Highwater and Shelburne Trails

July 1, 2017.

Right back into the Wild River Wilderness as I try to get this region closed out. Today it is the rest of the Highwater Trail and up to the junction of Kenduskeag Trail via the Shelburne Trail. Nothing fancy just a plain old out and back. The only thing of concern is some rain coming in for the afternoon.

The long drive up to a spot called Hastings, Maine located off of Route 113 south of Gilead. Hastings use to be a lumbertown built for the Wild River Lumber Company. Additional reading and pictures can be found here. Today it is the parking lot for the eastern end of the Highwater Trail. No time for exploring the area as it's all about the trails today with the inclement weather coming in. Back up Wild River Road to the intersection with Route 113 and then a left to where the suspension bridge is located. At the bridge I notice a trail coming out of the woods on my left. Crap! I missed the piece of trail between here and the parking lot. A quick trip back to the trailhead and then return to the bridge.


Across the Wild River and on the other side an old road with a distinct path is heading straight ahead. It's possible this is the old Hastings Trail that ran from here to Route 2. To the left is where the Highwater Trail continues. The Highwater Trail follows old logging roads which is quite evident in some spots.


Similar to the other section I did a few weeks ago the trail travels in and out of the woods sometimes breaking out along the Wild River. It's one of those classic muggy days and the air so thick with moisture even the river is steaming. At one spot there is an old culvert where the logging road crossed a small stream. Might try following that one day as there also used to be bridge across the Wild River where the road crossed that I missed.


Back into the woods and then along the river before coming across a steep drainage on my right. Either the brook became overwhelmed with a large amount of water and washed all this material down or there was an avalanche during the winter creating this pile of rubble. Further up the trail and evidence that this once was a logging road as two truck tires have been left behind.


An easy crossing of Martins Brook and then the trail brings me sharply down to the rivers edge.


The trail follows the river through a very faint path that was more of a guess due to it not looking very distinct. Apparently this section is at the edge of a beaver meadow on the right side. Up where the trail meanders along the river another diversion as there is a washed out section from Irene blocking the old path. Heading down to the river at this spot as it looked like the perfect spot for a short break. Due to the humidity I am already completely soaked thru and a break is warranted. While sitting there I spied this little dude floating in and out of the river.


After my break it was just another fifteen minutes along the Highwater Trail before reaching the junction with the Shelburne Trail. Another trail is done on this long journey! This trip I head up the Shelburne Trail which starts out quite mild following an old logging railroad track. Sometimes the trail is quite open other times it is closed in with all the growth.


At a brook crossing right before the Wilderness sign I stop to take another short break as it is very peaceful here listening to the babbling of the brook. Continuing on and now the trail is following an old logging road as it is straight as can be. This makes for some quick hiking as the footbed is in great shape.


Getting deeper into the woods and there are even more sections of the trail being overgrown. Believe it or not this little gem is the trail even though you can't see the trail bed. Higher up there is an old blaze somehow missed when they removed all blazes in a Wilderness Area. Removing blazes doesn't bother me as most of the time the trail corridor is fairly easy to follow. However clearing the trail is a big bone of contention with me. More often I am finding the trees not cleared and the paths not brushed back. Sometimes I think they claimed a lot of these areas as Wilderness so it was their way of not having to spend money to maintain. Especially when it comes to removing shelters and bridges.


Coming up the col between Howe Peak and Shelburne-Moriah I can feel the air beginning to change. This wasn't supposed to happen until later in the afternoon. Past the Wilderness boundary and then the junction for the end of this hike is just ahead. I reach the junction with the Kenduskeag Trail for my turnaround spot.


Time to beat it out of here as I head down down out of the col and the rains begin to drop. At first it is just a sprinkle and with the canopy of the trees it is no big deal. Then the first downpour of the day as I stop to pull out my rain coat out of my backpack. I just drape it over my head and pack as there is no real point of putting it on. It is still muggy and I am still soaked from the humidity. Halfway down and the rain lets up and I decide that it will be quicker to cross the Wild River rather than retrace my steps along the Highwater Trail. Its and on and off thing with the rain as I reach the spot where I crossed two weeks ago on the Shelburne Trail. No point in putting on the waders this time since I am already pretty wet. So into the water with the shoes and rather than retracing my steps upstream to where the trail meets the river I head right up the banking at the point I crossed. Sometimes the hiking gods smile on me as I climb the banking and stumble across this track rail left behind from the old logging days. Reaching the road and it's full speed ahead as the rain goes from intermittent sprinkles to outright downpour. Just before the end there is a flooded bog and luck is on my side once again. There on the far side is a cow moose enjoying the weeds at the bottom as she bobs her head up and down plucking her afternoon meal out of the muck.


Reaching the parking lot and the clouds really unleash as I close the door. This is not your typical downpour, this is cats and dogs put the wipers on high speed rain. From the time I left Hastings heading through Gorham down through Twin Mt and then Franconia Notch it didn't let up. Sheets of rain came down like I've never seen in a while. The Pemi River was raging right below the Basin where it passes under I-93. So much so that the water level was within a few feet of the bridge. Finally when I reached Ashland the rain let up and things south were normal. Turns out that 4-6 inches dumped in that short time frame in the White Mountain National Forest. Sure glad I got out of the woods when I did and crossed the Wild River before this catastrophic event.

Final numbers: 16.2 miles, 7 hours and 50 minutes.

Redline Miles: 8.4, Total to Date: 1341.7