Through the Notch, Out of Maine!
This post covers the section of trail between Andover Maine and Gorham New Hampshire. Some claim that this Southern section of Maine is the most difficult section of trail (others claim it is the Whites). While I can’t comment on that just yet, I can say that these are the lowest miles I have done and yet I am the most sore that I have been thus far. Fortunately, the views and people that I met along this section made it all worth it! If you couldn’t tell from the title, I made it through my first state and the second longest of the entire trail!
I noticed something during this section that really hit home. For the first time that I can remember in the last 7 years I had to trim my finger nails with a nail clippers. To some of you that may seem odd, but the stress that I have been feeling recently is significantly lower than normal. I am no longer am biting my nails obsessively. There were many reasons that I embarked on this journey but I am glad that I am giving myself the time to decompress from some stressful years of college and starting a career. It’s a simple yet important reminder to listen to your body and take care of yourself!
Day 22 (10.2 miles)
Slept in a bit until 6 am. A colder night with a chilly morning. I woke up feeling somewhat clean from the swim the night before. My hiking clothing was damp and cold, a normal occurrence most mornings. The day began downhill to a small waterfall, a nice warmup for the day. The legs were sore but “motion is lotion”.
The falls were followed by a big climb up East Baldpate. The first half of the climb was relatively easy. The trail was overgrown with large plants, it was hard to see where to place your feet. As the trail progressed the terrain became steep. The even soft ground turned to rock slab. In rain this section would be incredibly dangerous, I was happy to have good dry weather. Towards the top the mountain opened up. Great views of the surrounding mountains could be seen in almost every direction.
The summit was further away than I thought, but I kept climbing until I reached the sign. A long break was deserved. The views were breathtaking and daunting. In the distance you can see Old Speck (a peak for the next day) and the famous White Mountains!
The sunshine felt great. One more small climb down and then back up to West Baldpate. Took an early lunch and then headed down the mountain into Grafton Notch. The trail was well maintained and the miles felt fast. Got down to the notch and setup camp by Bear River. The tent sites weren’t amazing but it was nice to have trash cans and picnic tables nearby.
Bear River Campsite: T3, S3, P5, B1, W2
Total Score: 90
Day 23 (9.7 miles)
Woke up at 5:30am and started packing up. Tenacious had a bit of a rough night because his inflatable pad has a leak and the baffles are protruding in some sections.
He decided that he was going to try and hitch into Bethel to get a new pad. I decided to keep going because the weather was good and I was mentally prepared for the hard day ahead.
The main climb of the day was up Old Speck, the 3rd highest mountain in Maine. I climbed the 4 miles up rather quickly, wanted to challenge myself a bit. Towards the end of the climb I met up with another group of SOBOs: Peacock, Boduke and Flatlander. Peacock offered me a beer at the top and I gladly accepted it!
We met a lady who had just finished her 115 high peaks of the Northeast. A huge accomplishment and we were sure to congratulate her. The descent off of Old Speck is known as the Mahoosuc Arm. It is a difficult hike, lots of steep slab rock to navigate. It was brutal but at least provided a fast way down.
After the descent off the arm we hit the Mahoosuc Notch.. the most difficult mile of the AT. It was more fun than challenging. Climbing up, down, under and around large boulders for roughly a mile. Took us just over an hour and we took a nice lunch break in the notch. Even in mid July there was still some ice and snow. A cool breeze was blowing through the boulders. Light reflected through the mist that was created as the cool air collided with the warm sun.
After the notch there was a shorter climb up and over Fulling Mill Mtn. Down the other side was my resting spot for the night, Full Goose Shelter.
The other guys took a break and then decided to push on to the next shelter. I stuck with my original plan of staying there for the night. A bit over an hour later I saw a familiar face come over a hill. Tenacious had changed his mind and decided to push on even with his bad pad! The rest of the night was spent talking to other hikers, eating everything I could, and getting to bed early!
