Mahoosuc Notch and Speck Pond

August 31, 2017.

Finally done with the Presi's so I am moving on to finish the next tab, the Mahoosuc's. Today I attack the venerable and infamous Mahoosuc Notch. It has the dubious reputation of the "hardest and toughest mile" on the Appalachian Trail.

Another night in Gorham as I head up Success Pond Road parking at the Notch Trail head where Andy and I spotted a vehicle at the beginning of the month while doing a traverse. This time I am by myself with a wicked early start. There is a threat of rain this afternoon and I need all the dry hiking time I can get. I'm on the trail at 6:40 and the plan is for a big loop through Mahoosuc Notch to Speck Pond with an out and back up to the Old Speck Trail then out via Speck Pond Trail for a road walk back to the Notch Trail. It's a quiet walk in the woods up this easy trail making my way back to the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail for the second time this month.

 

The trip up the Notch Trail goes by quickly as I reach the junction for the Mahoosuc Trail in under an hour. There's no dilly dallying as I head right into the notch and almost immediately the fun begins.

 

A short little reprieve and then it is right back at it. There is nothing else like this that I have hiked so far. The Ice Gulch is similar but that was all above boulder hiking. The closest is the Subway in King's Ravine but much shorter in length.

 

The Mahoosuc Notch is surrounded on both sides by steep walls and these rocks are the leftovers of when the Ice Age scraped these remnants and deposited them here. It's a fun and tedious trip through as I clamber over, under and through the huge boulders.

 

I reach another section where the trail is normal and I wonder to myself that this wasn't so bad. In just a few minutes though the trail reverts back to a boulder field and I realize I have further to go than I thought.

 

Route finding isn't too bad as there is only one direction to go. There are the occasional painted blazes and sometimes arrows. Other than that it's just a matter of finding the best route through this maze.

 

Some more above ground hiking and another underground traverse and finally I think I am done.

 

Not bad when I look at the watch and it only took an hour and twenty minutes to get through the boulders. On the other side a much more reasonable trail.

 

The trail is not completely devoid of rocks but it is definitely easier terrain. Mixed in are some nice smooth sections.

 

The next part of the journey is Mahoosuc Arm. I read reports about this section of trail and not much good. The general consensus is this section is like a slap in the face after having suffered through the notch. It's a steep climb up Mahoosuc Arm and the majority of it is an exposed slabby ledge. Thankfully it is dry as I can see this being very problematic when wet.

 

The higher up I go the more I am reminded of the weather that is due to come in later today. The cloud deck is settling in and the winds are picking up. The ledges are pretty much non-stop with a few reprieves here and there. One set has a pair of potholes carved out by the swirling waters over the eons.

 

The climb is relentless but like all climbs it eventually ends.

 

I make it to the junction for May Cut-Off which leads out to the summit of Mahoosuc Arm. It's a wet trip to the high point as the blueberry bushes are dew covered and encroaching on the trail proper.

 

The summit is nothing special just an outcropping in the middle of nowhere. Made less special with the clouds blocking any , if any, views. Back on the Mahoosuc Trail and the bog bridges lead into the misty conditions.

 

Being true to the Mahoosucs this trail would not be complete without some stairs and steep sections leading down.

 

In short order I arrive at the shore of Speck Pond and am greeted with a socked in view. The trail leads around the edge of the pond and with the worsening conditions I decide to bypass the out and back up to Old Speck Trail. Just beyond the junction is the newly rebuilt Speck Pond Shelter. They did a really awesome job on creating this shelter as I stop by for a short break.

 

Rather than pressing my luck with the weather I head on down the Speck Pond Trail for the exit. I'd prefer to get the last section of the Mahoosuc Trail but Mother Nature rules. It will add a lot of pressure on for tomorrow but it is what it is. Climbing up out of the pond was not what I expected and to top it off it's a steep climb.

 

I make it to the apex and the other junction with the May Cut-Off as I head back over to the summit of Mahoosuc Arm.

 

A quick return to Speck Pond Trail and the three plus mile trip down to Success Pond Road. Easy trekking complete with some nice log step work.

 

Skirting along side a recently logged out section where I bet the moose have a field day in. Pretty easy hiking through here.

 

Further down a peek at Success Pond through the trees. The maples are beginning to change which I find odd being the last day of August.

 

Some more nice hiking and then an easy hop across Sucker Brook.

 

Finally I reach the road and it's a left turn to head back to where I parked this morning. Another trail done and I am down to three trails and just under nine miles of trails to go.

 

Just before the turnoff for Notch Trail I come across this guy in the middle of the road. While trying to coax him off the road he went into attack position. Just a minute later and a truck came up through and had I not slid him off the road he would have been part of the road. Along the road that leads to the trail head I stopped a lot and feasted on these beauties. Nothing like some fresh raspberries and blackberries after a long hike.

 

I got a little drizzle as I was coming down Speck Pond Trail which reaffirmed my decision to not get the one mile section of Mahoosuc Trail. Unfortunately as I reached Success Pond Road the weather broke and the sun came out. Just my luck as tomorrow's hike just grew adding another 2.2 miles to it. It'll make my Mahoosuc finish more memorable I guess. Two more days of hiking and I will be done with this long journey. I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.


Final numbers: 11.9 miles, 7 hours 50 minutes.

Redline Miles: 7.5, Total to Date: 1431.5