Marston Slide - Baxter State Park

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peakbagger

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The Marston Slide trail at Baxter State Park has been abandoned for 30 plus years. Over my early hiking years I had heard references to this trail but when I started heading up to Baxter to work on the 100 highest, the new Marston Trail was built as well as the Mt Coe connector allowing a hiker to do a long loop with side spurs to tag Fort, N&SBrother and Coe. I really didn't know a lot of hiking folks who knew the trails well at Baxter, but some comments referring to this route as the "beast of the east" and others describing it as one of the best hikes in all of BSP definitely added to my interest.

When I first did the loop there was a odd older BSP sign (the ones with the painted BSP logo) along the trail in an unusual location somewhat near the spur to South Brother. It was the type of sign that one would usually see at an intersection but it was just at a seemingly random point on the trail although we did note a spot for another perpendicular facing sign on the post and an obvious brushed in route heading down slope. The Coe connector was very new at this point so I filed this away in my memory and vowed to return someday as we were out bagging summits that day. I would guess this hike was 20 to 25 years ago.

Fast forward to this January, I decided to take the trip to head quarters for opening day in January. One of my goals this year was to see if I could find the slide and the former trail to the slide. I started by searching on the web but didn't get a lot of luck. Aaron a VFTT member sent me some photos and fond memories of the slide but not a lot of details. MadRiver of VFTT was curious and wanted whatever info I had on this hike as he was heading up for Baxter Bash. I expected that he would find the route and send his findings for my hike this past Friday 8/30, but due to some significant higher priority issues at home , I got to do this hike with what little info I had collected. Of great value is the 1987 USGS Doubletop Mtn Maine - Provisional edition 1988 has the former trail marked as well as the Coe connector but does not show the new Marston trail. Google earth also has some fairly high resolution recent images for this area. Based on these resources anyone with basic map navigation skills should not have a problem locating the old route. I had a GPS and have some waypoints at various points of interest but I will let others do their own research.

The usual caveat applies, this is an abandoned trail in a somewhat remote area, you may get hurt and despite being not that far from other trails if you get hurt its highly likely that you have to self rescue, Cell overage is spotty or non existent. I recently purchased and carry a PLB

I had left Gorham NH real early in the AM and headed up to Baxter. I was at the gate at 8:30 AM and was at the Marston Trailhead at Slide dam at around 9:30. I headed out and soon arrived at the obvious departure point to the old trail. The old trail bed was well brushed in and the 30 plus years of abandonment has contributed to a fair share of newer blow downs. In a few spots the blow downs required traversing around them and on occasion they may coincide with a turn in the trail. It would become quite obvious I was off the trailbed and with a bit of looking left or right I would usually find the trail bed that was 6 to 8 feet wide. I saw some older evidence of trimming from years ago but no paint of ax blazes. Eventually at the edge of a open boggy area I found an old sign nailed to trail with another sign on the ground, neither has any trace of lettering but it was good confirmation. The trail then crossed a brook (most likely the Roaring Brook that was roaring in name only) and entered the boggy area. There were numerous game trails cross crossing the area but despite searching a few of them there was no trace of trail bed. Using a GPS waypoint I had programmed and mostly dead reckoning I went no more than a 100 yards heading NE and came out right at the base of the slide. My altimeter was around 2300 feet.
Bottom.JPG

The slide is quite wide with few debris down low. The granite has great traction unless wet and then a combination of green/black and white biological growth makes it extremely slick. I climbed various dry sections on occasional hiking up a dry tongue and got stranded with wet slicks to either side. I eventually switched to climbing along the south side of the slide occasionally pushing through the thick growth. Here is a typical view from the side. At no point did a see blazes or any obvious route.
wetslab.JPG

I was completely clear in the AM but as I ascended some clouds started to form. I did manage to catch a partial view of DoubleTop and the region to the west before leaving the slabs
view.JPG

About 1/3 of the way up the slide changed from slabs to a loose gravel rocky texture. It wasn't hard going but the chances of starting a rock fall was quite evident. I would expect this might have been one of the reasons for the relocation.
upper.JPG

