First of two videos from last week’s Grafton Loop trip. This is the narrated version with some babbling at times. Look for an extended cut with no babbling to come along soonish. I recorded a lot of trail hiking on this trip!
Mostly just a dump of some beautiful Fall pics, but a little babbling as well. Video to follow.
Wanting to spend some quiet time on familiar trails I decided to head up to one of my favorite spots. I loaded the bear can for three nights in case I was feeling sporty and headed up Puzzle Mtn mid morning on a Tuesday. The parking lot was empty and so was the trail for the next 28 hours or so.
The weather was oddly tropical for mid October in Maine. Warm and humid with no air movement at all, even on the summit. Very pretty, but sweaty so you see lots of pics of the trees and none of me heh.
Day 2 started off dark and damp with the sun not rising til after 7 and a heavy dew. I made coffee and enjoyed my bag of cereal as the light lifted. Once I could see I broke camp which isn’t my usual order of operations. This way is more relaxing than breaking camp while making breakfast, but a lot slower. It was after 8 by the time I got going.
There were still lots of leaves on the trees, but they were falling fast. The trail was becoming harder to walk as the surface disappeared. I actually slipped and fell twice on this hike which was disturbing. I’ve gotten so good at catching myself that I couldn’t remember the last time I hit the ground. Very pretty though heh. These views are from Lightning Ledge. Depending on timing it makes a great spot for second breakfast or elevensies. The only bad part is that the views come before the top of the climb so you have to go up some more after the break.
Then it was time to hump up the back side of East Baldpate. This climb goes up for a while and then goes up some more heh. There are some final views back over the ground I’d covered the last two days as a bit of inspiration before pushing on to the top.
It was almost 2 by the time I reached the summit, but no matter what the clock said, it was cheese and sausage time. Oddly for mid October there was a swarm of small black flies up there. Looking at them they didn’t seem to be Black Flies, but some other tiny fly that was black. Many were slaughtered as I enjoyed my late lunch, though I imagine a few enjoyed eating me as well.
It was nice to spend some time out of the trees for a while. The open ledges of East Baldpate and the slabby open trail of the col even had a tiny bit of breeze. I won’t say I was dry, but at least I felt drier heh. Then it was back into the damp woods for the steep descent to the Baldpate Shelter. While the first night I made camp near dark, this time I was able to enjoy a couple of hours sitting around. So very quiet! No breeze, no people, even the red squirrels that usually are fighting were silent. Pretty nice night!
In the morning I decided that I was wet enough and had hit the ground enough so I’d be taking the road back to the scoot rather than heading over Old Speck. The leaves are prettier on the trees. On the ground they are sort of dangerous, but still pretty. I was left thinking that I should have come a few days earlier, though still glad I’d made the effort.
The road walk had some spectacular views. It is always a long 7 miles, but this time it had moments like these where it seemed like a great spot to be. Not where I expected to be this week, yet it seemed I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Hope you’ve been getting out when you can!
Day 6 started early, or Day 5 extended on into the night depending on how you want to look at it. Sharing a shelter with three noisy sleeping pads and the folks rolling around on them all night was not a joy. Very little sleep was to be had before the rain began at dawn. It came in waves, with downpours for a bit and then showers. It was still raining hard when I left to head down into Johnson for my resupply.
It had let up a bit, just light showers, by the time I reached Prospect Rock. Instead of falcons I met a small flock of big wild turkeys there. A very neat spot despite the weather I’m guessing the view on a clear day would be amazing.
After dropping down off the cliff it was soon time to cross the Lamoille River just before hitting Rt 15 highway. I picked up my box of food at the hardware store and proceeded to cram it all into my mostly empty bear can.
Somewhere in there things fell apart and in conversations with my wife I decided to end the hike and go home. Mentally I was never really in the right place for this hike and my resolve to continue on was just not there. I’d been hiking in wet clothes for days and the thought of three more weeks of that seemed impossible. If money wasn’t an issue I would have just inserted a hotel stay every few days to dry out, but that would have added too much cost to the trip.
