50 pics and some babbling from an early June adventure to the Caribou Speckled Wilderness in Western Maine. I’m mostly making YouTube videos these days, but this many pretty pictures deserved a post here too I thought!
Being trapped in Maine I’ve had to get more creative in planning my trips rather than wandering all over New England as usual. While we have done a family day hike of Blueberry Mtn and I enjoyed a fabulous Baldface Circle/Wild River loop a few years back, I’d never explored the Caribou Speckled Wilderness. Some research led me to put together this loop, with the open section a road walk on Hwy 113.
The plan was a relaxing two nights to cover about 15 miles of wilderness with a 1.5 mile road walk on one end. I’d wanted to make the second night the big summit night, but weather suggested I go the other way. That meant a short hike up to Speckled via Spruce Hill Tr. on day one so I got a late start, arriving at the East Royce Tr lot about noon.
A pretty quick stomp later found me setting up camp in the short trees just below the summit. I’ll be posting video later of this part of the hike, but the first pics I took were on top of the mountain.
Speaking of which… here come the pics!
This was supposed to be my good weather day, but as the afternoon wore on there was wind and sleet. I could see sunshine down in the valleys in the distance, but it was dark and cold on the summit. I wondered why no one else had come to camp, though I did meet one nice day hiker up there.
Given the dark skies and threat of frostbite I gave up on getting sunset pictures and retired to camp for dinner and bed. There was a plan to get up early for sunrise, though I had my doubts looking at the skies.
It was definitely worth getting out of bed for, though it was cold enough that I brought my quilt with me to the summit. It said 36°f on the thermometer in camp and the breeze on the summit had some bite to it.
I pulled this pic from my morning coffee video 🙂 You can just make out the top of Mt Washington over the ridge behind me. It was a little warmer now so I wasn’t wearing my quilt, but I can see from the look on my face that it wasn’t exactly warm up there heh.
Then it was time to head into the less traveled part of the wilderness. I had no clue where I was going, never having been here before. It was fun to have that sense of adventure that comes from not knowing what comes next.
The Red Rocks Trail was a steady series of rolling ups and downs as it traversed several mountains before finally reaching its namesake, Red Rock Mtn and then rolling down towards Miles Notch. I say rolling because despite dropping down it managed to go up hill more than a few times too.
The Miles Notch trail follows a brook for most of its length. There were a series of small crossings, easy rock hops at current levels. There also were an amazing number of bugs. There were enough black flies I had to put on my headnet for a while at times, despite the humid heat of the afternoon. There also were enough skeeters that I had to break out the picaridin, which almost never happens since I’ve begun treating my clothes with permethrin. Just a small squirt on the back of the hands and the back of the elbows did the trick.
There was some logging at the end of Miles Notch a while back, but I was able to follow the trail well enough to find the forest again. Once I reached the WMNF boundary I made camp for the night and enjoyed a little rain on the roof.
There are no pics from the rest of the trip I’m afraid. Haystack Notch Trail was an adventure like no other I’ve had before. It disappeared at times completely, with no trace of where it might have gone. Resorting to GPS I was able to relocate it, though even that was challenging at times. Somewhere in there I got turned around and found that the trail is much easier to follow heading in the other direction. I was making really good time until I realized that I was walking past where I’d camped the night before 🙂
Look for a video in a few days that tells the story more fully. This post was mostly about sharing all of those pretty pictures. This really was a great trip, despite getting lost in the wilderness heh. If you go this way I highly suggest coming armed with a GPS and a good .gpx track. A compass came in handy at times as well because phone compasses often seem to have no clue where they are pointing when you’re in the mountains. That is how I managed to get turned around even while looking at the GPS 🙂
Hope you are able to get out somewhere despite all the troubles in the world. Nature can be a soothing respite, though you may prefer smaller doses unless you appreciate getting lost in the wilderness as much as I do!
If you’ve followed my adventures you know I’m a lot more likely to camp out for a few nights than day hike. This was a rare exception and I was darn happy I went!!
42 pics and some babbling from a three day adventure in the deep freeze.
The forecast said it would be cold and clear. It was definitely both when I arrived at the Grafton Notch State Park lot. Despite a few other cars I wouldn’t see anyone until I got back to the lot three days later. These folks were likely either on Old Speck, Table Rock or ice climbing.
The view up towards Old Speck looked frosty with the higher elevation trees coverd in rime.
The Eyebrow looked icy and not the sort of place I want to visit in the Winter. Some folks enjoy that sort of thing heh, but I am too old for that much excitement.
