Chandler/Sable

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NHClimber

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Posting because probably not a lot of folks go to these two. Today I followed SectionHiker whack route (Bushwhacking Sable and Chandler - SectionHiker.com) from 2015. It remains reasonably accurate except my GPS showed 8.85 miles and I followed their route to a tee. Route finding following their track generally was fine. Going up Chandler was a bit of a slog through super wet/deep leaves terrain with some moderate dense spruce near top for very short distance. Canister easy to find. Going down Chandler to Sable was mostly easy and open. Meaningfully dense spruce approaching top of Sable meant for slow going for a while. Very wet with 1" or so of snow on surfaces. Top of Sable a bit overgrown and hard to locate canister, which is on a tree that is not obvious and not on any real herd path that I could discern. The initial descent for first half mile or so on the east ridge was super thick and annoying but I did stray a little south of the ridge. Then pretty suddenly the spruce just disappears and you come out in wide open hardwood terrain that makes for super fast movement. Crossed Slippery Brook at 6.5 miles on the GPS and had trouble locating the trail. Went south a few tenths of a mile and headed up from river and stumbled on the trail. Booked it back from there. 5.02 hrs, 8.85 miles, 1.9 mpg avg. Partly sunny, low wind, mid to upper 30's.
 
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When I did that hike about 6 years ago in the fall, the old trail between the two was quite visible coming down off Chandler. Once we neared the col with Sable we lost it. We might have crossed it going up Sable once or twice as it was not obvious. We used the various old logging roads to climb partially up Chandler but once we got into the former patch cuts, it was thick and brushy, but once out of the cut it was nice going in mostly birch glades loaded with moose antlers. We tried "cutting the corner" from Sable back to the fire road by going Southeast, assuming it would be easy going, it was not and the logging roads we encountered were going the wrong way. We eventually came out on the section of Slippery Brook trail that was relocated away from the brook to the road about 25 years ago and followed that out back to the gate on the fire road. We did not use GPS so it was strictly map, compass and dead reckoning. Someone with a map ap did turn it on later in the day and it showed the former route of Slippery Brook Trail rather than the new one.

That whole area of the WMNF used to be a popular spot for forest service operations as it was out of the sight of typical tourists. There is lot of old patch cuts and skidder paths are over that area.
 
When I did that hike about 6 years ago in the fall, the old trail between the two was quite visible coming down off Chandler. Once we neared the col with Sable we lost it. We might have crossed it going up Sable once or twice as it was not obvious. We used the various old logging roads to climb partially up Chandler but once we got into the former patch cuts, it was thick and brushy, but once out of the cut it was nice going in mostly birch glades loaded with moose antlers. We tried "cutting the corner" from Sable back to the fire road by going Southeast, assuming it would be easy going, it was not and the logging roads we encountered were going the wrong way. We eventually came out on the section of Slippery Brook trail that was relocated away from the brook to the road about 25 years ago and followed that out back to the gate on the fire road. We did not use GPS so it was strictly map, compass and dead reckoning. Someone with a map ap did turn it on later in the day and it showed the former route of Slippery Brook Trail rather than the new one.

That whole area of the WMNF used to be a popular spot for forest service operations as it was out of the sight of typical tourists. There is lot of old patch cuts and skidder paths are over that area.
Thx. Funny that old logging roads in many cases tend to be far worse to follow than just staying in the woods. Old logging roads get overgrown with brush and tend to be boggy, particularly at staging areas and dead ends from which skidder tracks emanate in all directions. There is a large drainage headed more directly southeast off Sable but getting into it is fairly steep and thick spruce as opposed to sticking to the East ridge, which is a more gentle shoulder that, as noted above, opens up to wide open hard wood forest. I saw tons of Moose prints - in fact, the dog was more than happy to take the lead following a moose track straight up over Chandler. I think the moose walk by the canister. Btw, no longer any antlers wedged into the canister hangers. I tried to tell myself I saw parts of the old trail, but I really couldn’t tell to be honest. My GPS Topo map actually shows the old trail but I didn’t bother following it because whenever i purportedly crossed it, I couldn’t see much of anything. I wanted to believe, but it just wasn’t there…
 
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I have had mixed experiences on old logging roads and generally worse experiences on skidder trails. If the road was used for trucks and led to a yard, that usually meant that the topsoil was stripped, some gravel was hauled in and drainage was improved. In that case the regrowth is delayed a long time and the roads are usually worth using. In the case of Chandler FR 17A was in good shape up past several landings and saved us some time. Once at the landings we hit intense early regeneration and it was rough going but I expect in the intervening five plus years, it may be thinning out. As the old logging railroad spurs like Red Rock and Owls Head or many of the dugways illustrate, official fire roads remain a useful tool for getting through the woods for decades despite no use. The FS was severely constrained during and after the Clinton administration to the present by the "roadless rule" and they had to inventory and formalize any roads that existed up to the date the rules went into effect. Thus FR 17 and all its offspring (A through F) along Town Hall Road, the FR 38 "family" and especially 238 remain as viable routes as they were built as roads and can be reused in the future when FS elects to do another cut.