Looking at things more clearly now I can see that my Seasonal Affect was really bad this year. Mental focus is important on trail and my mind was a shambles heh. While my gear and logistics were all in place, without a focused mind every day was a struggle. When the moment came to embrace the suck I just didn’t have it in me. Hard lessons to learn on trail, but important. A trip of this difficulty level can’t be done by just going through the motions. If I try again I will have to make certain my head is in the right place before I start. Saving up enough for a few hotel stays would probably be a good idea too because drying out on trail didn’t seem very possible given the short days.
Sorry to string you along on a trip cut short. I haven’t looked at any of the video yet, but there may be a YouTube version of the story in the near future. I’ll leave you here with the view of my last night’s camp, alone in the forest.
Day 5 started with an early morning rain shower. Even without the rain my trail clothes were not drying overnight. That morning the wet extended to my tarp and even the quilts were starting to feel a bit soggy from the humidity.
Thankfully I was feeling a bit better that morning because the climb up from Corliss to the top of Laraway was waiting for me. The actual summit wasn’t much to write home about. A boulder and sign marked the spot, but i wasn’t even really out of the trees. Then I got to the lookout and found my views for the day!
Definitely a glorious spot to eat cheese and sausage! The rest of the day was back in the tree tunnel, but for a few minutes in the sunshine with the wind blowing hard I actually began to dry out. I met some day hikers who came up and then many more on my way down the mountain. This viewpoint was a local favorite and I could see why.
With a big storm expected overnight and in the morning I headed up to the Roundtop Shelter to spend the night. I am really not a fan of shelters, but the thought of getting any wetter was too much heh.
Apologies for the lack of pics. This was an ugly day of hiking with a bad stomach. The first few hours went pretty well actually though.
Just before dropping down into Devil’s Gulch this window opened giving me a peek at Spruce Ledge on the far side. It was heading up that steep climb the fun went out of the day heh. I was 6 miles from camp when my stomach gave out. The rest of the day was a mental game of holding things together while on the move.
I dragged my butt up that ridge and then up to the top of Butternut Mtn before dropping down steeply into a notch where I found Corliss Camp. It was nice to make camp earlier. There was time to chat with some of the many hikers I found there already before getting some nice rest.
Sorry for delay but haven’t had enough signal to upload pics 😀
Early start from Hazen’s Notch was a good idea. Very challenging day with lots of big elevation & some lumps too heh.
Some neat alpine beaver ponds near the Tillotson shelter.
I skipped the Belvedere summit spur & barely made camp before dark. Tough day!
The day started early. Neighbors had loud sleeping pads & were rolling around. Oh well I had mountains to climb.
Jay Peak was visible through the trees right from the start. Then the trail popped out on a ski run before heading back into the trees.
No more pics after Jay . The trail was an uphill rollercoaster over Gilpin & Buchanan before turning into a downhill rollercoaster to Hazen’s Notch camp.
Tomorrow will be new trail, up for a bit I hear heh. Not sure how far I will go. An adventure!
What a beautiful day to start. Blue sky, sunshine & even a breeze at times. Probably 20 degrees cooler than last time I was here.
Still sweaty work out there. This trail makes you climb to the start before it starts making you climb.
Camped at Laura Woodward in my hammock. Time to make some dinner & put on more clothes. I can see the top of Jay from here. Headed there first thing tomorrow.
Settled in for the night with my support team at Journey’s End. Big celebration for a guy who finished today. Hope they run out of beer soon heh.
Time to try this again. It has been 4 years since that heatwave tried to kill me.
Headed up to Journey’s End tomorrow for a Sunday start. The plan is flexible & slow. Carrying a lot of insulation & food so I can camp in comfort.
I will be covering this hike like the Cohos earlier this year. Most days should see a pic or two posted here along with a bit of babbling. Video will follow after I get home.
Should be beautiful out there. The colors are starting to pop. Hopefully the leaves stay on the trees!