The snow depth, while enough to cover most of the rocks, was a bit shallow for the sled. Deeper snow levels out the trail and buries obstructions. Pulling is easier and the sled tracks better.
By the time I got to the shelter site my quads were burning from the effort and I was losing daylight fast. Just enough time to melt some snow and make dinner before dark.
The mountain above me was still in full sun though. Seeing all that blue sky had me excited about getting up there the next day.
It was 1°F in the morning. With the sled I was able to bring my heavy insulated boots for standing around in camp. Bundled up and a hot cup coffee in hand, I was in pretty good spirits.
Given how cold it was I wasn’t in a big hurry to start the climb. Hanging out in camp covered with heavy insulation was the best way to appreciate the beautiful morning.
A bit after 9am I started the short, but very steep climb up towards the West Baldpate summit. It was challenging to balance the heat of my internal steam engine with the need for clothing in the single digit temperature.
For most of the climb I stuck to a very pronounced “rest step” which is totally the opposite of how I naturally climb. I like to keep moving, but that leads to sweating and in these conditions, sweating is a lot of trouble.
The cautious approach to the climb took time, but soon enough the sky started to open up above me. I didn’t track the exact time, but looking at my gps tracks it seems it was about 90 minutes from camp to summit at the no sweat pace.
This is what I wore on the climb, single 250wt wool base layer top and bottom, thin shell pants and a wool based jacket with light weight wool beanie. Enough to keep the frost off the outside while not holding too much heat.
Within a few minutes of reaching the summit I was reaching for insulation! Thankfully there was only a small breeze, but it was danger type cold up there. Time for the -30°F rated jacket and a face mask. Even well protected I was acutely aware of the importance of not pushing my luck up there. Solo hiking is always about being safe, but especially in these conditions.
My usual lunch of cheese, sausage and tortillas was frozen solid when I pulled it out. The nuts and berries of my trail mix seemed hard enough to break a tooth. It was very pretty, but time to start heading down.
Descending was of course a lot easier and since I didn’t have to focus on pacing myself I had a lot more time to appreciate just how beautiful it was in the woods.
It was a bit of a surprise how fast I arrived back at the shelter intersection. Happy to be close to my stove and a hot lunch, but a bit sorry the hike was over, I headed up towards camp.
I prefer not to sleep in this shelter, but I love the way it catches the winter sun in the afternoon. A great place to hang out and melt snow. Digging in my food bag I found the extra meal I’d tossed in was lasagna, which made an excellent late lunch.
You can see I’ve had to move my sit pad as I followed the sun across the bench. It was around 20°F, but that little bit of sunshine made it feel much warmer. Well, the -30°F coat probably helped too heh.
All too soon the sun was headed down again. Another 14+ hour night approached. For me, one of the hardest parts of winter camping is the long nights. I awoke at 11pm and read for an hour or so because it felt like I’d had a full night’s sleep by then.
In the morning I had the last of my frozen donuts with hot, strong coffee. The nights may be long, but winter camping also has its joys. I’d never carry donuts into the woods on a three season trip, but the bears are sleeping this time of year…I hope.
It wasn’t as cold on the second morning, but cold enough. Think it was around 15°F when I got up and felt like it was going to warm up a bit that day.
Then it was time to load the sled and head down the mountain. Somewhere near the road my tent popped off the sled. The shallow snow at the bottom was making it track poorly and it kept flipping over. I didn’t notice the tent was gone until I got home, hours later. I put out word and while I’ve had reports of it being spotted both in the woods and being picked up by a hiker, unfortunately the folks who picked it up haven’t found me yet.
While that tragic note takes some of the joy out of this adventure, there was so much dang joy that it hardly matters. Any trip to the woods is going to make me happy, but three days of blue sky sunshine above a sparkling winter wonderland left me feeling like a totally different person. I’m trying to keep that happy feeling rolling despite the stupid rain in the forecast later this week. I say bring on more Winter!!
Hope you’re getting out when you can. I’ve been too lazy to post here, but we’ve been snowshoeing all over the last couple months. Need to catch up on my Trailspace reviews, but I’ll try to share some of the local snowshoe pics when I can.
A detailed look at this year’s three night trip around one of Maine’s prettiest areas and one of my favorite hikes. This is long, so grab an appropriate beverage and settle in a comfy spot. Enjoy!
Video from an overnight visit to one of my favorite oceans. Enjoy!
32 pics and more than a wee bit of babbling from three days of blue sky and snow on one of my favorite mountains!
I’d had my eye on the weather for these three days. With a recent foot of fresh snow I was really hoping that someone would break out the trail over the weekend. Saturday was blown out but sure enough, some nice folks stomped me a trail on Sunday.
