September 16, 2016.
Another trip today into the Mahoosucs. This time getting the section of trail between Gentian Pond Shelter and the outlook above Trident Col where I met up with Peaches and Cream two years ago on their thru hike. There is no easy way to get up to the ridge to get this trail so I'll head up via Peabody Brook Trail in Shelburne do an out and back to the outlook then over to Gentian Pond. How I get down will depend on the terrain and how I feel.
Parking on North Road across from the trailhead and two young guys pull up all decked out in their hunting attire as I get ready to go. We're both starting out on the same direction as it is bow season and we chat on the way up. Where the trail and road split they stick with the road and that is the last I see of them. Just before the split a group of about twenty hikers are coming down the trail and not even sure where they spent the night. At the crossing for Peabody Brook the bridge that was there two years ago when I did this trail is longer there. Not sure why it was taken out but fortunately the water is low so crossing is no problem.
Past the junction for Middle Mt Trail and then the spur for Giant Falls. Above Giant Falls where the trees open up the ridge comes into view with it's craggy cliff face. I remember this spot from last year but do not remember the view out to the Presi's with Washington and Adams against the cloudless blue sky. Madison is in the picture also but it blends in just below Adams undiscernible.
Up the ladder where a rung has rotten out since the last time then up through the woods where the trail is much milder in regards to steepness. The trail up here is disappointingly not well maintained as the hobblebush is encroaching on the pathway. Past another junction, this one for Bald Cap Peak, and then the bog bridges that parallel the shore of Dream Lake. At the northern shore there are a couple of view points with the last one leading down to the water's edge. A perfect picture across the water to Washington, Clay, Adams and Madison. I wish I could sit down here and enjoy the solitude but I have a lot of miles to cover today.
Just around the corner is the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail. Which way to go first, North or South along the AT? Since I need to get to the outlook where I met Peaches and Cream two years ago I'll follow in their footsteps and head south first. A short flat section and then the trail starts to climb up away from Dream Lake. The trail climbs up over some exposed ledges as I come out onto Wocket Ledge, an open expanse of ledge that is slowly growing in.
Moving around the ledge there are more views to the Presi's. Next to me is the untrailed Bald Cap and back in the distance is Mt Success.
Continuing south along the AT and I pass a trail sign where there is no need for a sign. Not sure why it is here as there is no option on which way to go. Coming down off of Wocket Ledge there is a steep descent over some jagged boulders. I cringe heading down this as I remind myself I will be heading back up it on the return trip.
Reaching the bottom the trail heads through some great spruce woods where the old trees and new growth share the terrain. In typical Mahoosuc Range fashion the trail dips and rises as I plug along the path. Arriving at Page Pond and I run into the first thru hiker of the day as he is heading north. Countless times I have looked at this pond on the maps and tried to figure out if the woods from the north would allow me access to this spot via Success Pond Road. Not far away there is some recent logging where Google Earth shows the woods cleared but one never knows how up to date those images are. The intent was looking for an easier way up to the trail to redline this section that is basically in the middle of nowhere. I have quite a few trail sections like this all over to still do adding to the challenge of redlining the White Mountains.
Beyond the trail pretty much follows the contour and once again makes a small climb this time out onto an open ledge. Across the valley where Route 2 lies are all three Moriahs (Shelburne, Middle and Moriah) plus North Carter. I begin to question if I passed the spur trail for the tentsite as the trail continues the climb and I wonder if just ahead is where the outlook is.
Around a corner I run into this dude sitting on a branch munching on a pine cone from a spruce tree. Just before reaching the spur I cross paths with another thru hiker and as the trail starts to climb up again I make it to Trident Pass where a side trail leads to the tentsite.
The spur trail winds in quite a ways before reaching the tentsite area. The water is down an embankment where it is just a trickle with the dry summer we have been having.
Back to the trail and the climb up is a rough 200' elevation gain. I reach some ledge lined section of trail and think it is just ahead, the spot I was sitting at waiting for Peaches and Cream that day two years ago. But it is just a tease much like a false summit.
Through some hobblebush and finally I see an opening that looks familiar and sure enough this is the place. It's nice to be back and reminisce about meeting a couple of trail friends who I still keep in touch from time to time. I sit down as I did that day and have my snacks and water enjoying the view of the Moriahs and Carters across the way. The only thing that could improve this is seeing my friends once again as I turn looking over my shoulder watching them pop out of the woods. But that was two years ago today there is no one there. In my small world this spot will forever be known as Peaches and Cream Outlook.
It's a good twenty minutes before I pack up and start the march of ups and downs to Dream Lake and then beyond. At the open ledges just after Trident Pass I can see Wocket Ledge in the background which is just off center in the picture below. At a view spot just below Wocket Ledge there is a view in the opposite direction where I just came from. Page Pond is the dark shadow below that peak in the center. On the left side of the peak is Trident Pass and then the hump where the outlook is. In the background are several peaks I have done; Waumbek, three Weeks, Terrace, Cabot, The Bulge, The Horn, Rogers Ledge, North Peak and the Percys.
Ten minutes after three and I am back at the junction with Peabody Brook Trail. It took four and half hours to make it out and back to this spot and I still have to continue north to finish this section of trail. The first half of this section starts out pretty mellow as it heads through various ecosystems. Open woods lead out into bog bridged swampy areas.
Back into the woods again then more bog bridged sections.
The second half begins with a drop down in elevation that leads into some storm ravaged sections.
The trail becomes rougher through here as it passes by Upper Gentian Pond. A couple of north bounders blow by me as I crawl along in comparison through the rougher sections of trail.
At the junction with Austin Brook Trail the two speedy thru hikers are taking a break as I continue on to Gentian Pond. The rough ups and downs of that small section of trail convinced me that I would head down Austin Brook Trail rather than head back to Peabody Brook Trail. Looking at the pictures now I wished I had headed back but I knew from hiking Austin Brook Trail t'was all down hill from here to North Road so my mind was pretty made up. At the shelter the hiker I saw back at Trident Pass was setting up for the night as I stopped to chat with him a bit. Not having much time left in the day I had a couple of gulps of water before leaving and heading down the one steep pitch that I remembered from two years ago.
The steep drop levels out at a bog where log bridges lead you through this wet section. The levels are much lower than two years ago as the pictures show.
From the shelter down it is a repeat of my big loop hike back in October of 2014. Austin Brook Trail eventually leads out onto an old logging road and then down to a clearing where the road levels out. A look back and I can see the clearing where Dryad Falls drops down through the woods. I had read on Mike's blog that he had seen it from this spot and sure enough it is easily spotted.
Back into the woods right above the crossing of Austin Mill Brook that gave me such a hard time earlier this spring. Thirty more minutes and I reach North Road and the roadwalk back to where I parked. It is just under two miles but being at the end of a long up and down day seems a lot longer. On the way back into Gorham the traffic is at a dead stop backed up all the way before the bridge over the Androscoggin River. A thirty minute wait before everyone begins to move again and turns out is was Old Home Day in Gorham and the road was closed for the parade. Oh well I was staying in town anyways to hike some more in this area tomorrow.
Final numbers: 16.4 miles, 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Redline Miles: 4.9, Total to Date: 1200.8