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Filed By: MtnMagic
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: [b]Dates Hiked: [/b]October 2/3, 2004
[b]Trails Hiked: [/b]Mahoosuc Notch, Mahoosuc, Speck Pond
[b]Total Distance: [/b]13.2 miles
[b]Difficulty: [/b] With the distance, elevation gain and being in the Mahoosucs with a heavy pack, it was strenuous.
[b]Conditions: [/b]A little mud, lots of red, orange, & yellow trees and hundreds of mountains everywhere.
[b]Trip Report: [/b]
Dense fog prevailed in the Valley during the drive to Success Pond Road in Berlin, NH. We hoped to get some views of the mountains of the North Country, into Maine and South, into the Whites. Almost 11 miles from Hutchins Street and 6 spur roads after the Carlo Col Trail we parked and geared up. Tim G., Ghostdog and this writer left the well maintained Mahoosuc Notch Trail at 9 a.m. Saturday on October 2, 2004.
The trail is pleasant, nice and wide, with easy grades. Too easy, I thought. It reminded me of the Kilkenny’s with its ferns and boreal forest, yet not as steep as its cousins to the South or North. Less than an hour and a half later we found ourselves on The Appalachian Trail where we turned North and started the beginning of the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, said by thru hikers to be the longest, most difficult mile of the A.T. We were itching to find out!
Maybe a half hour later as the boulders increased from big to bigger, we could hear a group coming up fast behind us. They passed us in a flash and we wondered how often they have done the section as their speed was amazing. Soon we met Elizabeth and Joanna, a couple from the coast of Maine in their late 60’s, who hadn’t done this hike in 5 years. I helped one scale an abrupt ledge about 10’ long and continued on. Scores of hikers were hiking the Notch from both directions, some had enormous packs of 5 & 6,000 cubes. How do they do it?!
This one mile section of the hike is certainly a challenge, one for the experienced, the fit, the determined hiker. I wrote hike, but it is much more than any mere hike. At times one must climb over, around, and under the massive boulders. Always there is the danger of tripping and falling from the countless rock-hops with voids around them and hundreds of exposed wet, slippery roots. The moisture on the rocks and roots from the hidden brook beneath and from the vertical walls above this talus field adds to the difficulty. And to its beauty!
Several times we could barely squeeze through caves. In one I had to try several different methods to crawl up through. We left our packs on like other hikers before us to add to the challenge. At one 12’ precipitous ledge, perhaps the most difficult of the route, Ghostdog turned around and headed South. Tim and I coaxed her to continue North and once over the jitters, which we couldn’t blame her, she nor we had any more problems.
It took us 2 1/2 hours to "hike" this one mile. I’ve read trip reports of hikers taking 3 and 4 hours and it can. Was this the longest, most difficult mile? Yes, it was quite a challenge. And one I can’t wait to repeat next year! A 35 pound pack didn’t make it any easier as we brought gear to spend the night at Speck Pond. Day hikers with their light packs will certainly find it much easier and a most rewarding adventure!
After stopping for a bite to eat, it was time to do some real hiking! The steep and steady elevation gain up to Speck Pond went fast and we arrived at the shelter and tent platforms by mid afternoon. We selected site #5 and set up our non-free standing tents on the platform, skillfully adapting a rock and branch to hold up one edge. No caretaker, no fee. Clouds obscured the view so we decided to wait until morning to head up Old Speck Mountain.
Hikers started arriving quickly and filled up most of the tent site platforms (6) and the shelter which holds 8. "Look at that Tim," I said, "It’s Elizabeth and Joanna." They said their hellos then selected site #6 across from us. We had a much needed hearty dinner and played chess. Tim went to bed early, so Ghostdog and I visited the shelter, spoke with the hikers, while watching how others prepared their dinners. My favorite was seeing and smelling the garlic on olive oil in the pan one fellow had.
In the morning we discovered how cold it was the during the night as ice formed on our tents from the condensation, our breaths were seen, and the iso-propane from my JetBoil stove needed a warm up boost from my body. We ate hot oatmeal with hot coffee and then slack packed up the steep, bare slabs to Old Speck. We saw a so-bo (south-bound A.T. thru hiker), with his GoLite gear on the trail camping and wondered how one could do this so late in the season.
Old Speck (4170’) is such a delight to visit, especially since the day was gorgeous. The mountain summit has a tower almost 30’ high with sensational 360 degree views. In front of the tower trees have been cut so one may view the mountains to the North. We were startled to find a well used fire pit on a spur path and a picnic bench that sits 6 comfortably. Eventually it was time to go so we retraced our steps down the steep, open slabs.
About half way back to the Speck Pond, Elizabeth and Joanna were heading North to the summit and then descend to a car they spotted on Maine Route 26. We chatted for a while, bid farewell, and soon arrived at the serene pond without a soul seen or heard. At about 80 acres, beautiful Speck Pond, with an oval shape, at 3500’, it is one of the highest in Maine, and the Mahoosuc Arm looms above it. This adds to the wondrous feeling of this most mysterious and marvelous region.
Roll up the sleeping bags, take down the tents, stuff it all in your backpack, strap it on, buckle it up, time to hit the trail. We stopped to refill our water, huffed up the Mahoosuc Arm, down Speck Trail sharing good fellowship to pass the time and enjoyed the magnificent scenery. At 2 miles, the level road walk back to the truck parked at Notch Trail finished our colorful journey of 13.2 miles, 3950’ of elevation gain and 10 superb hours of fantastic hiking. Another astounding adventure over but another to start soon!