The buried signs at the side of the road were an early indicator that the snow was deep. Many blazes were between knee and ankle height along the way.
The weather totally came through for me. Cold, in the 20s at the parking lot, but lots of sunshine. Gusts of wind at time, but not the steady sort that makes you wear a lot of clothes.
Down low the trail was really well stomped. The route up to the viewpoint at the cliff is very popular. The folks over the weekend had to break trail from where the AT extends beyond the short loop.
This would have been a lot more work if I was breaking trail. As is, it was a bit of a sweaty climb given my load and lack of any real climbing in months.
I didn’t use my normal winter pack on this trip because I’m doing some testing with a different one. It was interesting paring down my winter kit to fit the reduced capacity. With three different sized thermos bottles of water and the big bottle of stove gas it came in at right around 40lbs. I did add some donuts on the drive in. They are tucked into the stove bag behind the shovel in this pic.
The shelter was well buried, but the wind had swept the front cleaner than other years. The snow over all was deeper than I was used to, but the wall in front wasn’t there. That blue sky was amazing. I recall worrying that I was missing the good day.
I had things to attend to though, so the summit would have to wait. First I wanted to get the hammock up and try out the new tarp. This one has doors on the ends and may become the distance shelter. That blowout on the Cohos last Fall made me see the benefits of doors heh.
Then there were evening chores to attend to. At this time of year there is no access to running water at this site. That means spending a lot of time melting and boiling snow. I started filling my thermos bottles, then got dinner soaking while I finished the bottles. With the temp dropping fast it was easy to get into the hammock before dark. With a good dinner and a chocolate donut in my belly it was easy to fall asleep before dark too heh.
There were some great stars during the night, but the blue skies were already returning by the time I rolled out of bed in the morning. I always love the feeling of coming out from under the quilts in the morning light and feeling the sting of the air. It feels like survival heh.
This is why I carry a cheapo refrigerator thermometer on all my trips. It is easy to read without glasses and the decimal comes in handy during wild temperature swings. I was glad to have the warning that morning on the Cohos when the flash freeze hit.
Time to melt some breakfast snow while I waited for the sun to do its thing. Coffee and a bag of breakfast slurry warmed the belly nicely. It had been a while since I’d been able to get out, but everything seemed vaguely familiar.
I stashed what I didn’t need for the climb at my camp. While I was there I grabbed one of the quilts and stuffed it in my pack…just in case heh. Then it was up up and up, into the trees. The snow was so deep that much of the climb was a wrestling match with branches that are normally well over head while walking on the ground.
On the way up I heard some footsteps in the distance below me. Thankfully I’d noticed him and stopped singing before he knew I was there heh. We chatted briefly as I let him pass by. He moving faster as he was dressed to sweat inside a shell. I was going for the cooler approach with thin wool layers and taking lots of breaks on the way up. It is hard for me to not attack a hill, but I kept making myself take slow steps. It didn’t work heh. I was still a little damp when I reached the top.
We took turns taking pics for one another and chatted a bit before he had to head down. Company is always appreciated more when you haven’t seen anyone for a while.
He was wearing some Baffin boots he was very pleased with. If you are out there man, I’d love to see a review on Trailspace 🙂
After he left I had to take my own pics. It was a lot of work so I treated myself to cheese and sausage because I’m worth it. OK, I’ll shut up and let you look at the pretty pics for a while…
Even with dark sunglasses I was pretty much blinded after a few hours up there. I knew I had a very steep descent and a few trees in my way so had to say good bye long before I wanted to.
Well, maybe just a few minutes more. I try to remember that there are no guarantees in life and every mountain may be my last. Sure hope not, but this was a darn good one to go out on!
On the way down there were some really steep drops. At the top of some of them were amazing views. It was important to view and drop separately hehe. With the soggy afternoon snow traction was entertaining enough that focus was important. Like I always tell my daughter about climbing mountains; You can look or you can walk, but don’t do both at the same time.
Nice views of the Whites on the other side of the border in NH. Spring is eating into the snow and the wind has helped in that regard. Won’t be long and there will be plenty of mud, at least down low.
With two solid days of blue sky it was hard not to hear the old ELO song in my head…”Mister blue, you did it right.”
“But soon comes mister night, creeping over, now his hand is on your shoulder”
“Never mind, I’ll remember you this, I’ll remember you this way.”
The second night was a bit warmer, but seemed very long. I was ready to get up and get moving. With the temp around 26°f it was easier to swap camp clothes for hiking clothes than the previous morning. Thankfully I managed to get everything loaded back up and I was on my way.
