Two Night January Baldpate Trip

Two Night January Baldpate Trip

26 pics and a bit of babbling after a couple of frigid, but beautiful nights in the Maine woods. I won’t keep you in suspense, there will be amazing summit pics that risked frostbite and killed my batteries. Totally worth it!!

Seeing a few days of sunshine in the forecast I loaded up a pack to hit one of my favorite Winter backpacking spots. I try to do a Baldpates trip every year during snow season.

Last year the snow was several feet deeper when I was here. It was strange to see rocks in places and even open water in a few spots.

It was in the low 20s and breezy which is nice hiking weather as far as I am concerned heh. I had to go a bit slow on the steeper sections to avoid sweating, but all around a beautiful day for a walk in the woods with a 55lb pack on my back.

It didn’t look like anyone had been up the mountain in days and given the weather I wasn’t expecting to see many folks over the next few days.

I arrived at the Baldpate Shelter site around 130pm and had time to enjoy a cup of tea before setting up camp. Knowing the mice that live here I set up my hammock far off in the trees.

It was 14°f when I got up in the morning and cloudy. What else could I do but stand around and drink coffee while I waited to see what the weather would do? I was surprised by a trail runner who stopped in for a snack. He had already ran to the summit and back while I was drinking coffee! Soon after he left it started to clear and I headed up.

The wind at the summit was bitter cold. I love being up there, but you have to be careful not to freeze any bits off.

Looking towards the East peak is always tempting until stepping past these trees and into the full wind. I looked some, but didn’t go much farther.

Not sure how cold it was up there, but my camera batteries started dying fast. Everything shuts down in that sort of cold.

It does create the perfect frozen chocolate donut though!! A favorite treat on Winter backpacking excursions, the frozen donut takes at least 24 hours of frigid temperatures and a fair amount of smushing and crushing to reach perfection. This one was slightly better than that because it was really cold!

Then it was back down to camp for a couple of dinners. Some body heat managed to get the cameras running again so I was able to capture this view of the 4pm setting sun. It would be a long night, at least 487 hours from the feel of it, with a low around 12°f that hit by 7pm and held steady through 8am the next day. I rolled out of bed at 6am in the dark because I couldn’t stay in the hammock any longer. It was cold, but at least I was free heh.

I didn’t wait for the sun and headed down the mountain as the clouds burned off. It had been a great trip, but like most cold weather trips, I was ready to go home where a simple mistake probably won’t kill me. There is a fair amount of stress involved in making sure I stay alive out there, but given how pretty it all is, I think it’s worth the effort.

There will be a video or two coming from this trip as well. I shot about 8G so there ought to be something in there. Look for that on my YouTube channel in the coming week.

Early Oct Baxter Loop in Pictures

Early Oct Baxter Loop in Pictures

43 pics and a little babbling from an amazing early October Baxter State Park loop.

Whiddon Pond on the way from Roaring Brook to Russell Pond.

View from Turner Deadwater leaving Russell Pond headed towards Davis Pond on the NW Basin Trail.

Davis Pond slightly above freezing.

Davis Pond the next morning, well below freezing.

A progressively icy ascent.

Snowy and windy tablelands traverse.

Chimney pond chilly evening views. It warmed from low 30s to low 50s by morning. The sound of ice crashing down was frequent in the distance.

Basin Pond on the way out to Roaring Brook.

Check out the video if you want more babbling. I thought some of these pics were worth posting too. GoPro is nice in the rain, but doesn’t capture this sort of detail.

Speckled Mtn Haystack Notch Loop – 2 Nights of Wilderness Backpacking

Speckled Mtn Haystack Notch Loop – 2 Nights of Wilderness Backpacking

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!

Gear Testing

A short video to give you a little insight on what goes into really testing gear before I write my Trailspace reviews. The first part needed subtitles, but I think you can hear me shouting over the wind after that.

I suppose now that I’ve brought the subject up I should really do an update on my review page on this site. Its only been four years since the last one 🙂

Baldpate – Two Nights in January

Baldpate – Two Nights in January

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.