Full Goose Campsite: T1, S3, P3, B3, W3
Total Score: 81
Day 24 (9.6 miles)
Began the day with “nice” climbs up the Goose Eye peaks. Lots of rocks and steep climbs, but what else is new. I felt extremely tired today, even after my cup of coffee and 10 hours of sleep. Luckily, the views today did not disappoint!
The path is extremely easy follow. Look for the steep rocks and that’s probably where you should go. At least it will take some time for the trail to erode. In all seriousness though, this section was extremely fun!
After many rocks and roots I finally made it to the Maine – New Hampshire border. 282 miles down. Tenacious asked me how I felt. The best way to describe the feeling is like a birthday. You are technically a “year” older but you feel the exact same as the day before. I was excited to be out of Maine but I honestly didn’t feel any different. If anything, I was a bit torn. Maine was such a beautiful state with so much to see. I like to describe the hiking so far like the movie Split (about a guy with multiple personalities). Some days Maine was the most kind and forgiving trail, others it was hard but rewarding, and on rare occasions it downright tries to kill you. Fortunately, I made it through and I know the rest of the trail has a ton to offer too!
The rest of the day got easier but I was still tired. The final ascent for the day was up Mt. Success, a fitting name. We enjoyed lunch up there but we knew that bad weather was rolling in. Lots of rain was going to hit later that afternoon.
On the other side of the mountain it began to drizzle. The rain wasn’t coming down hard but the trail was overgrown. We got a hiker “car wash” through some wet brush. Just as the rain began to pick up we made it to the Gentian Pond Shelter. Peacock and Flatlander were also there getting out of the rain. We stopped there for the night and relaxed the rest of the day. The rain continued to come down and got harder as the day progressed. A chess board was drawn onto the floor of the shelter. I played Peacock in a game and he won. We both agreed it was the most thinking we had done in a while.
Gentian Pond Shelter: T2, S1, P2, W1, B4
Total score: 16
Day 25 (11.8 miles)
I slept in Gentian Pond Shelter to stay out of the rain. Great shelter with even better people. The rain was still coming down in the morning. I took my time getting up and made my normal cup of coffee. As the morning continued the clouds began to clear and the rain slowed. There was some hope that the day would have good weather!
I was told the terrain improved greatly between this shelter and Gorham, they weren’t lying. Tenacious, Flatlander, and I were able to cover ground quickly. We climbed the three mountains of the day and were in town by 1 pm.
Along the way we came across an area that had recently been hit by a forest fire. We smelled the area well before we saw it!
The last mile of the trail was a flat road that went to the parking area. Normally the last mile of the day goes incredibly slow. I came up with the term Nevmile (never ending mile) to describe the feeling. But today it went fast. About halfway to the parking lot we saw a neat dam that does controlled releases.
A couple from Canada was gracious enough to give us a ride into town. We got situated at our campsite, showered and did laundry. The evening was spent gorging ourselves on all you can eat Chinese food. After dinner we stopped at a dollar general for snacks. We met a guy, Mike, who was interested in the trail and was kind enough to give us a ride back to the campsite.
The rest of the night was spent figuring out a plan for the White Mountains, enjoying some cold beverages, and relaxing. A 0 mile day the following day felt like a day off of work!
Day 26 (0.0 miles)
A day off of work is not a day without chores. Began the day slowly, didn’t want to ruin a good day off. Headed to McDonald’s for the good wifi to finish this post! Got a ride from a local police officer.. should have got a picture with him for the blog. The plan for the rest of the day was a resupply at Walmart, eating more food, and relaxing. Planning for the White mountains is more of a weather challenge than a hiking one! Should be an interesting week coming up.
Thanks for reading this update! I hope you are enjoying the pictures. If you are keeping up with my posts the “Grouse?” from one of my previous posts was a Spruce Grouse. I’ll probably do one post for the entire section of the Whites. Until next time, keep wandering in your own direction!
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Pictures are beautiful! Excellent framing 🙂
I try my best at getting a good frame!
Good luck this week.