It was going to be another fabulous day. The light in the forest was amazing and I had to keep stopping to look at it. I recognized the terrain from some of the video I shot snowshoeing in deep powder here on a previous trip and was again pretty happy to be there.
Rather than complain about all the times I wasn’t there this Winter I was thinking about how happy I was at the moment. Good times heh.
Lower down I began to meet people day hiking. Maybe time to stop singing…or not heh. Spring definitely was waking up after a few days of strong sunshine. Up top it will take a while to eat through that deep snow. Even here it may be a while unless there is a warm rain. Soon though…soon.
A few pics and a short video from a couple of nights spent on my old friend the GLT. I went with the intent of doing a three night complete loop, but my other old friend, the weather surprise showed up with some tropical heat. By the morning of Day 3 it was too hot to be fun so I headed home.
The afternoon continued to heat up and get steamier. I pushed on past the Town Corner site due to the water there looking pretty grim. Should have stayed there because it got dark before I could make it to the Lane site.
I was trying out a different camera on this trip, a GoPro which is much smaller and lighter than my usual Sony. Trying to decide if the quality is good enough to save the weight. Also trying out a new editor, Davinci Resolve, to put together my videos. There may be some learning curve on both accounts, but I hope this works for you 🙂
(Don’t turn up the volume too loud or the waterfall will blow your ears out when it shows up.)
“It’s been a while, but lets see how this goes.” is a good theme for this trip and this post. Obligations at home and a Winter that seemed to have fears about commitment had left me unable to sneak away for more than a few hours at a time for quite a while. When things at home were conducive the weather would warm up to ruin the snow and bring rain. Finally given the chance to get out into actual snow I loaded up my sled and headed up one of my favorite mountains!
I didn’t have much time to work with so the plan was to set up camp for two nights near the MATC lean to on Friday in hopes of a clear summit at some point on Saturday. This was my first real world test of my sled. There were some issues to be found dragging gear up a mountain that didn’t occur during tests dragging my daughter around the golf course 🙂 Modifications have since been made and I look forward to more real world testing soon.Friday was definitely not the day to be on top of the mountain. Having been here many times before I knew which direction to point the camera for this shot. If not I would have had no clue there was a mountain there at all.I checked the tiny stream behind the lean to and while I could hear water way down below it was unreachable. Well at least by me, as I noticed the squirrels had kept little tunnels open so they could get to it. That is how I knew I was looking at about a foot of ice and then another foot or more of air before I’d reach that tiny trickle I could hear down there somewhere. That meant melting snow for water so rather than enjoying the afternoon quiet I got to work so I could have dinner before dark with all my bottles filled with warm water to get through the night.The low was around 20°f with a few snow squalls during the night. I was using my big tarp configured for snow and wind. That let me enjoy the sounds of the weather out there while snuggled warm in my hammock.Using the sled meant I could bring way too much crap and have a place out of the snow to keep it. After years of winter camping in a two man tent this is very different, but I am learning how to make it work for me. Not sure I’d enjoy it as much without the sled.The climb to the summit after breakfast was treacherous with lots of hard ice flows buried under varying amounts of snow. The steeper sections were a bit gnarly but I was testing out some back country snow shoes with pretty aggressive toe traction so didn’t switch to spikes.I was pretty happy to be done climbing because it meant I could take off my pack and start taking pictures. I’d been trying to get up to this spot to take some winter pictures for the last several years but kept getting chased off by rain on my summit day every time. Lots of good camping but no summit pics.
I’ll just shut up for a while now and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I shot about 100 pics while I was up there. The sun kept fighting through the clouds more and more changing the scene around me. I was pretty dang happy about it all!By camping on the mountain and hitting the summit early I had it all to myself for quite a while. Once I started down shortly after noon I soon began to meet folks on their way up. After more than 24 hours of solitude it was nice to share the beauty with other folks but nicer to move on and return to the peace of being alone in the snow.There was a lot of ice lurking under the recent snow. The warm melts combined with rain can create some beautiful but dangerous works of art.These sort of works of art are a lot less dangerous. Well so long as you stop to enjoy the view rather than trying to stare at them too hard while falling off an ice cliff heh.Speaking of stopping to enjoy the view…I was taking a much wider shot of some trees when I noticed this little bit of valley view hiding back there. I ended up liking this zoomed in shot more than the one I’d taken the camera out for.Back in camp the mountain was much easier to see now. It really isn’t far, but the climb is pretty steep so going up takes a lot longer than coming down.I was happy to be back in camp. I’d set up in the trees far enough away from the LT that the shelter mice didn’t seem to find me out there. Having camped here before I know there are some fearless rodents under that thing.I may have scared a few of them off by drying my feet and socks in the afternoon sun. It didn’t seem to bother the squirrels which were numerous and seemed to think I was in their house.A cup of potato soup is perfect in camp on a winter afternoon. To be honest though, I’m a fan of this soup and think it is pretty darn good for a summer trail lunch too!Sunday morning dawned as my last day here usually does with the best weather of the trip. Suddenly the mountain could be seen clearly. Definitely the day to be going up and as usual, I was going down heh.Speaking of which there definitely was some going down on the descent. Seems my snowshoe testing is so thorough that I’ve discovered an issue no one else appears to have ever reported. If you’ve had a similar experience I’d love to hear about it in detail including specifics of the snowshoe, boot and conditions. When descending a slope with the sled and maneuvering around a tree on the right I managed to slip the tail of my left shoe through the toe of my right shoe. One time is a fluke, but I did this multiple times coming down this mountain.
