July 3, 2015.
A foray back into Maine as I recently read a report that the Red Rock Trail had been cleared. I made an attempt at this trail back on Memorial Day weekend and was thwarted by the amount of downed trees just over the summit of Speckled Mt. It's about 7:40 after the three hour drive to get to the trail head and I am off on today's adventure in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness.
There is parking available off of Adams Road on Enid Melrose Road. Which I come to find out later is part of the mileage needed to redline Cold Brook Trail. Not a big deal as I'll pick up that section of the trail at the end of the hike on my return loop. The "trail" starts out on the continuation of the dirt road reaching a junction where the trail splits off to the left.
Twenty minutes up the gravel road/trail and there is a house on the right side. The plaque above one of the windows reads "The Duncan McIntosh House". A search on the web finds nothing and looking at one of the old topo maps from 1941 does not show the house. I guess it will remain a mystery. On the other side of the road are a few old apple trees.
The road splits twice one after the other beyond the house. With no blazing or signs it is crapshoot on which way to go. I stick with the main road and stay to the left on the first one and then the right on the second one. Heading down the hill and I see the front end of a mobile home sticking out of the woods. Couldn't really tell if it was occupied as I pass by it and reach the bridge that crosses over Cold Brook.
The trail reaches an overgrown logging landing area and the trail is hard to see on the other side but I find it. Climbing up the road/trail is no longer as distinguishable as it was before Cold Brook. It is more of a rutted woods road and sometimes an overgrown fern hidden path.
I reach the junction with Evergreen Link Trail in an hour from starting today's hike. Making a left turn down on it and is relatively flat first going through the woods and then popping out onto an old road. It eventually reaches a gravel road and on the right side just in the woods is a large concrete pad with two pipes at the far end. Not sure if this is a water holding tank for the Evergreen Valley Inn located down the road a bit or something else.
Continuing down the gravel road which is access for a couple houses and I reach a chained gate at what I thought was Adams Road. There were no trail signs here so I just turned around and returned the way I came. Turns out that according to the book the trail begins at the chained gate but the mileage is from a snowmobile lot a couple of tenths down the road. Guess I need to go back someday to get that two tenths! Back up the trail and where the trail turns right there is another trail leading left. Curious I follow it for a bit but eventually return to Evergreen Link Trail. The left trail appears to head towards Mt Adams in a round-a-bout way, another adventure for another day. On Cold Brook Trail again and the climb up continues passing by the Wilderness Boundary. The trail begins to resemble the Blueberry Ledge Trail as the trail starts opening up onto ledges. First wooded ones and then at 2400' wide open ones.
Kezar Lake and Pleasant Mt are off to the right as I make my way over to that side of the ledge. Ahead I can see Speckled Mt and more ledges just below it.
Heading up and the trail ducks in and out of the woods until I reach the next open set of ledges I could see down below. There is even a small pond up on the ledges and looking back is the ledge I was just on.
A few minutes up the trail and there is a fairly fresh paw print in the mud on the trail...bear paw print that is. A little further up a moose track in the mud.
Between this set of ledges and the summit is a different trail as the maintainers have not been on this section of trail. Trees are bent over the trail others are blocking the trail completely.
The trail winds around the backside of Speckled Mt and soon I am at the junction with Red Rock Trail. A short climb up and I am at the site of the old fire tower for the second time. A break is in order before I start the ridge walk over to Durgin Mt via the Red Rock Trail.
While sitting there relaxing in the sun against one of the old footings a group comes up from Bickford Brook Trail. One of the women asks me what is what and I start pointing out the prominent peaks. She is surprised of my knowledge and I tell her it is from many miles of hiking and hours of IDing my pictures using Google Earth. I let her know my website name so if you remembered the site this pic is for you and your group with West and East Royce in the background. And before leaving it just wouldn't be right without a picture of Ole George.
After about fifteen minutes it's time to get moving again. Down to the Red Rock Trail to see the damage from this past winter cleaned up. First stop though is a fill up of water at the stream then beyond is where I ran into all the blowdowns forcing me to turnaround back on May.
It is a huge difference from then as I make my way down to the col between Speckled and Durgin. The trail levels out in the woods and then starts roller coasting up and down along the ridge walk. It sometimes pops out onto semi-open ledges as I make my way across. The summit of Durgin is so non-descript that you wouldn't know you were on it unless you were paying attention. A few minutes later a view of where I was hoping to get to, Red Rock Mt and it's cliffy side, appears through the trees.
Thirty minutes from leaving Durgin and I reach the junction with Great Brook Trail which leads down off the ridge. I pause here as I try to figure out what to do next. The original intent was to camp out and get some more trails including the rest of Red Rock Trail and then head up into Miles Notch for the night. There is still 3.4 miles left of Red Rock Trail and heading down Great Brook Trail is 3.7 miles long. One of the two pieces would end up getting repeated and it was a matter of choosing the easier of the two. I thought about heading over to Butters Mt first along Red Rock Trail and then coming back to eliminate some of the mileage. But I just didn't feel like I could make all the mileage I needed to do before looking for a place to bed down with water and night fall. Then down Great Brook Trail it is.
You can not tell in the above picture since that was a mild section of the trail but there were some steep and rough sections of the trail. A few minutes later I would step on a wet root and slide on my butt down the trail. Trail 1, Dan 0. Eventually the trail would level out and I took a water refill break along a nice crossing of Great Brook.
Making my way onto the old road section of the trail and for the first time since leaving Speckled Mt I see the people as they are oddly coming out of the woods to the left of the trail. They are an older group of two women and two men and ask if I am out hiking or mineral hunting. I am hiking I respond and I assume they were mineral hunting but I never asked. I take off leaving them behind and make it to the end of Great Brook Trail two hours from leaving the ridge.
Just down the road is the junction for Miles Notch Trail. After contemplating that it's over twenty-five miles to loop back to the car enough is enough for today. These mountains win again and I will not be spending the night out as hoped for. So I'll settle for the road walk back to the car and along the way get the half mile of Cold Brook Trail between Adams Road and where the car is parked.
Final numbers: 14.7 miles, 9 hours and 5 minutes.
Redline Miles: 12.2, Total to Date: 845.2