". It seems the SF folks had built a trail to the same rock outcrop that the 1916 survey team had found. Oncoman's altimeter indicated that this outcrop was about 10 feet lower than the outcrop on the boundary (which is about the limit of it's accuracy) so perhaps the surveyors had a valid reason to think the highest point was over here. Oncoman's altimeter showed it was slightly lower over here but it might well have been the same or slightly higher. The surveyors may also have preferred this spot for other reasons, such as sight lines to other stations. 3K baggers would like to think the highest point is on the boundary, not 250 feet into Canada, but the benchmark hunter doesn't care.

Oncoman and I searched a for good half hour at this outcrop, probing every rock and digging in every hollow but to no avail. We could not find the station. Like Silas, the murderous monk in the DaVinci Code, when he reached Saint-Sulpice, it was: "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!!". If I really get obsessive about it, I might return with a metal detector.

But for 3Ks we had success for # 3 for the day. I didn't even think about it at the time, but we never looked for canisters on any of these peaks. But what the hey, we're peak baggers, not canister baggers!

Now we made our way down the south side of Marble on the SF trail. It was well laid out, never very steep. But it did zig zag onto and off the steep boundary swath numerous times, and at one section we found ourselves on the swath while the trail zagged away and it was rough and steep till we caught the trail again at the next zig. Meanwhile we found monument 471, practically covered in growth. If you are worried about the border patrol catching you along this section, rest easy. Not nobody patrols along here, no how!

Petite Lac

(click for larger image)

At the bottom of the hill, the trail detours into Canada and we visited the lovely Petite Lac, a scenic lake and camp ground a few hundred yards on the Canadian side. It was lovely indeed, except for the bugs. I had a bite to eat but we didn't tarry. We got moving again and the trail brought us back to the boundary swath.

Map: Topozone map (Marble and Saddles)

Continued on the next note ...
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Wednesday July 12 - continued

Continuation of Wednesday July 12

Twin Peaks attempt: The swath however had gone from bad to worse. We were headed for a small knoll which would be the stepping off point for the bushwhack to Twin Peaks. We could see the Twins off on the US side but the swath was slow going and the sun was really beating down on us. There was a recent clear cut area on the US side and eventually it was hard to tell if we were on the swath or in the clear cut. As we got near the knoll, the boundary swath seemed to disappear completely, at which point the SF trail went off to the Canadian side.

We started our bushwhack towards the Twins and luckily Oncoman found a good moose path through the clear cut which took us to a skid road heading up towards the Twins col. But I was getting rather tuckered out at this point, and after we pushed on past the skid road I decided it didn't make sense to go on. The going was waist high hobble bush, frerns and blackberry over a base of slash and the danger of tripping was great. And I had basically run out of gas. Oncoman agreed, so we headed back. Once we got off the swath and into the woods near Petite Lac, things got better. Today the sun was not our friend. But I do have a good notion now on how to whack this Peak. As that famous peakbagger Douglas McArthur once said: "I shall return!".

From the lake it took about an hour to return to the car. The trail west from Petite Lac ran directly into the rocky road we had originally taken from the car, so about 4 Km and 60 minutes later we were done. It was 3:00 PM. We had spent over 8 hours hiking, climbing and bushwhacking, bagged three 3Ks and one benchmark, and now had a plan for the Twins. It was a good day.

Map: Topozone map (Petite Lac and Twin Peaks)

Photos: Marble Mountain, Saddle Hill & E. Saddle album

Distance: about 21 Km or about 13.1 miles

Continued on next note ...
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Thursday July 13 - Gosford, West 443 (Belvedere), Boundary (HH) and Peak 447

Yesterday had been a lesson in how conditions of weather and fitness can stymie ambitious plans. Today's initial goals were not overly ambitious: on Oncoman's 1K list it was Gosford, West 443 (named locally on the park signage Mont Belvedere) and Boundary Peak (the one on the Hundred Highest list). I was interested in these three as well since they all had IBC triangulation stations ("benchmarks") on their summits. But we were both "greedy" as it were. Oncoman wanted to add a peak at monument 441, which was about a mile north of monument 443 and another a peak at monument 450, about 1.5 miles south of where we would get off the boundary - the place just before monument 447 that follows an ATV trail down to a parking area at the end of Ch. de la Grive (an area known to HH hikers) where we would spot a car. These two peaks are also on the 3K list (but with no benchmarks, sorry) but they would add about 5 miles to the trek. For my part I was interested in South Gosford, an 1136m peak at the end of the main ridge running south from Gosford - which would be partly a bushwhack, and a minor peak near monument 447. South Gosford initially interested Oncoman, but it turned out not to be on his list since it lacked the requisite 100m of prominence.

Good sense prevailed, I gave up the idea of a bushwhack to South Gosford, and settled on adding the little peak past 447. Oncoman would do the extra out-and-backs to 441 and to 450 while I spent the time searching for the benchmarks. So I would do 3 major and one minor peaks with 4 benchmarks, and Oncoman would bag 5 peaks on his list. This together with the obvious plan of spotting a car at the Hundred Highest Boundary Peak parking area, and starting the trek at the parking area way up at the end of Ch. Clearwater, near the Gosford / West 443 col, made an excellent and very doable plan. Besides, the weather was to be noticeably less humid today.

We had inquired Tuesday afternoon about the gate to the park where our trek would occur. It turned out they never lock the gate, and if we self-registered (at a reduced fee of $3 if were to arrived before 7:00) were we free to enter and leave the park as early or as late as we pleased. So we made it to breakfast when the restaurant opened at 5:30, got moving by 6:15 and arrived at the gate at 6:30. We filled out the form, put the money in the envelopes, pushed the gate aside and we were off.

It's amazing how slow you go on these park roads. After driving way down to spot my car at the HH parking area and then driving way up to the Gosford parking lot, it wasn't until 7:40 that were could get started on our trek.

Gosford: The trail to Gosford was very pleasant and never very steep. Luckily we were starting rather high, almost 800m. On the way to the top I was rather surprised to pass through a fir wave about half way up to the summit of Gosford. I had never seen fir waves on any of the boundary peaks. Mont Gosford is the second highest peak in the boundary range (at 1189m = 3901 ft.), after Chain of Ponds Snow (3960') but I am not aware of fir waves on Snow or any of the other boundary peaks. Undoubtedly it must have to do with the shape of the mountain, the prevailing winds, etc. But I got a couple of nice picture of it, both far and near.

Incidentally, there are a number of conflicting elevations given for Mont Gosford. I use the values give on the latest Canadian NIS 1:50000 map for Woburn quadrangle (21 E/7 & 21 E/2) which has Gosford as 1189m and West 443 (Belvedere) as 1187m. The sign at the top of Gosford also reads "1189 metres". I guess New England peak baggers are used to relying on the latest official topo maps as "Gospel" for these questions. But gives 1192m and the Sentiers Frontaliers (SF) map - which you must get if you plan to hike in this area - gives 1193m.

(click for larger image)

We reached the summit of Gosford around 8:35 AM, and after enjoying the views and taking a few pictures, I We started looking for my first benchmark. According to the original 1916 documentation, IBC station "GOSFORD" was "NEAR THE EAST SIDE OF THE TOP AND ABOUT 30 FEET FROM THE HIGHEST POINT ... CEMENTED IN A DRILL HOLE IN A LARGE ROCK, THAT IS FIRMLY SET AMONG SMALL ROCKS WHICH FORM THE TOP OF THE PEAK". My GPS put me near the trail just in front of the observation tower but there were no obvious large rocks. Furthermore, it was quite unclear where the highest point of the peak was. The general "look and feel" of the area seemed to indicate that the top was cleared and probably leveled somewhat when the tower was built. After about 20 minutes of probing possible rocks in the area, we gave it up. Perhaps a metal detector would turn it up, but more than likely the mark was lost when they built the tower.

