March 19, 2016.
A return for some unfinished business in Shelburne and to get a missing piece from the last time I was in this area. First up is the small section of Gates Brook Trail that doesn't show up on the maps but for some reason is on the redlining spreadsheet. Had I known that the first time I would have done it then.
Heading up Millbrook Road, which is off of North Road in Shelburne, for the most part the road is in fairly good condition for early spring. Passing by the Scudder Trail and further up is the end of the road where a logging bridge used to cross Austin Mill Brook. Last time I was here in October of 2014 the brook was rock hoppable but today it is moving faster and deeper. Combine that with an icy covering on the tops of the exposed rocks I head upstream looking for a better spot to cross. Nothing looks safe especially with the slick rocks so it is back to the old crossing and with a little New England ingenuity I make it across.
Once across the junction Gates Brook Trail is a few yards up the Austin Brook Trail. The missing section is only 0.8 miles and I mild trip up to the open field where I turned around last time. It is also a recent logging road so the terrain is a piece of cake. Paralleling the road/trail is an unnamed brook with an occasional view to it. It has some nice slabby sections and a few small cascades where the water flows down.
About halfway up is another crossing where the logging bridge was removed but it is no way as challenging as the first one. Just before the open field and there is a view straight ahead to Middle Mt, the last spot I visited on that great day in October. Reaching the field and my turn around point and I can see my next target for the day, Mt Ingalls.
A quick trip back down and then the short drive down to the Scudder Trail head which is another logging road that begins at a junction with Millbrook Road. There is a myriad of trails in this area and the goal is to finish everything on this side of Millbrook Road. Unfortunately the logistics of getting them all efficiently is quite the challenge.
At the first junction with the Yellow Trail I remember this spot from before as I came across Millbrook Road and did the portion of trail that went through the recently logged section on the left of me. Continuing on the Scudder Trail and I hear a crack ahead of me and don't think too much about it. When I approach the edge of the woods I see what caused the noise and quickly get a picture of the moose before she takes off. A sharp right turn and the trail heads up where the moose took off to but there is no sign of her as she quietly disappeared into the woods.
A good portion of the trail follows the skipper paths the loggers created when logging this area. The challenging part is trying to determine which way to go as the path constantly reaches forks and there are no signs pointing the correct way. Keeping a sharp eye out for a small cairn or a blaze further up helps to ensure I am heading in the right direction. A half hour from starting the Scudder Trail and it finally leaves the logging roads and enters into the woods as a "real" hiking trail.
At an opening in the trees I can see some ledges to my left that are up on the ridge and can only hope that the trail leads up there. Stopping to make an adjustment right before the Mt Cabot Connector and I hear a noise in the woods and think it might be another moose. As I slowly move up the trail towards the junction with camera at the ready it turns out to be another early morning hiker who came down from Cabot. I really thought I would see no one else today and if I did I didn't expect it to be this early. The trail begins the climb up the ridgeline and passes an opening with a view across the valley to a new friend Shelburne Moriah and the trailless Middle Moriah.
With a little bit of maneuvering I get some more shots including a look at the Presi's. A couple minutes up the trail and I reach the ledge that I had spied from down below and the views are much better from this vantage point. The view to the south includes some peaks in Evans Notch, East and West Royce, and Howe Peak, Shelburne Moriah and Middle Moriah. A little to the right are Washington and his northern buddies all smothered in a cloud.
The ridge walk continues through some great woods and continues to pop out onto open ledges improving the view from the previous ledge. After a couple false summits the last open ledge is reached and then the trail heads into the woods still increasing in elevation ever so slightly. Within a few minutes there is no doubt that I have finally arrived at the high point of Mt Ingalls as it is complete with a summit sign. But the trail does not end here as it continues down to a secluded spot where Ray's Pond is. Between the last ledge and the pond is pretty much the only significant amount of snow I would see all day.
Heading back to the summit and I take a dump, as in fall down, on a flat section of the snow covered trail. Just one of those oddities where it doesn't happen on the ups or downs but on a flat unsuspecting spot. No harm as I make my way back across the ridge and reach the first ledge where I stop to take a break. While sitting on the sun soaked ledge eating I see the shadow of a bird soaring above me enjoying the thermals. I'm no expert but the best I could come up with is it might be a turkey vulture. A short trip down to the junction and then the moderate climb up to Mt Cabot which is nothing to speak about as far as the summit goes.
There is a small loop that brings you to an outlook with the same views, the Moriahs, that have been present all day. Looping back up to the summit and there is a small stone foundation that has apparently been here for a long time but unfortunately the history behind it is long gone.
I head down the Blue Trail first and will get the Red Trail later in the day. But first just past the summit is another outlook this time to the northeast into Maine. The large expanse of the Bear Mt Range is visible with a lot of curious looking future destinations. Heading down and through some more great woods in the sunny day. Pass a concrete boundary marker, a small still frozen pond and then an old skidder road. Then through one of my favorite, next to birch glades, a beech glade. I love there smooth bark and this section seems to be untouched by the spore that attacks them and ruins that smooth bark look.