This only happened under very specific circumstances for me and so far my research is coming up with nothing in terms of other folks having something like this happen with these or any other shoe. Post comments here or email email@example.com please and thanks if you have any experience with something like this. I’d like to hear if anyone else has ever seen this sort of thing under any circumstances.Other than a few tumbles caused by that odd snowshoe hook up issue it was a great day to be coming down the mountain. Lots of sunshine on the snow and the day hikers were getting a late start. In the parking lot I ran into enough folks to make it a crowd but not enough to take any fun out of the day. The day hikers seemed confused by my sled or perhaps concerned I had a body on there.Definitely great to be out there for a few days. It has been a few weeks now and I’m ready for more. This is my sort of anger management!! Hope you are getting out where and when you can!
In honor of surviving the adventures of the last year, both solo and family, it seemed appropriate to celebrate my birthday with a hike. The weather certainly looked much better than we’d seen on our last adventure, so everyone was excited to get out there.
I picked a random spot on one of my White Mountains maps and a little research verified that it just might work. We loaded up the packs for a rare day hike and headed towards the ME/NH border where Rt 113 crosses the border a few times on its way between Rts 2 and 302Our goal was the top of Blueberry Mountain for lunch after climbing up the White Cairn Trail, then a walk across the short ridge and down the easy trail back to the road. Our little camper was excited at the prospect of bagging another peak. She has a lot of trail miles in her short years, but not too many mountains. This year she has started to use my old poles and thinks she is ready to hit the summits with daddy.She is both fearless and strong when it comes to adventure. We never have to push her into this stuff, but we often have to hold her back heh. Thankfully everyone remembered their head nets because inhaling black flies while climbing can be bad for your health.It really wasn’t supposed to rain on us, but the building overcast was looking a bit ominous at times. The early season greens seemed extra bright against the dark skies.On the NH side of the highway we could see Baldface and were glad we’d left that for another day. It has much more exposure, not to mention miles and elevation. Our little one will be ready for that next year I’m guessing, but more than she’d enjoy at this age.Both my wife and daughter have had far too few opportunities to get up into places like this. The experience was exciting enough to overcome the flies which I have to admit were pretty thick that day. Certainly not the most stunning view in the Whites, but through their eyes, and mine, it was a pretty special thing to take in.Here they are posing together, from the rear we have daughter, mother and fly. For the most part everyone remembered to lift their nets before putting food or water into their faces…for the most part heh. Even with the swarming bugs I have to say this was one of the best birthday meals I have ever enjoyed. After lunch we headed along the ridge and then took a side trail to the ledges. Looking at my topo maps I think we crossed the actual summit in here somewhere but we didn’t notice anything that day. Well we did notice this big hole in the ground! We had started down there somewhere to the right of the pond, only about 1150′ of climb to the 1781′ summit, but enough to count as a real mountain. Which of course means that these two are real mountain climbers!
Not sure which one I was more proud of, but hiking in a spot like this with them was a darn nice birthday present. It reminded me of how many times I’ve been in a spot like this and wished I could share it with them. It also makes me think about the all of the great places that will open up to us for family hiking and backpacking soon.Once my daughter was safely down the trail I dared to sneak closer to the edge for a few shots of the valley. I’ll just leave the view from the ledge as the end of this trip. The hike down included two groups of folks with uncontrolled dogs that took most of our focus so there were no more pictures. Other than that I would say we all had a great time with this strange day hiking thing. I’d have preferred to stay up there and camp, but dinner out and sleeping in a bed can be nice after a hike too. Certainly one of the best birthdays of my life and enough to make me want to stick around for another one to see if we can top it!