The rest of the climb was in the loose gravel/rock mix with some evidence of a substantial gully from a later slide event. I did find a couple of blue blazes along the way. Nearing the upper section of the slide there was a distinct change in terrain with the slide starting to grow in from the sides and small brush starting to stitch the gravel back together. The going was quite good so I kept heading up to the head of the slide while looking for an exit to either side. I didn't find an exit and ended up going to the top edge. My altimeter read about 3400 with the Coe Connector junction at or near 3500 so I just headed up after looking for any obvious exit paths. I didn't find any despite zigzagging across the slope through some thick steep stuff. About 10 to 15 minutes later I popped out on the Coe connector just south of the South Brother Spur. I came out within 10 feet of a Coe Connector sign mounted at a seemingly random spot of the trail. I would not suggest trying to find the top of the slide from the Mt Coe trail unless you have a GPS coordinate to the top of the slide as it is quite narrow and a slight misalignment may put you parallel with the slide in thick growth. The forecast was for showers so I didn't spend a lot of time looking for where the former trail route came into the trail and the colorful BSP sign was no more. I encountered a hiker coming down the South Brother Spur so I joined him for the hike to the North Brother Spur. I had company arriving at Bear Brook and the summits were in the clouds so I headed down the Marston Trail back to the Coe Junction, I encountered many folks heading up towards North Brother as I descended. I stopped by the pond and discovered that hitting my trail runner flat on a rock at the edge of the pond created a perfect echo of a rifle shot. I expect some folks heading up or down thought someone was having target practice;). After the short break I completed my loop. This spot may be a good reference for those attempting to recreate my trip
completing my loop.
junction.JPG .

I was back at the car in about 4 hours round trip.

Overall, the slide is not the "Beast of the East" and arguably the North Slide of the Tripyramids is more technically challenging in spots. In no place does it get as loose as the south slide of Trypyramid. The slide is wide and the views are great. As it is rarely traveled, the valid concern of creating rock slides which could hit hikers below is of far less concern than on trailed route (like the Saddle trail off of Baxter). In some ways I would prefer this slide to the open slabs of the Mt Coe slide. Realistically given the interest in NE100s list, the bigger issue is that the slide route is redundant. Those just out for North Brother only generally use the Marston Trail as a rainy day hike and may not have the skill level needed to assess the slide thus the rerouted Marston trail provides a more reliable sheltered graded route (although even it is starting to be in need of significant maintenance due to erosion). Those out for the 100 highest most likely would do the Coe/Marston Loop as using the Marston Slide would add distance. For off trail navigation, this at best a 2 out of rating of five, easily doable with good map skills.

For those who want a truly secluded route with great views and 1200 feet of vertical slide its worth the trip on a nice day preferably after a dry spell. I expect photographers with a bit more time and forecast could explore around and find a lot of special spots that I missed. I would definitely recommended it to someone with a few days in the park looking for some new routes.
 
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Sounds like a fun trip up a different route - next time I see a sign in the middle of no where I will think there is some secluded abandon trail somewhere near by.

Kudos for remembering something from that far back - I have trouble remembering what trail I took when I get back to my car.
 
The Marston Slide trail at Baxter State Park has been abandoned for 30 plus years. .
Excellent trip report. Not to split hairs but I don't believe it has been quite 30 years.... yet close. I did all of four of these peaks in one day on my first round of the NE100 in 1986 using the Marston Slide trail as the decent route in 1986... and yes it was an open and marked trail. Again great trip report and kudos to you for reliving this gem.
 
Thanks for the info on how long it has been closed. I don't keep records on when I hike summits so I have to rely on guesses of when I hiked a route. I do remember distinctly that when I did the loop the Coe connector was brand new with fresh cut marks and the Marston trail was also quite new.
 
You know, we saw a random sign near the South Brother Spur, parallel to the direction of travel, and remarked "that's an odd sign in an odd place". I wonder if it marked the top of the slide route? As I recall, it was in pretty good shape.

Tim
 
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