First 4 Days SOBO on the Cohos Videos

Was off to a nice start when two 85° days almost killed me. I tried not to take it personally. Spent a few days at home recovering with my family and putting these videos together. Much easier at home than on the phone 😉

Enjoy these for now; six vids in the playlist, four on trail and two since. I’m headed back to pick up the trail soon. Should be posting more video in a few weeks, either of the rest of the trail or the volcano explosion depending on how things go.

Atlas Spindrift Review Published on Trailspace

Stomped around in these all winter. Found them fun on gentle terrain and really fun in the mountains. Seeing some end of season deals on them out there.

Atlas Spindrift Review

If you like the reviews you find there on Trailspace consider becoming a member there. You can comment and vote on the reviews, write your own or visit the forums for advice or entertainment. It doesn’t cost anything and more people involved means more information we can all share.

Notes From the Field or Existential Crisis Averted Day 4

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Trail journals are a personal thing by nature. Just as hikers hike in their own way, they journal in their own way too. Some folks spend a great deal of time during the day on trail and in camp, focused on filling pages with notes about their experience or something. Not sure as I haven’t ever been rude enough to ask what all the scribbling was about heh. Other folks carry a journal that they never remember to write anything in at all and the rest either fall in between or don’t even think about it in the first place.

I tend to fall into the group that carries a journal, but rarely remember it is there when I’m on an adventure. Partially that is due to my focus on what I’m doing at the time rather than thinking about documenting it. Partially it is because of the way my memory allows me to retrieve the experience later negating the need to write it down at the time. The rest of the explanation likely has to do with my love of cheese and sausage. Why spend time writing when I could be eating‽

My journals tend to come along for several trips before anything gets written down. By then the paper has soaked up humidity and dried out again numerous times. Combined with the friction of the pages rubbing against each other while riding hundreds of miles in my pack that gives the paper an odd feel; Sort of spongy and porous so neither ink nor pencil produce sharp lines. I find that fitting for the notes I tend to leave myself in my journals as they are often just a few hazy words giving a slight indication of what was on my mind. Just enough to remind me of what I was thinking when I made the note with no effort made to convey complete thoughts. These notes can be amusing when seen later at home with a head full of coffee and a roof over my head.

The note in the picture above is a great example of that. “Existential crisis averted Day 4” has few details, yet conveys enough of a message to fill pages of notes as I look back on that moment now. This is from a week long, solo trip I took to Baxter State Park in early June of this year. It was my first chance to get out on trail for over two months and over the first few days of the trip my brain was a mess. There seemed to be a lot of questions about who I was and what I was doing wandering around the forest by myself. Should I be home being a husband or daddy? Should I be working or saving the world? It seemed that I had only questions and answers with no clue which were important in either category. Who was I supposed to be?

So I wandered through the forest for a few days, going through the actions of making water, camps and meals with all of this turmoil in my head. Then on the fourth morning, as I relaxed in camp before loading up for the day, I realized that the noise had stopped. Questions and answers had stopped swirling and I could see what was important…the answer to who I was supposed to be.

I was just a guy, sitting in the woods, happy. There could be no more clear answer than that. While I remain husband and daddy wherever I roam and those callings come first, I am at heart a man who is happy in the wilderness. Alone or with others, being out there is time well spent and accepting that fact empowers a person with the conviction to go and do and be.

If you’re the sort who doesn’t carry a journal or remember to make any notes, maybe give it a shot sometimes. Just enough to jog your memory later and bring back a moment. If you’re the sort who fills pages of notes in one of those big books every day on trail, maybe ease up and experience the ride a bit more without letting the notes take all your focus.

Just that one faded, scribbled line in a rumpled notebook was enough to take me to that moment and bring it back in full detail. I can see the camp at Long Pond in the morning light, hear the red-wing blackbird and woodpeckers, and know what it feels like to be where I’m supposed to be. Soon…