Week Three: Goodbye, Maine, Hello, New Hampshire!

This update details my last week in Maine as I ventured from Rangeley to Andover (Old Blue Mountain), summited Baldpate and Speck Mountain, as well as took on the infamous Mahoosuc Arm and Notch.

Day 17: Bemis Mountain Lean-to (17.7) – Moderate
Day 18: South Arm Road (Andover, ME) (8.7) – Difficult
Day 19: East B Hill Road (Andover, ME) (10.1) – Moderate (slackpacked)
Day 20: Stealth camped before Speck Mountain (11.2) – Difficult
Day 21: Carlo Col Shelter (Speck Mountain, Mahoosuc Arm and Notch) (13.2) – Difficult
Day 22: Gorham, ME (Rattle River Hostel) (17.0) – Moderate
Day 23: Gorham, ME (Rattle River Hostel) (zero!) – Super easy

Day 17: Bemis Mountain Lean-to (17.7) – Moderate

This day was fantastic. I started the day early after my free doughnut and coffee at the Hiker Hut and was able to fit in a surprising amount of miles at an easy pace. I stopped several times to chat with some NOBOs and picnicked for a good hour at ME17, overlooking Rangeley Lakes. The view was phenomenal. The terrain also wasn’t too bad, although there was a pretty big gulch thrown into my afternoon as I approached Bemis Stream just past ME17.

On my way up the other side, though, I caught a trail angel leaving a cooler, so I happily stopped yet again to enjoy some fresh banana bread and a soda. When I finally got to the lean-to, I still had a good two hours before sunset, so I chatted with a fellow hammocker named Caveman. We chatted awhile about gear, and I explained what had happened to my hammock but that I was expecting a new one in Andover the next day. Just after dinner, two SOBOs, Pueblo and SwissChris, walked into camp. I had met them in passing earlier on the trail but was sure they’d flown ahead of me. It was a nice surprise to meet people heading my way.

Day 18: South Arm Road (Andover, ME) (8.7) – Difficult

Although this day wasn’t long, it was pretty challenging. The descent from Old Blue Mountain was hard on my knees. Often times I think, “Man, it sure would be nice to be a NOBO on this one,” but for this mountain, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference which way I was going. It was extremely steep at the top with a lot of slick rock face and rebar. I slipped multiple times and was pretty beat up by the time I reached the bottom. It also seemed to last forever. When I finally reached the bottom, I was hurting and knew I still had three hours to wait before my shuttle with the Human Nature Hostel arrived. As I exited the forest, however, I was greeted by the most beautiful sight: a trail angel (Red Hot) with his family, cooking hot dogs and handing out cold beers. I could have cried. Red Hot offered me a chair, and I immediately collapsed in it. Life couldn’t have been more perfect. A few minutes later, SwissChris and Pueblo emerged from the woods and joined me. We sat and chatted and before we knew it, three hours had flown by and our shuttle was there. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

Day 19: East B Hill Road (Andover, ME) (10.1) – Moderate (my first slackpack!)

After Old Blue Mountain, I was feeling pretty wary of the terrain in this area. The Human Nature Hostel offered a free slackpack with a two-night stay, and looking at the elevation profile between South Arm Road and East B Hill, I figured that if I had my whole pack, I probably wouldn’t make it much farther than the ten miles between the two roads anyway. So I decided to leave my pack at the hostel and enjoy those miles without it. And, wow. It was the best decision ever. Slackpacking feels like a zero day. I was able to fly through this section, albeit the terrain and elevation. I even took advantage of every viewpoint and blue blaze. If I had had my pack, I am sure that I would have rated the terrain in this section as difficult, but without it, it was a breeze.

Day 20: Stealth camp before Speck Mountain (11.2) – Difficult

This was the first day I woke up and thought: I’m just going to hike. No planning. No goals. Let’s just walk. I knew I was entering some of the toughest terrain and feared that if I tried to go too far, too quickly, I might get hurt. Plus, the weather was threatening to turn sour in the afternoon, so I decided to play it safe. First challenge: Baldpate. I had heard other hikers talk about Baldpate but it was often overshadowed by their stories about Mahoosuc Arm and Notch. Therefore, when I started my ascent, I was taken aback by how steep it was. I eventually got into a rhythm and just kept walking. I remember the last couple of slick rock faces before you leave the treeline as being some of the worst I’d seen on the trail yet. Luckily, it was a nice and clear day, so the views at the top were well worth the climb. I met a kind couple at the top (Huckleberry and Butterfly), who were also southbound, so we stuck together for the rest of the day. The descent wasn’t nearly as bad as the climb, and it felt like we made it to Grafton Notch quite quickly. I had originally eyed Speck Pond Shelter and Campsite as a potential home for the evening, but with the storm rolling in, we decided to camp halfway up the mountainside near a stream. As we sat down for dinner, I reviewed my rations and realized I didn’t have nearly as much food as I had thought. Wonderful. This should make the next days interesting.