I agree that once past the log yards where trucks traveled, skidder paths and patch cut "roads" are usually a mixed bag, in theory they were temporary and built for winter use and in my experience are wet and muddy, the woods tend to retake them quickly, they may be a viable option for a year or two but once the blackberries move in, game over except for winter snowshoeing. When we did the SE cross country route from Chandler we came into a large recent patch cut on the side of Chandler and did find a fairly easy to travel road network, unfortunately for us it avoided the lower wide and wet area adjacent to Slippery Brook and turned sharply NW and no doubt connected up with FR 17 further up the road from the gate which was where we were parked.

Nevertheless that area is rarely visited place. The obscured views from Sable are interesting, one good lighting strike on dry year could make it a nice view spot ;) . GIven the apparent moose density 5 years ago, no doubt the winter tick has ravaged the moose population in that area despite it being excellent habitat.
 
Thanks for all of those great perspectives. It’s a nice area for sure. Peaceful. 17A was very overgrown and not worth the effort. This is the principal FR that heads towards Chandler from the trail head. On the way down Sable going mostly east (ESE really) you hit 5046 and in hindsight I should have taken a right and headed south in that. It had a reasonable path on it. Not too overgrown. But I opted to stay on my heading and go a little further east to Slippery Brook. The main road FR17 is the snow machine trail, which branches off on 5049 and heads over to 113 / Deer Hill Road.
 
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When crossing Slippery Brook the trail is likely a good climb up the other side. Backpacking the trail with my son some years ago I thought the river would be more accessible to get water, but we had to backtrack to find a way down.
 
When crossing Slippery Brook the trail is likely a good climb up the other side. Backpacking the trail with my son some years ago I thought the river would be more accessible to get water, but we had to backtrack to find a way down.
That would appear to be the case. I did hike up the steep hillside looking for the trail but did not go far enough east. So I returned to the brook and headed south a few tenths and then climbed up again and found the trail maybe a tenth of a mile or so before it hits the road. It must turn meaningfully northeast when it leaves the road going northbound. I have a thought next time to whack up the west side of Eastman to save some meaningful distance. I read somewhere that someone whacked down Eastman to Slippery Brook and that it was straightforward. But since I enjoy the South Baldface ledges, I will probably approach Eastman from the top of the South Baldface ledges. I hope to do both approaches at some point.
 
Years ago, we did a Baldfaces-Sable-Chandler-Eastman loop, hardest part was following the Slippery Brook trail in the dark. Mostly open woods with very few blazes.
 
I did a long near loop one day with a redliner to grab some trails that only a redliner would want to visit. We went up Slippery Brook trail from the end of Town Hall road, then up the summit of south Baldface skipping the ledges, on the far more popular north section of the Eastman Moutain trail before connecting to the Baldface CIrcle trail, then over the summits north to Eagle Crag (?) then west down into the Wild River valley on the Eagle Link Trail on a poorly marked very grown in Eagle Crag Link that was in desperate need of major brushing as the birch glades it went through were dead and dying leading to major raspberry bushes blocking out the trail. We made it down to the WIld RIver trail and then headed north up the headwaters of the Wild River where the trail progressively got wetter. We lucked out a bit as there had been some recent maintenance with brushing and new bog bridges but it was swamp romp in sections. We didnt think it could get much worse until we hit the intersection of the East Branch trail and the Wildcat River trail. The East Branch trail hiked through and along side a swamp with no attempt at bog bridges. Once we made it over the upper watershed into the Saco RIver basin and out of the Wilderness area, the trail was hard to follow and even then it was barely marked. Eventually it came out on an old logging road along the river and then abruptly came out on the end of the East Branch road. A very long day hike in some interesting territory. With the exception of the car spot along East Branch road, we had circumnavigated around Sable and Chandler.
 