West 443 (Belvedere): Shortly after 9:00 we started back down the trail. We passed the car and continued east on trail #1 towards West 443 and the boundary. This peak is named locally on the park signage as "Mont Belvedere" but that doesn't seem to be an "official" name. West 443 is so called since it is a major peak which lies about 300m west of monument 443 on the border. Trail #1 does not go over the peak's summit, but slabs across it to the north, but I have been told there are herd paths that lead to the summit. We got near the height of land of trail #1, passed a picnic table and soon came to a point that seemed highest where the main trail turned about 90 degrees to the left. There we found a lovely grassy path leading off south in the general direction of the summit, so even though my GPS said it wasn't quite the right direction, we took it. It generally curved around to the left (east) and in not more that .5 miles it reached what to all appearances was the wooded top of the mountain. There was a rock sticking out at the right of the trail which seemed to be the highest point.

It was time to start looking for the benchmark, IBC station "MORAN". The GPS said we were there, but that could mean anywhere within 20 feet. I started prospecting around off to the right of the trail and probed a few rocks. Some were sticking up a foot or more and others were just mounds of moss at ground level. There were lots of rocks and lots of trees (and lots of moss) and it looked like a long job ahead of me. Suddenly after only about 5 minutes, I scraped about 2 inches of moss from a rock at ground level and voila! there it was. I was totally surprised to find it that quickly - or for that matter to find it at all!. Oncoman was equally surprised. He said, given the conditions here, that he had given me no more than 1 in 100 chance of finding it. After the disappointment on Gosford, this was a real morale booster. I would say it is highly unlikely that anyone has set eyes on this for over 60 years - the last time the IBC checked it was in 1941. So much for all the time I would spend searching while Oncoman hiked his extra 5 miles. He was going to have to move fast to keep up with my benchmark searching.

Benchmark log: IBC station "MORAN"

We went back to the main trail and we were soon at the boundary at monument 443. Here we split up. I headed south to Boundary Peak to search there for a benchmark and wait for Oncoman. He headed north for Peak 441 and moved at his fast solo pace.

Map: Topozone map (Gosford and West 443)

Continued on next note ...
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Thursday continued - Boundary (HH) and Peak 447

Continued from previous note

The boundary from this point south to Boundary Peak had recently been cleared of brush and small trees. But the slash had been left in place, making for slow going. There must be a maintenance cycle of perhaps 10 years for this work. The area we went through yesterday seemed largely overgrown and was at the end of it's cycle (or else maybe the IBC had just forgotten about that section). This section was at the start of the cycle. South of Boundary Peak, which most HH hikers are familiar with, the slash had been cleared away so that familiar section is in the optimum condition for hikers.

I passed monument 444 and approached 445 but couldn't see it at first. Then I came upon the concrete base and saw that the cast iron post of 445 was broken off and lying on the ground. I wondered what could have happened? Vandalism seemed a good possibility.

Boundary Peak (HH): Boundary Peak (tehchnically it's "Unnamed Peak on the Boundary") was at the top of the next hill and I arrived there at the cairn familliar to HH baggers about 12:30. On the way, I had noticed many of the intermediate boundary monuments on this well cleared section. These are disks, about 3 or 4 inches in diameter with a number in the center and a line with "CANADA" embossed on one side and "UNITED STATES" on the other. They are set in a concrete post about 6 inches in diameter and are flush with the ground.