Day 21: Carlo Col Shelter (Speck Mountain, Mahoosuc Arm and Notch) (13.2) – Difficult

I will never forget this day. The first thing I remember when I woke up was: Rain. It was raining. It wasn’t supposed to be raining. Not that day of all days. I had just checked the weather forecast the day before in Andover, and it had predicted clear skies for the next three days. I got up and packed everything aside from my tarp, thinking things over. It was 6. I should have been leaving by then, but the rain was really coming down. I knew Speck Mountain and Mahoosuc would be dangerous if they were slick, so I hesitated to push on in the current conditions. I eventually decided to heat up some water and have a coffee to try to wait it out. As I was warming up the water, however, my stove flickered and went out. Idiot. I had meant to pick up another fuel canister in Andover. Now, not only did I not have much food left, but what little food I did have would be much more difficult to eat without hot water. It was decision time. With the food I had left, I’d either have to turn around now and go back to Grafton Notch or push through to Gorham. If I pushed through, I knew I’d be cutting it close. I only had about two days of food on me (not an ideal amount for this section), so I would have to ration very carefully and spare no time. I made my decision, packed up my tarp, and headed to Speck Mountain in the rain.

The climb to Speck was steep, but it paled in comparison to its descent. By the time I reached the top, I was so cold, and my face stung from the rain. As I began my descent, I eventually gave up the battle of using my trekking poles and decided to slide down the slick rock face on my butt. It seemed like the safest options given the conditions. I was surprised by this. In all my conversations with hikers, people had warned me about Mahoosuc and the Whites, but not one person had mentioned Speck. Maybe it was just because of the wind and rain, but I think Speck Mountain was one of the worst descents I had in all of Maine.

Fortunately, as I entered the tree line, the rain stopped, and I felt myself starting to warm up. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by joy at the realization that I had survived! Now all I had to do was get down the scary Arm, crawl through the Notch, and I’d be home free! I listened to some music to pump myself up for the Arm, happily singing and swinging down from tree to tree as I continued my descent. The sun was shining, and it felt like an entirely new day. Everyone had described the Arm as being a steep wall of slick rock face, so I prepared myself for the worst… but I never found it. I climbed down what felt like any normal Maine descent, and then I was at the Notch. What had people been complaining about? The Notch itself, however, was a beast. There is nothing quite like it. It is challenging and requires a different set of muscles, but I appreciated the change of pace and scenery. By the first hour, my arms were exhausted, and I was beat by the time I’d gotten through it, but it wasn’t nearly as scary as everyone had led me to believe. I took a quick breather on the other side and then began the steep ascent to Full Goose Shelter, beaming all the while due to the fact that I had just made it through “the most difficult mile.”

I got to the shelter around 4 p.m. and decided it’d be best to push on with the amount of food I had. The terrain between Full Goose and Carlo Col Shelter was not very forgiving, and I felt like a shell of a human being by the time I arrived. A kind hiker couple lent me their fuel canister, and I was able to finish the day with a hot meal, but it wasn’t long before I was conked out, asleep in my hammock.

Day 22: Gorham, ME (Rattle River Hostel) (17.0) – Moderate

I woke up feeling weak and bruised like someone had beaten me up. My arms felt like spaghetti (do I really have that little upper body strength?), and it was a challenge to pull myself out of my warm sleeping bag. I eventually got going, and it wasn’t long before I was rewarded by a sign stating I had just entered New Hampshire. Yes! Goodbye, Maine, hello, New Hampshire. I turned on my heel and skipped over the bridge only to be greeted by a giant wall of boulders. You’ve got to be kidding me. Was this New Hampshire’s welcome gift to SOBOs? Had I not proven myself enough yesterday? I shed a tear and then ungracefully hauled myself up the wall, taking a moment to just lie at the top to catch my breath. Everything hurt, and I felt so weak. After taking a minute to feel sorry for myself, I heaved myself up and continued on.

Looking back, I don’t honestly think the terrain this day was very difficult. I was just tired and hungry. Plus, I had very little option to stop as I knew I had to make it to Gorham by nightfall or go without food. I spent the day dreaming of the pizza I was going to order upon my arrival. I’d order a large one with spinach, feta, pesto and green peppe– no. Banana peppers. And an entire grove of olives. Yes. I could practically taste it.

Needless to say, I was pretty miserable hiking that day. When I finally reached North Road, my head was drooped, and my poles dragged behind me. I collapsed at Rattle River Hostel and was promptly handed a menu for Mr. Pizza. I think I may have cried. Now on to the Whites.

Alas, that was my third week on the trail. As always, thanks for following along. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about my experience or any specifics on the trail.

 

Happy Trails,
Red

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Comments 1

  • Avatar
    T Bryant : Sep 11th

    Absolutely beautiful writing. It was very descriptive and I felt like I could see and feel what you were seeing and feeling, – almost!

    Thanks for taking me along.

    Everytime we have bad weather, I think of you and say a prayer for you. Much love coming your way.

    Ms. Terri

    Reply

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