Wright, Mahoosuc and Notch Trails

August 6, 2017.

I have been bouncing this hike around for quite some time on how I was going to knock off the Wright Trail and a portion of the Mahoosuc Trail. Wright Trail could be done as an easy out and back but I also need the section of Mahoosuc Trail between Goose Eye East and Mahoosuc Notch. There is no easy way to get this piece of trail so it has always been on the back burner as an out and back with the Wright Trail. The mileage is a bit of a stretch at 16.4 miles round trip but the days are getting shorter and the Mahoosucs are some rough trails. So Andy to the rescue as he offered to spot a car for me at one end of the trail route. Only problem is it is a 40 mile over one hour drive in between the two trailheads due to the remoteness of each trail. The plan is to meet up in Berlin and then head up Success Pond Road to the Notch Trail head and then drive up to Route 26 down through Grafton Notch making our way over to Bull Branch Road for the Wright Trail.

Arriving early in Berlin I stopped at Walmart to pick up some snacks and breakfast while I waited for Andy. We scheduled to meet at eight at the Irving station. We met up fifteen minutes earlier and off we went to head up Success Pond Road. The road was in much rougher shape this year than last year when I was up here. The first mile just plain sucks due to the shared use with the ATV crowd. Beyond that the second mile was kind of rough just like before but the next nine miles were not much better. I remember being able to do 40 MPH on some sections of this road but not today. We dropped off Andy's vehicle at the Notch Trail and continued up Success Pond Road to Route 26. We then headed south down through Grafton Notch and while heading through Newry we passed by a AAA truck. A turn onto Route 2 to Sunday River Road heading deep into the woods to Bull Branch Road where the trailhead for Wright Trail is located over 9 miles from Route 2. It took us over two hours since meeting in Berlin to get to this spot to begin our hike.

Getting ready I put my wallet and keys in my backpack like always and before pulling out my pack I offered Andy some chocolate chip cookies I had bought earlier. Grabbing a couple myself I close the back door and then reach in the drivers door and grab my hat and lock the doors and then close the driver door...SHIT! I forgot my pack in the back. Where my keys are inside. WTF! That cookie bit through my whole routine off. I always put my keys and wallet in the top flap of my backpack then put it on, grab my poles, then close the back door. I leave the front door open until I am ready to leave then lock it up and close it. Now what? Keys in the truck and in the middle of the woods. A rock is the only way. Just which window I am going to break and how much is it going to hurt when I smash it? And then are we going to hike and leave a smashed window vehicle here for anyone to get into? Not that there is anything of value in it just the principle. Before I smash a window I have the lamebrain idea to see if I have signal way out here and Holy Crap there is. Quickly I call AAA and pray the call goes through. Thankfully I get a rep on the line and tell her where we are and even better she tells me someone will be there in forty-five minutes. Right on time the guy finds us and it looks just like the truck we passed in Newry. Within a few minutes he has the door opened and saves the day and a window from being broken. Now on to what we came out here to do. Ten minutes before eleven and we are off down the road to the trail. At the sign someone upstairs is mocking me as there is a set of car keys hanging on it. Very funny! Heading into the woods and I notice a trail diverging off to the left and figure it is a side path to the brook so we continue along the old woods road.

 

We head up the road and even pass a few blue blazes on the way. About a half mile up I notice a water feature down in the woods to the left. Cutting through the open woods I hit a distinctive trail. What is this? The trail description doesn't say anything about heading left or right back at the beginning of the trail. But this is definitely a trail. Concerned I tell Andy I'll be right back as I head back up to the woods road and jog back down to the trailhead. Along the way I see a couple of blazes and now I am confused. The guide says the trail heads down towards the brook so reaching the split I take the left this time. To confuse things even more there is a blaze as I start down the trail to the brook. So which trail is the right Wright Trail?

 

The trail leads down and onto the slabs that line Goose Eye Brook. Back into the woods a fallen backboard for a sign is along the trail.

 

Back out onto the ledges and then again the trail leads into the woods. Up the trail is evidence this is the trail or once was. Rotting bog bridges and this faint blaze on a tree.

 

I reach the spot where I left Andy and the water attraction that led me down here to begin with. It's a small gorge with the water rushing through it. A bit further up is another spot where the water has carved the sidewalls of the brook.

 

The trail climbs away from the brook and leads back up to the old woods road just above where I dove into the woods. The trail description matches what I just did but I still am confused in regards to the blazes along the old woods road.

 

Just a few minutes up the trail and a beautiful cascade is off to the left and a good spot to adjust the layers. A steel rope is next to the trail just after the side path evidence of some past logging in the area.

 

Leading back down to Goose Eye Brook and the water features are endless. Just hiking this trail for the cascades is rewarding enough and a return to this trail is mentally noted especially during the spring melt.

 

Trying to keep moving as the brook is a distraction, in a good way, we make it up the valley and soon reach the spur for the tentsite which is off to the right. I head up as Andy continues on and just a short distance up the hill is a cool spot to camp some night. An old loop trail is supposed to be near this spot but I never noticed it. It leads up to the Mahoosuc Trail on the northern side of Goose Eye East. One more reason to come back someday. After crossing Goose Eye Brook for the last time the trail heads up with the assistance of some log steps that are slowly decaying back into the earth.

 

The terrain up out of the valley was varied and a non-stop climb. The first views at an opening of Old Speck where I need the trail coming off both sides of the mass. A short food break about midway up and then the steepness increases as we approach the ridgeline.

 

On the ridge it is here we got blasted with the high winds for the day. The first gust pushed us both to our left. Mt Washington at this time was seeing sustained winds in the 70's with gusts in the 80's so 30's to 40's were probably a safe estimate where we were. But the views were fantastic. A look behind us to where we came up out of the Goose Eye Brook valley located on the left. Goose Eye North Peak is visible and is one of the peaks we will be traversing over later.

 

The climb up the exposed ridge was quite a challenge. One gust knocked Andy over into the scrub. I was ahead of him and crouched down on every incoming blast. Waiting for that brief break before scrambling quickly up. I had to clip my hat to my pack for fear of losing another one like last year in Dixville Notch. Cresting up and over the bald ridge I had gotten ahead of Andy and waited for him on the opposite side. When he caught up to me he was concerned I had been blown over the edge because one minute I was there and the next I was not. A comment was made that no matter how bad the wind was that we were not turning back and heading down. We both agreed as neither one of us wanted to descend the trail we just came up.

 

We had been hiking for a bit over three hours and to see Goose Eye East still a ways away was more disheartening than the wind. The total length of the wright Trail is 4.4 miles but it sure seemed a lot longer than that. Maybe the locking the keys in the vehicle had something to do with the time warp. In Mahoosuc style the trail came up over one side of the ridge only to drop down over the other side leading back into the protection of the woods from the wind.

 

A look back shows the knob we went up and over. Into the woods for a brief period and reaching another knob I paused here to wait for Andy to catch back up to me. Goose Eye's main peak seems a ways away also even though we weren't heading to that peak.

 

I could spy the ladder that is on the AT just below Goose Eye's summit as it was easily visible from this vantage point. Once Andy caught up we were still in awe of how distant the east peak appeared. Dropping down a bit we entered into a very wet area complete with rotting bog bridges.

 

Over three and half hours from starting and we finally reached the junction with the AT and Wright Trail is checked off as done. Only 6.4 miles left to go to get to our car spot. Turning right on the Mahoosuc Trail and it is a short distance to the steep climb up to Goose Eye East. Reaching the exposed climb and the winds were still strong as I hunkered down waiting for a break and then sprinted up to the top.

 

Steadying the camera in the wind and I took a few pictures from up here as I braced against the gusts. Andy came up behind me and we didn't last long on top as we headed over to the edge for the descent down. From here on it is all new trail. I had done this short section from the junction with Wright Trail to the peak last year when I did Goose Eye. So I had no idea what to expect from this point on. We could see the path ahead at least to Goose Eye North Peak but Fulling Mill Mt was hiding behind it. Heading down the trail leads to the right instead of heading straight down. The first of many plank bridges with cleats line the trail.

 

The Mahoosuc Trail would not be complete unless there were ladders on the trail. We reach the bottom where there is a mud pit and look back at Goose Eye East Peak.

 

Out on the open plateau the path ahead to Goose Eye North Peak. A dip into the woods for a brief period and then back out into the open just before the climb up to the summit.

 

Reaching the north peak and it is time for a break as it is four in the afternoon. Finding a spot on the northern side of the summit out of the wind and we sit down with a view of where we still need to go. Fulling Mill Mt South is just ahead where the small bald spot is. The spot on the left is Mahoosuc Notch and we will be heading down off the ridge just before the beginning of the infamous Mahoosuc Mile.

 

Just after restarting down we come across a family of Spruce Grouse right on the trail. There is a mother and her three chicks. One of the chicks disappears into the thick underbrush. Very slowly we make our way pass and thankfully she is not aggressive as she watches us pass.

 

Back into the woods where more bog bridges await and the first rebar steps into the ledge appear.

 

And the trademark roller coaster of the Mahoosucs as the trail dips and climbs the whole way. A huge ladder leads the way up to Full Goose Shelter as we stop to take a quick break.

 

Both of us are running low on water and we head down to the source at the shelter. Unfortunately the water in this area is very tannic so opt not to refill here. Something about very brown water just isn't appealing. Perhaps if I was completely out of water and dying of thirst then maybe but today I'll pass.

 

It's just before five as we pack up and leave for the final push to get out of the woods at a reasonable time. Just one more climb left as the trail almost immediately starts the climb up Fulling Mill Mt. Reaching the plateau of Fulling Mill and we run across some ledges before finally reaching the knob of the South Peak. North Peak is a wooded spot out a little ways but the trail does not lead over it.

 

The trail makes a hard left turn turn here and leads across some bog bridges before heading down and back into the woods for the last time. Heading down is pretty tame until we hit some more ledges with the standard rebar hand and foot holds drilled into the granite.

 

The trail steepens as we are now heading down towards Mahoosuc Notch and also becomes much rougher. Making pretty good time and reaching this rocky pile I know it isn't much farther till we bottom out at the head of the notch.

 

Down the last pitch and we meet the last hiker of the day as he is heading up. A few minutes later we reach the beginning of Mahoosuc Notch and as curious as I am to see what the beginning of the Mahoosuc Mile looks like we just do not have the time today. It's a left turn onto the Notch Trail and just 2.5 miles of hiking left.

 

Following some more bog bridges the Notch Trail is a pleasant hike out slowly descending back down to where we parked. Mostly following some old logging roads as it is pretty straight for a majority of the way.

 

A couple of easy crossings of Shelter Brook which the trail parallels. Then a long straight run until we reach the end at 7:15 a mere eight hours and twenty-five minutes after finally starting. Only thing left now is the forty mile drive back to where I am parked on Bull Branch Road.

 

A stop along Route 16 to catch this picture of a poor skier mishap! And one more stop to catch the full moon rising.

 

Back at the trailhead and it is already dark and the long drive back home will seem even longer with how late it is. A pretty good day once we got started and we survived the nasty winds up on the ridge. