Old Speck Mountain

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On July 16, 2017, dad did a solo hike (daughter had a planned visit to Aquaboggan) of Old Speck Mountain (4,270 ft), a fairly strenuous 7.6 miles, the fourth-highest peak in Maine, located inside Grafton Notch State Park, via the Old Speck Trail and Mahoosuc Trail, with guidance from the AMC Maine Mountain Guide and the Maine State Parks and Public Lands site, which has a map here.

Parking was available at the trailhead off ME 26, and the self-service payment was a $3 fee for Maine residents.  This was dad’s first hike after the 100 Mile attempt ended the previous weekend, and he got an early start.

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The falling water off Cascade Brook was running beside the trail, which is part of the AT, and the morning sun made for great light variations along the path.  Very few hikers were around, due to the hour.

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Dad surprised a big snowshoe hare, still in its summer brown, with white feet, partway up the mountain in a clearing, and it galloped off before he could take a picture.

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At the summit was an observation tower, which, when climbed, provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

The descent was fast, despite some lingering knee and hip pain from the 100 Mile, and dad took a chilly dip in the shallow waters upstream of Screw Auger Falls to cool off.  Like the Chocorua climb and Lower Falls Recreation Site, it is a great summer combo, covered by the same use fee.  Nearby are Mother Walker Falls, Moose Cave, and the Spruce Meadow Picnic Area.

Hiking In Maine Updates

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Good morning.  Enjoying snowfall and making some improvements to the Hiking In Maine blog.

Check out our Interactive Map, which will include our hikes in Google Maps as we add them, and assist in planning your own hikes, based on location.  This is a work in progress, so feedback is welcome.

We are now also on Twitter as @HikingMaineBlog, so please follow us to get updates on new content and info from other places about hiking in Maine (as we figure out what a “twitter” is). We are now on Facebook, as well.

And our 100 Mile Wilderness section is now complete with 2017 info, and consolidated on one page for your convenience.  Much more to follow with our after-action thoughts, packing lists, and plans for completion.  We are very excited for the 2018 hiking season.

Mount Chocorua

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Dad did Chocorua solo on August 30 and then came back with daughter on September 2, 2017 to do it again.  This hike was suggested by friends, and planned using the AMC White Mountain Guide, making it part of the “and beyond” part of our stated “Pine Tree state and beyond” header, as the mountain is in Albany, NH.

There are several loops up and down this beautiful mountain, and dad took the Piper, Nickerson Ledge, Carter Ledge, Middle Sister, and Piper Trails up, then descended via the Liberty, Hammond, Weetamoo, and Piper Trails (9.6 mi).  This trailhead is accessed from NH 16.  Dad and daughter ascended on September 2 via the less challenging but equally scenic Champney Falls and Piper Trails (7.6 mi), accessed from the Kancamagus Highway.  Both parking lots can be crowded in the summer, so we got an early start.  From either starting point, there is a small cash use fee to the White Mountain National Forest, payable with cash at a kiosk (and bring a pen).

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The trail climbs steadily up past Champney Falls and Pitcher Falls, which were not running with much force at this time of summer, but still worthwhile to see.

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After the intersection with the Piper Trail, the vistas opened up, and we had fun making our way up to the windy summit in the morning sunlight.

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The last scramble to the top involved some steeper climbing, which we enjoyed.  We didn’t spend much time at the summit, as the wind was powerful.  After the climb up, our descent was pleasant and uneventful.  We did notice that the volume of hikers headed uphill increased dramatically as the day wore on, and felt good about getting an early start.  Many people brought their dogs, and this seemed like a good hike with a pet, as long as they were careful near the top.

We enjoyed a great post-hike pizza at Brothers Original Pizza in Albany, NH, which has an outdoor deck, if you are so inclined.  The air was chilly on this trip, but if you take the Champney Falls route, a short distance down the Kancamagus Highway is the Lower Falls Recreation Site, where you can cool off in the Swift River after the hike.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 8 (Nahmakanta Stream to Lake Nahmakanta)

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(Note: this is the eighth and final part of a series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)

July 7, 2017 turned out to be our last day, and our shortest mileage: 3.2 miles.  We woke up and had a hot, buggy morning hike with very few good landmarks and a few stops to discuss existential issues, and upon arrival at the south end of Nahmakanta Lake, we decided we were done with our 100 Mile Wilderness hike, after about 74 miles.
Far too many bugs, our feet were not in great condition, and we both agreed that we only wanted to keep going as long as we were having fun.  The lake was beautiful, and we agreed that we could stay there for a day or three if needed, until mom or grandfather picked us up.  Very few bugs, cool water for swimming, loons, sun, and a perfect tent site.
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Can you find the toad in this picture?
We spent most of the day swimming, bathing, fishing, snacking, catching/watching frogs and toads, listening to music, looking at flowers and birds, reading A Walk in The Woods aloud, and looking at clouds.
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Thankfully, we were able to get a bar or two of service there, and text mom at 9:10 AM – dad’s backup plan had been to leave his pack and climb nearby Mt. Nestabunt to get cell service.  Mom and grandfather arrived a little before 5 PM, and had their own adventure getting there, some of which we will never know.  Thankfully, they brought the truck, so we could stow all our smelly 100 Mile gear in the back.
We discussed what we wanted to eat while waiting, and daughter craved pizza and cheesecake, while dad wanted a burger and beer.  We each ended up getting mostly what we wanted at the Pat’s Pizza in Dover-Foxcroft, as well as Butterfield’s Ice Cream down the street.
We will follow-up with our lessons learned on our gear and packing list, and many more hikes.  This 100 Mile Wilderness hike is also unfinished business, and will be continued- after all, we have about 25 miles left to go.
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100 Mile Wilderness, Day 7 (site on Cooper Brook to Nahmakanta Stream)

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(Note: this is part seven of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)

After the previous night’s mosquito armageddon, we woke up to fewer bugs on July 6, but still started cautiously, vaguely shell-shocked, with headnets.  We saw a bull moose across from us at Cooper Pond at 7:30 in the morning, and took a few photos.

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A southbound hiker we met about fifteen minutes later was ecstatic when we told him about the moose, and he started running to see it.  Many fallen trees, a remnant of the thunderstorms from the other night, diverted us around the trail at the Antlers Campsite, which looked like a spectacular place to camp.  We stopped to swim at the sand beach on Lower Jo-Mary Lake, and cooled off.

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A 15-foot diameter spring next to the Potaywadjo Spring Lean-To was also one of the highlights of our day, and we enjoyed the cold water.  We got our first view of Katahdin through the clouds across Pemadumcook Lake.

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We saw a business card tacked to a tree for a lodge on the river where we could get picked up by boat and eat burgers/pizza, and sleep in a bed.  We were tempted, but after brief consideration, we decided to stay the course.  We spent the night at Nahmakanta Stream Campsite, where the mosquitoes moved in again quickly.  Dad smoked a cigar that Grandfather had given him for the trails’ end, which shooed away the mosquitoes long enough to build a campfire.

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Dad made daughter a grilled cheese for dinner using our mozzarella and flatbread, and a green birch branch to hold it over the fire.

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It was a nice change of pace from the freeze-dried meals, and we also shared some chili mac later.  12.1 miles today.

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100 Mile Wilderness, Day 6 (Logan Brook Lean-To to site on Cooper Brook)

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(Note: this is part six of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
 
On Day 6, July 5, 2017, we got a nice early start, and descended White Cap into the flatlands.  Today was our first real day battling mosquitoes, deer flies, and horse flies, and we quickly realized that we should have each brought a can of Deep Woods  Off, instead of sharing one can. Daughter’s stomach issues intensified, and she had a headache for most of the day.  The heat and bugs did not help.
 
As per our usual routine, we planned to stop and take a snack break at the East Branch Lean-To, but when we approached, there were two women sunbathing topless right next to the lean-to.  When daughter asked why we had turned around, dad told her there were “boobies” there, and we continued on to the East Branch of the Pleasant River, with daughter wondering aloud why the women would do that, knowing everyone stopped at those places.
 
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The river was a perfect place to stop, sunny with cool water flowing, and hundreds of butterflies.  We stopped for lunch a little later at Mountain View Pond, a similarly beautiful spot.
 
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Due to daughter’s pepperoni boycott, we had done some trading, and dad gave her some of his energy bars in exchange.  On Little Boardman Mountain, we saw two groundhogs, which seemed smaller than the ones we are used to.  One ran across the trail right in front of us, and then the other one just stared at us from a few feet away.   We had a brief verbal battle over daughter’s water consumption, which dad did not think was enough.  This was a hot day, by far the warmest yet.
 
Our day turned for the better when we reached Crawford Pond.  We hiked to a sand beach, and used the opportunity to swim and take our first bath in days.  We took some pictures, and then looked at the beaver construction at the outlet of Crawford Pond, where we pumped and filtered some water before moving on towards the Cooper Brook Falls Lean-To.
 
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It was here, together, that we made a big tactical error.  It was already late in the day, but neither of us was tired, and we had quickly covered the flat 2.3 mile distance from Crawford to Cooper Brook.  We decided to try and push to either Cooper Pond (5.2 more miles) or the Antlers Campsite (7.9 more miles).  As the bugs had intensified, we put on long sleeve shirts, pants, hats, and mosquito nets, got our headlamps ready, and began.  We were almost instantly swarmed by the most mosquitoes we have ever seen in our lives.  They began biting us through our clothing, and on any exposed flesh- in this case, our hands.  No matter how fast we walked, or how hard we swung our arms, they kept attacking, and we looked for a place to get inside our tent.
 
Shortly before the Jo-Mary Road, about 3.6 miles on, we found a level campsite next to Cooper Brook, and set a speed record for setting up the tent.  Daughter got inside and killed off the mosquitoes who had made it in.  Dad suspended the bear bag, and while he was pulling one end of the line to raise it up, caught a glimpse of his right hand, which was almost black with swarming mosquitoes.
We cooked our meals under the rain cover, and watched the swarms move around between the tent and the rain cover.  Despite our thirst, neither of us wanted to get out of the tent to pump more water, so we shared the last couple ounces in dad’s Nalgene bottle, then went to sleep.  We totaled 15.2 miles today.

100 Mile Wilderness, Day 5 (Carl A. Newhall Lean-To to Logan Brook Lean-To)

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(Note: this is part five of a multi-part series on the summer 2017 attempt at the 100 Mile Wilderness by dad, 40, and daughter, 11)
The 4th of July, 2017 was our 5th day on the 100 Mile Wilderness, and we logged 7.2 miles.  We started tired, as we had ended late, the tent site was not level for sleeping, and the people around us got up very early and loudly.  Daughter had some stomach distress today, and we mentally went through what we had both eaten, as well as the water filtration system, but could not figure out the cause.  Either way, daughter said she was done with both oatmeal and pepperoni, two of our breakfast/lunch staples thus far.
We waited in the morning to have our coffee/hot chocolate, and brewed it when we got to the top of Gulf Hagas Mountain, which was a morale boost.  We refilled our water at a cold, clear spring by the Sidney Tappan Campsite, and enjoyed the cold drink.
A steady rain kicked in as we hiked West Mountain, Hay Mountain, and White Cap Mountain, and daughter hiked in her poncho (dad’s was useless- more on that later).
To mix things up, we made a hot lunch by substituting our dinner meals for the pepperoni/cheese roll-ups we had been eating.  We cooked the pouches during a break on Hay Mountain, and ate them at the top of White Cap.  We were both disappointed at being clouded in at White Cap, as we had been looking forward to the 4th of July views from the summit, which the MATC guide listed as “some of the best in the state.”
We didn’t see Katahdin, or anything else, due to the wet rain and clouds, but daughter flexed her muscles for a summit photo and we headed down the mountain to the Logan Brook Lean-To, arriving in the early afternoon.  The rain was intensifying, and we searched fruitlessly for a good, level campsite.  This was complicated by the massive amounts of moose droppings littering the area.
It began pouring, and daughter sat in the lean-to with some other hikers while dad set up the tent in the best spot he could find (still not very good).  Daughter got into the tent and immediately fell asleep, and I tried to set up our gear to dry out and pumped some filtered water into our hydration systems.  While daughter napped, dad wrote down our gear reviews thus far:
     – We both love our Osprey backpacks- just wish daughter’s had an external pouch for the hydration system like dad’s does.  Would also love a waterproof map case on one of the straps, for easy access.  Our pack rain covers are great for keeping everything dry.

 

– Our ponchos are awful.  Dad’s literally ripped (hood almost off) the first day, at the first campsite, and we would definitely spend more money on good raingear.

     – We both love the JetBoil stove, which doesn’t use much fuel, and heats water almost instantly.
     – Our Outdoor Research Stuff Sacks are awesome- we keep food and clothing in them, and the food bags can be suspended as bear bags- even in the rain, they keep everything dry.
     – Our beach towel-size PackTowls are perfect- lightweight and quick-drying, and we can wrap them around clothing at night to make makeshift pillows.
     – Our Kelty tent is extremely easy to set up, and has kept us dry in the rainy weather, even the crazy thunderstorms.
     The White Cap range was the last of the real mountains in our path, and we were excited to make some mileage on the flatter ground, with our packs lighter from food being eaten, and hoping for a break in the weather.  Dad’s handwritten notes for the day ended with “Wet weather has been a major factor so far.”