Remember we had seem not one of these on yesterday's overgrown section. It turns out that there is one of these at every point that the boundary changes direction, which is very often. There may be anywhere from a few to perhaps 15 of these monuments between the major monuments with the solid concrete base and cast iron posts. The one at Monument Peak was numbered 445-3, meaning it was the third one along the boundary from monument 445. It's on the center of the boundary swath and is nearly in front of the large cairn at the peak. Many baggers of Boundary Peak have spotted it and generally call it the "benchmark" for this peak. It isn't, and in fact it's not a benchmark at all. It's just a spot where the surveyors had sighted on the two similar monuments on either side up and down the boundary.

This would be important in finding my benchmark. The documentation read; "THE STATION IS ON THE HIGHEST POINT OF THE PEAK. ... MONUMENT 445 3 IS 11.48 DISTANT, N 69 DEG 16 MIN W, FROM THE STATION.". So for the distance, call it 11 1/2 feet. But the bearing is tricky. First off, it's from the station to the monument, I needed the reverse. Secondly, it's a surveyors way of saying a bearing of 69+ degrees from the north to the west (in other wise counter-clockwise from north). If you turn this around to the usual notation that would be 360 degrees minus 69 degrees or 291 degrees. But that's looking from the station to the monument. So subtract 180 degrees and you get the answer of 111 degrees. But not quite the answer. All directions in these descriptions are given as "true" bearings. For a compass bearing I must add 17 degrees (local declination) and get 128 degrees magnetic. Finally we're done.

Now cleaver peak baggers could skip all this. The "HIGHEST POINT OF THE PEAK" is well known. It's at the cairn. But I dutifully measured off 11.48 feet anyway, in a direction of 128 degrees magnetic from Monument 445-3 and I ended up - you guessed it - at the cairn! But seriously, I ended up a certain particular point at the cairn (which after all is quite large), specifically near the front and slightly to the left (facing the US). I considered my "project" and thought at first I could remove a few rocks and tunnel down to ground level at the appropriate point. So I started doing this, not getting anywhere fast. This slow work in the buggy, hot and humid conditions occasioned me to put on my bug net. It's hard to concentrate on a project with black flies biting you in the back of the neck and ears, and flying into your eyes or mounth. Naturally, the net made it evn hotter and more humid. You can't win.

Then Oncoman showed up. He had made it to Peak 441 and back and got here about a half hour into my "project". He had lots of energy and enthusiasm, just what I needed. We ran the measurements again. and he started moving rocks from one side of the cairn to the other As we were almost at ground level, he was about to grab a rock from the bottom of the pile, and I said "Wait! Let's look at that rock first". I brushed off some dirt and there it was - my mark! It was success again, 2 in a row. We then carefully put the rocks back on the cairn except for those just above "my benchmark", and there we left it, much as it was before. But observant Peak Baggers will notice a little place where you can see a rock near the front of the cairn at the bottom and you will see IBC triangulation station "DUTCH", the true and actual benchmark for Boundary Peak. BTW, Boundary Peak is officially unnamed. Let's call it "Dutch". That will confuse the muggles!

(click for larger image)

Benchmark log: IBC station "DUTCH"

Peak 447: Now we were off again, Oncoman to peak 450, me to Peak 447. When we got to 447, I bid him adieu, and started my next project. But this time it was much easier, no peak bagger cares about the little peak south of monument 447, so there is no huge inconvenient rock pile there. I measured off the distance from nearby monument 447-2, scraped the moss off a rock and there it was, IBC triangulation station "DENNISON"! Amazing - these things are really there, exactly where they are supposed to be. It was 3 in a row and 3 for 4 for the day. Time to retire. Literally.

Benchmark log: IBC station "DENNISON"

I hiked back to the car, cleaned up a bit, changed to "car clothes" and waited for Oncoman in the air conditioned comfort of my Chevrolet Opal. At 4:15, right on schedule, he arrived. He had bagged 450 (after trudging through Dennison bog - twice), had spotted my benchmark on the way back and now we were both done. A great and productive day all around.

By 5:30 we were out of the park and by 6:30 we were in Stratton. We had dinner at Mainley Yours and got to the Maine Roadhouse by 8:30. Onestep showed up shortly, and after a strategy session for tomorrow, we all got to bed early.

Map: Topozone map (Boundary Peak and 447)

Photos: Gosford, West 443 (Belvedere), Boundary (HH) and Peak 447 album

Distance hiked: I estimate I did about 15Km or 9.6 miles today, Oncoman did about 5 miles more

Continued on next note ...
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Friday July 14: West Smart (Layton), Smart and Kibby

Thursday night we got to bed early and planned an early 5:00 AM rising. Alas, we did not get a good night's sleep. It seems besides us three peak baggers, there was another guest in the bunkhouse: a large out of shape fellow who claimed to be the only English speaking person from some small Quebec town. While we were awake, if you started a conversation with him he would never stop. During the night he either stayed awake all night and talked to himself, of talked to himself all night in his sleep. It was not conducive to a good night's sleep. Oncoman actually made his escape and slept the latter part of the night in his van. Onestep and I just endured.

We did get up a 5:00, had a pick-up breakfast of cold food, and were off for Baudrey Road. We planned to do the Smarts and Moose with an early start, and then split up in the afternoon.

Read Onestep's excellent report of Friday's hiking of the Smarts: Beaudry bottles & bushwhacks. I'll just fill in a few items here, plus talk about what we did in the afternoon.

Layton - what's in a name? The west peak of Smart is unnamed but is usually called West Smart. Sometimes folks call it "Layton", which you can see in small print on the topo map. Roy mentioned that early 3K baggers speculated where the names like "Layton", "Bump", "Moccasin", "Rain", "Brown" and numerous others came from. These were definitely not official names and if you look closely at the names on the map, they are hard to read and seem to be printed on the map as an after thought.

Take a look at this screen capture of the map for West Smart aka Layton:


It turns out the key is that little triangle with the dot in it before the name. Someone pointed out to me that little triangles like this were horizontal control stations, aka triangulation stations. This means surveyors at some point made an accurate determination of the latitude and longitude of this point and that it was later used when they made the map to fix that point, i.e. to control the printing of the map. There would be some survey marker (commonly called a benchmark) placed at this point which was used to locate the surveyors equipment. With this hint, I looked up the name (in this case "Layton") on the NGS (National Geodetic Survey) index of these control stations, and sure enough, there it was.

The name for the marker on this peak was "LAYTON IBC" and it was established by the International Boundary Commission in 1915 to determine accurate positions for the US-Canada boundary monuments, and later it was also used by the US Geological Survey for horizontal control of the map for this area. The USGS set a majority of their own marks for map control (it was their job) but they were very happy to use the markers set by other agencies if it helped them. Here's the NGS datasheet for this station: NGS data sheet for LAYTON IBC. Among other things, the datasheet gives an exact location and a description of where the mark was established, written by the original surveying team. So where did the name LAYTON come from? If there were no pre-existing name for the peak, names were simply made up by the surveyors, perhaps it was the name of chief of the crew.

I had found a number of these IBC markers earlier in the week, and for any peak we hit that had one, I would search for it. So far I was 4 for 6 in my searches.

When we got to the top of this peak, we rather quickly found the canister. While Onestep and Oncoman were reading through the entries, I turned on my GPS and it indicated we were right at the benchmark location (within the accuracy of the GPS - around 10-20 feet). So I started looking around for likely rocks (typically under an inch or two of moss) which might have a bronze disk cemented into it, and I soon noticed a small cairn, right at the foot of the tree with the canister. Recalling my experience of finding the benchmark for Boundary Peak yesterday right under that peak's cairn, I decide to look under this (much smaller) cairn. I had only to move one rock from the front, and there it was - the marker. It seems Dennis Crispo, who had put the canister there in 1987, and the 1915 survey team had the same idea of where the exact high point of this peak was. I asked Dennis, and he said he didn't put the cairn there, so I can only assume that the surveyors put it there in 1915. Roy also mentioned in 1983 that they occasionally found white plastic material spread out around some of the tops of these peaks. This was for spotting by the aerial surveys. In the center of the plastic, they would find these markers under a cairn. We actually found some remnants of this material under an inch or two of duff on a couple of these peaks.

