Mahoosuc Finish

September 1, 2017.

My last day in the Mahoosucs! A ginormous loop planned with an out and back to Speck Pond due to not being able to get that section yesterday. My last night in Gorham and I'm up early and out the door heading up to Grafton Notch for the Old Speck Trail head.

The weather is not much different than the whole week has been. Cool temps and the winds are pretty significant like yesterday as I head out on the Old Speck Trail at 6:40. At the open ledges just before the junction with the Eyebrow Trail and I get a view of where the summit of Old Speck should be. It is smothered in a cloud with the winds blowing them through the notch.

 

I have not been on this trail since February of 2015 when the trail was under a few feet of snow. I say a few feet sarcastically because that is the same tree with just the top peaking out and at least 6-8 feet of snow burying the rest of the tree.

 

I keep a relatively quick pace as I make it up to the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail and it is now nine o'clock in the morning. It's just over a mile to Speck Pond for my short out and back. Right now the weather is no different than yesterday in regards to the wind and walking in the clouds. The good thing is there is no threat of rain today as I make my way across the short ridge. A few minutes later and I'm exposed to the full blast of the winds. On Mt Washington the winds are in the 60's with a peak at 75. In front of me is Mahoosuc Arm and a bump or two that I need to get over before dropping down to Speck Pond.

 

There was no time to take pictures as I headed down the steep slabs coming off of Old Speck. The winds and moisture from the clouds made it a run for my money as I wanted to get down into the protection of the trees quickly. Once down I turned around and took this shot of the shoulder and the exposed ledges are on the left. Walking across the ridge was a nice run as the terrain was a mix bag including some bog bridges.

 

Coming over the second bump and I ran into a familiar face. The woman hiking the AT I met thirteen days ago on the Garfield Ridge Trail was coming up the trail towards me. So 88 miles later I run into her again! Pretty cool. We stopped and had a chat as she was coming up from the Speck Pond Campsite. I continued down to Speck Pond and said I'd see her again in a bit as this was my out and back portion of the trip. The trip down was fairly steep with some ledges and a few spots required clambering down. At one ledge a pretty good view over to The Percy's with Long Mt and Sugarloaf Mt.

 

Reaching the bottom and this section of the Mahoosuc Trail is done. Heading over to the shelter for a break I get a view of Speck Pond which was hidden yesterday with the clouds.

 

A relaxing break at the shelter as I had some snacks and a nice little chat with a couple who were heading southbound on the AT. They were surprised with the temps we were experiencing this week especially the unusually cold nights. I assured them this was not the norm for this time of the year but it sure made for some great hiking weather. Knowing it was time to get moving again I packed up and headed back up for the first steep climb. Right at the last bump before the climb back up to Old Speck I ran into the thru hiker again and we chatted again for a few minutes. She was hoping to get to Andover for the night but didn't think she would make it. It was her time to go back home as she was missing her grand daughter. I told her I still had a ways to go but if she wanted a ride when I got done I was willing to give her one if she waited once reaching the parking lot. She had about four more miles to go and I had about ten miles to go. Off I went and hitting the exposed shoulder I booked it up as the winds were just as bad when I came down. A few spots I had to crouch down as I waited for a small break and then scrambled up the slope. Back at the junction with Old Speck Trail I couldn't resist taking a picture of the trail sign for a comparison shot of when I was here last back in 2015. Snowpack galore! That's a good five feet plus of snow I was standing on back then.

 

A short trip along the Mahoosuc Trail and I reach the old fire tower on top of Old Speck. Just around the corner and a trail sign marks the end of yet one more trail. Mahoosuc Trail is done! At 26.6 miles in total length it is the longest trail in the White Mountains and I've finally finished it. Only two trails left to complete for my redlining journey, Grafton Loop Trail and Eagle Link. Next up is the last portion of Grafton Loop Trail. I need this section between Old Speck and Miles Notch.

 

The Grafton Loop Trail is pretty mild as I start the descent down off Old Speck. An opening through the trees affords a view over to Sunday River Whitecap. Just below the distant peak is Miles Notch where I'll take an abandoned trail down to Route 26, the same trail Andy and I used a few weeks ago. Continuing on down the trail grade is so mild compared to other trails in this area. I have discovered another favorite to add to my list.

 

A trek through a wind damaged area where the new growth is swallowing the trail proper. A look back from this section and I can see Old Speck looking a long ways away already.

 

Part way down and a side trail off to my right leads down to a small brook which is the drinking source for the Bull Run Campsite. A short climb up away from the brook leads to the tent platforms scattered in the woods.

 

This secluded spot comes complete with a bear box for storing your food at night and even has it's own privy! I can see a return to this area for some overnight adventure's some day in the near future.

 

Back to the trail and the easy hiking continues as I pass through a hobblebush and fern lined section. Further down and another spur, this time on the left, that leads to Slide Mt Campsite. Another hiker is already setting up for the night as I quickly pass through not to disturb his peacefulness. This is the first person I've seen since leaving Old Speck.

 

This campsite is the end of the side trips as the trail winds down around Slide Mt staying well below it's summit. Along the way this old tree has finally succumbed to age and fell parallel with the trail being supported off the ground by one of it's branches. A few minutes later and a peek at Sunday River Whitecap as it looms closer marking the end for me on this trail.

 

I come across one group of overnighters as I stop for a short water and food break as they are heading up. Other than the hiker at the campsite these are the only people I would come across on this trail. Try to find this seclusion on a trail in NH! I reach my spot in Miles Notch and make the left turn to start the trip down this unofficial trail to Route 26. I have one more trail left to go with Grafton Loop Trail being done! As I head down this path I wonder about the history of this trail as it is well defined and certainly does not resemble a herd path or bootleg trail. It really saves a lot of mileage and even more roadwalking and is pretty easy trekking also.

 

I make it to the logging road which I believe doubles as a snowmobile corridor in winter. There are three bridges along the way which all need some maintenance in the near future.

 

In less than an hour from turning off the Grafton Loop Trail I reach the road and start the two mile trek back to the Old Speck parking lot. A short distance up the road and I spy this little mini basin beside the road.

 

Back at the parking lot and as I reach the truck the woman I keep running into is waiting and definitely wants to leave the trail and takes me up on my offer for a ride. She was hoping to get to Andover but not being familiar with this are I offer to drop her in Gorham on my way back. She needs to get to Portland where she is flying out of to go home so this is actually better for getting a bus ride. Riding back I find out she has been section hiking the AT through the years and has one more section left to go. Dedication and commitment right there! I dropped her off at Hiker's Paradise on Main St. The same motel I dropped Peaches and Cream three years ago on their thru hike. The motel I was staying at the last couple of nights was all booked for Labor Day weekend so I headed back home to prepare for my last hike tomorrow for redlining. Mahoosucs tab is done and just one tab and trail to go!


Final numbers: 15.3 miles, 9 hours 20 minutes.

Redline Miles: 6.2, Total to Date: 1437.7