March 23, 2014.
Third times a charm so they say. Returning to get the northern end of Three Ponds Trail and to make a loop with Mt Kineo Trail and Hubbard Brook Trail. The first two trails are used as snowmobile trails, so it looked from last weeks hike, and the unknown is Hubbard Brook Trail.
Arriving at the closed trailhead road, not maintained in winter, and as I am sitting in the vehicle enjoying my DD breakfast the weather takes a small twist. First a few flakes and then a full on snow storm.
This area of the Whites does not want me here! First the forgotten boots and then beaten back by Carr Mts unbroken trail. Not to be deterred I head out anyways and at least snow beats rain. Heading up the forest road and the path is visible and my hopes are high that the snowmobile trail is in good shape. The plan is for 13.5 miles so I need a little luck to pull this one off in winter.
Reaching the summer parking lot and the buried hiker sign proves how much snow is still up here for this late in the season. Bring on Georgia!
Reaching the snowmobile/hiking trail and I decided to head to the left in search of the unknown, Hubbard Brook Trail. I figured I'd scout it out and hopefully get lucky. Ten minutes later and I would get the answer I was not hoping for.
At least there was a semi-depression so at least someone had been on this trail a few weeks ago. I guess I may as well get the worse of it out of the way and just head in. It is only 2.4 miles to the other end where it ends at a forest service road that should be doubling as a snowmobile trail. Following this trail would be a challenge though. Even with the depression it would be very difficult to find and even harder with the lack of blazes in the beginning. Picking the track up here and there and it was easy to see that I was not following any trail corridor. After crossing a snow covered beaver dam and following the faint tracks I decided to head over to my left to intercept the actual trail. A few minutes later and I come across a blaze and turn onto the trail and slowly pick my way stopping quite a few times to look for the next blaze or any sign of a corridor.
Reaching the farther end of the first marsh and crossing a tributary I come across a very god size birch tree that a beaver is making an attempt at chopping down. Can't imagine what he is going to do with it once it is down, even with all his brothers and sisters there is no way they are dragging that tree out of here.
Passing the tree and again I lose the trail and poking around in the woods I finally find it and from this point on the trail has the familiar corridor and better blazing. It climbs moderately until I reach the height of land where the trail winds in and out of the woods skirting a swamp. I come across some fresh moose tracks less than a few hours old and then at the edge of the frozen swamp the bedding area for last night.
The view from the swamp with moose tracks crossing in the middle faintly visible.
Yes that is blue skies in the picture. The snow did end up stopping and it turned into a beautiful day. The air is crisp and a breeze is in the air helping to keep me cool. Plugging along making fresh tracks through a foot of snow is a very slow experience. It is tiring and a lot of work and sweaty job. The reward is the forest road should be easy and the rest of this trip a breeze once I reach the snowmobile trails. This area by the swamp is probably the busiest I have ever seen for moose activity. Tracks are everywhere and fresh. Hopes are high but I have not heard a thing the whole time out here. It looks like two and possibly three together wandering back and forth across and sometimes on the trail. Finally just under three hours (2.4 miles in 2 hours and forty-five minutes ugh) from leaving the car I spy a steel I beam bridge over a stream crossing through the trees. The forest road is right up ahead. I pick up the step a little as the excitement of not having to break trail anymore gives me an energy boost. Climbing up the embankment from the trail to the road and in the words of Lily from "How I Met Your Mother":
The view from the road!
What to do now? It is another 1.8 miles to the Mt Kineo Trail and do I continue slogging through this deep snow in hopes that the snowmobilers have actually used the whole Mt Kineo Trail? Best guess is it is another 1.3 to 1.4 miles on Hubbard Brook Road until the turnoff for the road to Mt Kineo Trail. I've come this far so why not see what is at the other end, right! Lets just say it was a long slow tromp through the completely unbroken snow. I was probably the only person on this road all winter.
An hour and half later and I reach another SOB moment, the road for Mt Kineo trail is also untouched!
UNCLE! Not sure where the snowmobile tracks on the other side of Mt Kineo ridge head to but definitely not here. It would be another 3.5 miles to the Donkey Hill Cutoff and I do not have that in me. The only choice is to turn around and head back the way I came. At least someone was nice enough to break out the trail for me. Ha! What took four hours and twenty minutes to achieve this morning only took three hours and five minutes to return. The one maybe two consolations from today is I never saw anyone all day and it was a peaceful day in the woods. Would have really made my day if I had an actual moose sighting also but nothing other than fresh tracks. Will just have to wait for the Hubbard Road to open up in the dry season and make this a fall trek one day. This little forest owes me big time!
Final numbers: 7.9 miles, 7 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 2.4, Total to Date: 489.2