Benchmark log: station LAYTON IBC

So I had not only bagged the 3K peak, I had bagged the benchmark. (Technically its called a triangulation station - hence the little triangle on the map - not a bench mark).

After we had finished this, we bagged Smart (sorry, no benchmark there) and then drove off to look for a logging road on the north side of Moose. Onestep describes that failed mission and he then tells of his and Oncoman's trip to Brown and West Rain.

Map: Topozone map (Smarts)

Kibby: Meanwhile, while they were off on that adventure, I went over and climbed Kibby. Kibby is a peak with a jeep trail to the top which I had climbed a couple of years ago as one of the NE Fifty Finest. Today I would search for not one but two benchmarks on it's summit. The history of these marks is interesting:

1915 the IBC set the triangulation station KIBBY IBC under the 50 foot fire tower which was on the summit.
1928 the Coast and Geodetic Survey set a new triangulation station KIBBY under what they thought was a new tower (it was actually the bottom of the old tower). They couldn't find the older IBC marker.
1941 the IBC came back and found both markers just over 2 feet apart under the tower, the older one was buried under an inch of dirt.
2006 Papa Bear (that's me) revisited the site and 1) found the 1928 CGS station (KIBBY) but it was damaged and only the stem and impression of the disk remained and 2) could not find the 1915 IBC station (KIBBY IBC) after an hour of measuring, digging and searching.

Here are the details if you're interested:
Benchmark log: station KIBBY
Benchmark log: station KIBBY IBC

Somewhat disappointed, but not overly surprised, I hiked out and returned to town.

Unfortunately, my partners were having a longer than expected adventure, so I had dinner at Mainley Yours by myself. The boys finally showed up at the Roadhouse around 9:30, so I didn't have to call out the Search and Rescue folks. This time we really did get a good night's sleep, since Mr. Sleep-talker was gone.

Map: Topozone map (Kibby)

Photos: West Smart (Layton), Smart and Kibby album

Distance hiked: I don't know, but I was tired.

Continued on next note ...
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Saturday July 15 - West Caribou, Peak 411, Peak 410, Bump and East Bump.

Please read Onestep's excellent account of todays hikes of the above peaks: Beaudry bottles & bushwhacks.

A few notes to add to his account.

Our original plan was to do the 6 3K peaks in the large loop starting at East Caribou, over the two other Caribous, onto the boundary and north to Monument 410, and then west along the ridge to Bump and East Bump. This was a lengthy day to put it mildly, and due the long day and late return from yesterday's adventure, I suggested we just cut it to the 3 peaks on the north ridge: Peak 410, Bump and East Bump. This sounded acceptable but then Oncoman mentioned he had in mind another peak on the boundary I had forgotton about, namely Peak 411, which was on the Quebec 1Km list. So I said, well as long as we are going to do that one, we may as well include West Caribou as well. Onestep had never done it, and although both Oncoman and I had done it, Oncoman had never gottewn to sign to canister.

So from 6 peaks we went to 3 (out of 6) then to 4 and finally to 5 (out of 7). The principal addition was about 5 miles of easy road and boundary walking. These would be easy miles (compared to the bushwhacks) but in the hot sun, these open shadeless walks would take a toll.

So off set we along the road to West Caribou and Onestep's account gives a good rendition for this hike.

One the benchmark front I had only the one on "Bump" to search for, As in the case of Layton, this was the name given by the surveyors in 1915 for the triangulation station on that peak. The name itself is probably just an in-joke, or maybe they just couldn't think of a better name.

There was one other benchmark we found however - on the base of boundarty monument 410 (a NE 3K peak) - and it was a "True" bench mark. That is it was a vertical control station, or a disk marking an accurate elevation. The IBC put a number of these true bench marks (as opposed to triangulation stations) on some of the boundary monuments to provide elevation control of their survey (the triangulation mathematics also depends on the elevation of the stations) and they evidently ran level lines along the boundary to do it. The USGS also made use of these elevation markers. You can see on the topo map for this area the text "BM" and the number "3319" at monument 410.


For illustration, here's a shot of this bench mark on monument 410, next to the triangulation station for LAYTON. Beside the coat of paint on the bench mark, the difference is the text "B + M" in the middle of the bench mark versus the triangle with the dot in the middle (just like on the map) on the triangulation station.

(Click for larger image)

I found the triangulation station on "Bump" with no trouble. In fact, I found it before we discovered the canister. It seems that Erik Schlimmer had also found it in 2004 as told in his log entry. Here's my log:

Benchmark log: station BUMP IBC

We finished up our 5 peaks around 4:00PM and Oncoman went his way back to Canada. Onestep and I drove together to Stratton where he settled accounts at the Roadhouse and then took off. Since I had a longer trip ahead of me, I stayed over one more night in Stratton, then drove to Natick on Sunday, and ultimately home to the Big Apple on Monday. It had been a great week. But of course! (who remembers the bugs anyway).

Map: Topozone Map (West Caribou and 411)
Map: Topozone Map (410 and Bumps)

Photos: West Caribou, Peak 411, Peak 410, Bump and East Bump album
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Papa Bear said:
Boundary, Benchmarks and Bugs (7/11-15/2006)
So why follow a list at all - just climb what you feel like. Problem with that is I need a little structure for my goals. Doing just "what you feel like" might mean I never get myself out the door. [/i][/b]

I sometimes find it difficult to explain the rationality of lists to very rational friends, and your explanation is the best I can think of. Lists like the ones you're working on have the further advantage that you'll meet no one other than the people who live, work or play there in their ordinary course (putting aside a handful of fellow amiable zealots, like Oncoman). Thanks for taking the time to put up all this interesting and entertaining information!
The difference six weeks can make... When I was in the Marble-Saddle area on Memorial Day weekend , the border swath was clear and easy to walk on and Monument 471 was not covered by anything. The trade off was all the large puddles on the ATV route in to La Petite Lac. Thanks for the great reports.
13 years later

It's been a while but I'm still alive and kicking and I remember dearly this trip and this thread. I'm not sure where my report was in 2006, but here it is today:
Boundary, Benchmarks and Bugs, dated July 11-15, 2006.

I've fixed all the broken links and moved all my photos on to Google so I've kept things pretty much up to date on my hiking web site. I was fixing some stuff today and noticed that my report on this trip had a link to this thread so I (doubtfully) tried it, and it still works! Hooray!

And here's the photo album for whole thing now on Google photos:

Photos from Boundary, Benchmarks and Bugs
It's nice to see Oncoman, Onestep and myself in 2006, and now in 2019 we haven't aged a bit!

I've also been reincarnating many of my of posts from VFTT and putting the threads on my web site. I did most of that a couple of years ago but there's still some on my to-do list. Here's the one for this trip (not this thread}:

Hiking/Peakbagging & Benchmarking Forum Posts. It has only two replies, so I most of the discussion was on Onesrep's thread Here. I'm thinking of capturing Onestep's thread as long as he doesn't mind.

Why bother doing this? In case VFTT dies at some Götterdämmerung and my site survives. Of course the opposite is perhaps more likely but even if I cross the River Styx, surely my son or grandson will keep my web site alive (yeah, right).

I've made a similar post on Kurt's thread of 7/16/2006: Beaudry bottles &amp bushwhacks
Keep on whacking,

Richard aka Papa Bear

PS: I met up with Spencer last week in NYC. He now lives in Connecticut and has a family of 4. Wow!
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