I did a long near loop one day with a redliner to grab some trails that only a redliner would want to visit. We went up Slippery Brook trail from the end of Town Hall road, then up the summit of south Baldface skipping the ledges, on the far more popular north section of the Eastman Moutain trail before connecting to the Baldface CIrcle trail, then over the summits north to Eagle Crag (?) then west down into the Wild River valley on the Eagle Link Trail on a poorly marked very grown in Eagle Crag Link that was in desperate need of major brushing as the birch glades it went through were dead and dying leading to major raspberry bushes blocking out the trail. We made it down to the WIld RIver trail and then headed north up the headwaters of the Wild River where the trail progressively got wetter. We lucked out a bit as there had been some recent maintenance with brushing and new bog bridges but it was swamp romp in sections. We didnt think it could get much worse until we hit the intersection of the East Branch trail and the Wildcat River trail. The East Branch trail hiked through and along side a swamp with no attempt at bog bridges. Once we made it over the upper watershed into the Saco RIver basin and out of the Wilderness area, the trail was hard to follow and even then it was barely marked. Eventually it came out on an old logging road along the river and then abruptly came out on the end of the East Branch road. A very long day hike in some interesting territory. With the exception of the car spot along East Branch road, we had circumnavigated around Sable and Chandler.
Yup, you did quite a loop. Eagle Crag is the crag just northeast of North Baldface. East Branch Trail parallels the road until the road dead ends. I believe the trail is partially on the old rail bed. It is swampy when you get way back there on the west side of Chandler and Sable. But no crowds!
 
Reportedly the logging firm that logged that area had the rights up to the Saco River watershed boundary with the Wild River, they saw a lot of nice logs on the other side of the boundary and cut them and cabled them up and over the slope.
 
I did a long near loop one day with a redliner to grab some trails that only a redliner would want to visit. We went up Slippery Brook trail from the end of Town Hall road, then up the summit of south Baldface skipping the ledges, on the far more popular north section of the Eastman Moutain trail before connecting to the Baldface CIrcle trail, then over the summits north to Eagle Crag (?) then west down into the Wild River valley on the Eagle Link Trail on a poorly marked very grown in Eagle Crag Link that was in desperate need of major brushing as the birch glades it went through were dead and dying leading to major raspberry bushes blocking out the trail. We made it down to the WIld RIver trail and then headed north up the headwaters of the Wild River where the trail progressively got wetter. We lucked out a bit as there had been some recent maintenance with brushing and new bog bridges but it was swamp romp in sections. We didnt think it could get much worse until we hit the intersection of the East Branch trail and the Wildcat River trail. The East Branch trail hiked through and along side a swamp with no attempt at bog bridges. Once we made it over the upper watershed into the Saco RIver basin and out of the Wilderness area, the trail was hard to follow and even then it was barely marked. Eventually it came out on an old logging road along the river and then abruptly came out on the end of the East Branch road. A very long day hike in some interesting territory. With the exception of the car spot along East Branch road, we had circumnavigated around Sable and Chandler.
I did this exact loop as an overnight with the addition of the Mountain Pond loop, staying on an old rail grade in the Wild River that they didn't put the trail on and fly fishing the east branch. Only time I've been skunked in the woods.
 
I did this exact loop as an overnight with the addition of the Mountain Pond loop, staying on an old rail grade in the Wild River that they didn't put the trail on and fly fishing the east branch. Only time I've been skunked in the woods.
Sounds like that trip stunk…
 
That would appear to be the case. I did hike up the steep hillside looking for the trail but did not go far enough east. So I returned to the brook and headed south a few tenths and then climbed up again and found the trail maybe a tenth of a mile or so before it hits the road. It must turn meaningfully northeast when it leaves the road going northbound. I have a thought next time to whack up the west side of Eastman to save some meaningful distance. I read somewhere that someone whacked down Eastman to Slippery Brook and that it was straightforward. But since I enjoy the South Baldface ledges, I will probably approach Eastman from the top of the South Baldface ledges. I hope to do both approaches at some point.
There is an abandoned trail up the south side of Eastman you might consider. I've not done it, but once when I was on Eastman a hiker emerged at the summit saying that that was the way they got there.
 
According to Belcher’s writings, Oakleigh Thorne’s Conway Lumber Company logged the area of upper East Branch and Slippery Brook for a short period of 5 years ending in 1919. They were up against a quickly expanding national forest and the fact that private landowners to the south controlled access to the deeper sections of the forest. Hence, a short-term access lease that was not renewed. The Bald Land Trail was developed to access the upper areas of the East Branch. They had to move fast because of inflated prices and demand during WW I. There is a photo of abandoned camp #5 along the East Branch RR but Belcher’s hand drawn map does not indicate where the camp was located.
 
There is an abandoned trail up the south side of Eastman you might consider. I've not done it, but once when I was on Eastman a hiker emerged at the summit saying that that was the way they got there.
Thx. Yes, I’ve seen that on the historical Topo maps. Of course, given what I know about the (non) existence of other abandoned trails in the area, it might not be worth trying to find. There were a lot of old trails throughout that entire region.
 
Reportedly the logging firm that logged that area had the rights up to the Saco River watershed boundary with the Wild River, they saw a lot of nice logs on the other side of the boundary and cut them and cabled them up and over the slope.
According to Gove’s book on the Saco River logging railroads, cabling was done over Maple Mountain on the Rocky Branch RR. Presumably it was done in other locations as well.
 
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