At the end, which I wasn't sure was the end, the three trails, Blue, Red and Yellow, converge at one spot. Just past this spot was a small sign for Wiggins Rock and this threw me off as the trail is not on the map. I don't know why but I continued down the road thinking there would be a trailhead sign somewhere for the Blue Trail but instead it just leads down all the way to North Road right by Philbrick Farm Inn. I was looking for the Orange Trail and any signage for it but having no luck returned to the three trailed junction looking for any sign. According to the map the Orange trail is just a little ways up the Blue Trail leading off to the right. I headed back up and found no sign or any evidence of a trail. Back down to the sign for Wiggins Rock and I take that hoping it would lead me in the right direction. There are no blazes on this trail and just to my left a cliff outcropping while to my right a trail leads off up a hill. Curious I head up it but it just dead ends at the top of the hill. Back down to the other trail and up ahead the trail turns right and I see my first orange blaze. I head down it and there are more blazes and it leads out to just above a cottage and a dirt road. No signage here so first I go right and then figuring out where this is going to lead I turn back heading down all the way which ends up on North Road.
Becoming frustrated at the lack of signage in this area I look up the road and see a car parked and figure maybe the trailhead is over there. I met a woman on the way down the Blue Trail and figured this was hers. Reaching her car and the only thing down here is a skidder trail and take it rather than head back the way I came. Luckily it loops back up to the Orange Trail and I get to the junction with the White Trail, which is signed, although somewhat obscure and if not for the rock cairn would have probably walked right past it! A right onto the White Trail and I am heading towards the Crows Nest. A fairly mild climb up and then just below a nice and open pine section complete with soft pine needles underfoot. At the top is a small outlook with a good view up to Mt Carlo and Goose Eye Mt. These are two peaks along the Appalachian Trail and Mahoosuc Range I still need to do.
A return trip back down the White Trail and then a right turn onto the Orange Trail returning the way I came on that earlier. Where the trail makes the sharp turn just ahead I see an orange blaze and a path that veers up the hill. One would have never seen that coming in the way I came in the first time. I head up and it leads a short distance to the top of Wiggins Rock.
The clouds have finally blown off the Presi's and from this vantage point a good look at Jefferson, Adams and Madison. Finding the trail down was a challenge as there were a couple of blazes but no distinct path leading down the other side. I keep going back to the last blaze and looking from there for the next one and find nothing. The only thing I can find that resembles any type of trail is a growing in woods road and decide to follow it down hoping it is the other half of the Orange Trail.
It becomes more grown in and no longer looks like anything but already committed I follow down until I reach another woods road and turn left onto that. According to the GPS my trail tracks are off in this direction so at best I'll get back to the trail. Just a few steps down and I see an Orange Blaze on a tree to my right. WTF! There is no trail there but a blaze? I look to my left and there is one there also but again nothing that looks like a trail.
Befuddled I turn left and start trying to piece together the blazes because I do not want to miss any part of the trail for my redlining. I follow the blazes but there is definitely no sign of a treadway and I end back up at Wiggins Rock. Well at least no one can never say I didn't do all of the Orange Trail whether this is the correct way or not. Now to head back down and do the other piece on the other side of the woods road. At the blazed tree I could not find the first time I came down I marvel at the lack of a trail corridor. On the other side of the road there are blazes but again no trail.
The trail comes out onto another road and completely disoriented I turn right onto it because I thought I had popped out onto the Wiggins Rock Trail that isn't on the map. Reaching a downed tree across the trail and I realize where I am and it is the Blue Trail. Back at where I came out of the woods I look and there is no trail sign and only a faded blaze on a tree but no path. I have never had so many issues in one area and am surprised because up until this section the Shelburne Trails have been a joy and easy to follow. Oh well, satisfied I have done everything that could be considered the Orange Trail I head back to the junction with the Yellow Trail. According to the guide book and maps that horribly blazed "trail" was in the correct spot and in fact matched the description. I just think that since the book was published and today that section for some reason has been abandoned and the new trail is that unmapped Wiggins Rock path. Anyways a short trip on the Yellow Trail to the junction with the Red Trail. This trail leads back up to Mt Cabot just below the summit.
Putting everything behind me all I had to do was go up and back down the Red Trail and then finish the Yellow Trail back to the Scudder Trail and my day would be done. The Red Trail reaches a tee junction and damn if there is a sign pointing to the left for a connector trail between here and the Yellow Trail. This also wasn't in the guide book or on the map and at this point I just said screw it, I don't ever remember seeing that on the spreadsheet and confirmed it when I got home, and headed right up the Red Trail. A quick sidebar on a spur that led out to Mary's Arie that has a view to Washington and an obscured view to Shelburne Moriah. Heading up and the long day was getting to me. The climb up isn't that steep, moderate at best, but it sure felt steep. I had to stop to refuel and then a couple more stops as I was zapped. The Red Trail is just a little over a mile but it took me an hour to get up it. I was gassed and never felt so glad to reach the top so I could fly back down the trail. Coming down took half the time and all that is left is the Yellow Trail between here and the Scudder Trail. Down the road and then into the woods where I came across this bodiless litter of feathers.
Across a brook then back onto a logging road for the final walk out. Thankfully it is all flat and soon enough I am back at the field with a view of Mt Ingalls in the sun setting sky. Back at the vehicle and the moon is already up for a view of a Waxing Gibbous Moon.
Other than the few trail issues another great day on the Shelburne trail system. A little more signage and some blazing and everything would be fine. I can see some return visits to this area but for now it is onwards an forwards to some more redlining.
Final numbers: 16.1 miles, 9 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 8.4, Total to Date: 1065.3