Mt. Coe, the Brothers and Fort Mountain - September 18, 2023

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Rhody Seth

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Dec 18, 2015
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Charlestown, RI
Our trip to Baxter State Park featured two full days, with light rain forecast on day 1 and heavier rain on day 2. We took our time getting up on day 1, having returned from our Katahdin summit late and skulking into the Roaring Brook bunkhouse at 11:15 AM. If I felt bad about potentially waking up the other denizens, it was wiped away when one of them had a very loud alarm go off at 5:45 AM, and struggled to locate where he had put it. At any rate, those few in the bunkhouse cleared out by 6:30 and Pete and I dozed for another hour or so. Upon getting up - or rather trying to - I quickly became aware of the damage I had done to my quad the previous night.

I had smashed my thigh into a sawed off down tree with about a mile to go on the Chimney Pond trail and it proved a costly mistake - I had significant pain just trying to pull that leg out of my sleeping bag. Putting my boot on was a painful affair and I walked with a slow tentative gait down the bunkhouse steps. How would I be able to hike today?

It loosened up a bit with some movement but it definitely wasn't great. However the forecast was looking up with no rain on the immediate horizon and I was committed to at least attempting our day's hike. Which would be a big loop to go over four peaks - Mt. Coe, South Brother, North Brother and finally, a bushwhack from North B to Fort Mountain. An hour drive was ahead of us as nothing is close up there and I was glad Pete was willing to get us there.

There was plenty of discomfort immediately but it was manageable. A bigger issue was the lack of mobility. I couldn't lift the leg as high. And it was hard to put pressure on that leg, making the water crossings extra difficult. Thankfully there was nothing like the previous day's water to contend with. We started on the Marston Trail for the first 1.2 miles and then veered off onto the Mt. Coe trail, which featured some nice open areas and views of the interesting rocks atop Mt. Oji. Soon though the trail turned up towards the Coe Slide and here the real challenge began.

Much of the slide, especially towards the bottom, had a sheen of water running down it. Pete handled it well but I struggled for purchase and was choosing my route extra carefully. As we ascended into the open, there was much more dry rock and I climbed confidently but we still had to contend with a very tricky spot near the top where wet rock and steep slab left little room for error. Finally I reached the top of the slide and a few hundred feet further led to the summit of Mt. Coe which offered tremendous views of Katahdin.

Upon descending from Coe to South Brother, a new discovery - going down felt much worse than going up. Often I'm the faster hiker, waiting for my compatriots but on this day I was the one lagging behind, taking my time and managing the discomfort. I took more aspirin which helped and was thankful when the trail began to climb again. The short 0.3 spur to South Brother is a nasty bit of work, with a couple bouldery section which are really tricky to navigate. At the summit, a few scattered raindrops threatened and we didn't linger long as the cold wind soon chilled us.

The climb up North Brother was a stream, not too difficult but care had to be taken. By now the quad pain retreated to a dull ache and I had more confidence in my steps. The summit of North B is a cool alpine zone and we debated our next move. We were both feeling the hike already. Should we call it a day or press on to Fort Mountain? I was in favor of continuing and soon we were pushing our way through dense scrub bush - there was a path to follow, if you could see it through the scrub. Regretting our choice of shorts now, there trail opened up and was easier to follow as we reached the low point between the peaks. Then we were fighting the scrub again. The summit of Fort seemed to have two cairns fighting for supremacy. One had an old steel radio until built into the cairn, suggesting legitimacy but my watch indicated the other peak was the true summit. We visited both for good measure.

It began spitting in earnest and we slogged our way back to North Brother. Now it would be all downhill. It was slow going for me down to the trail junction. Well, I guess it was slow going for me the rest of the way but thankfully there was a long easy section of trail for awhile past the junction. The rain thankfully was pretty light for the rest of our hike and (not) soon enough we were back at the truck, done for the day. A tough hike but I'm glad we did it in the end We got back to the bunkhouse (which would be ours and ours alone for the next two nights), grilled up some burgers and ate like kings. This would be the last major hike of the trip (I'd explore the Roaring Brook Nature Trail the next day because I'm a glutton for punishment) and we'd spend the following rainy day relaxing and enjoying the dry bunkhouse.

With this hike, it brought my NE67 count to #59 and my NE 100 Highest to #71. I didn't make it up Hamlin on this trip but my friends are already planning a Baxter trip for 2024.

So that is what that area looks like without clouds and fog. Been in that area twice and the best views I had were in your video....:ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:20230913_113637.jpg

I can sympathize with you on that quad issue. Years ago going up Chandler Ridge Trail I smacked my quad just above the knee on a huge rock obscured by the scrub as I was reaching tree line as part of a Washington/Jefferson/Adams/Madison loop. It was sore but OK with all the climbing but as I was descending the steeps on Jefferson I realized it had swollen so much that I couldn't straighten my leg out. I popped some Advil and rest of the hike was OK but man it was sore. I can't imagine doing the Coe/Brothers/Fort loop like that. Those summit cones are very steep and rough.
A bummer that the North Brother Trail reconstruction/relocation keep getting psuhed back. Its been in desperate need for 20 years.
A bummer that the North Brother Trail reconstruction/relocation keep getting psuhed back. Its been in desperate need for 20 years.
That is an understatement. That was probably one of the roughest sections of "trail" I can recall hiking anywhere. I should have took a better look at the map too. The cone of North Brother climbs about 650 ft in just 0.3 miles, a comparable elevation to the Huntington Ravine headwall (without the demanding scrambles obviously). I took a quick glance at the map and was expecting a short, steep section. When I was in that flat "river is trail" section the clouds lifted enough briefly to reveal a wall ahead of me I was like "Whoa. That looks like quite a climb..."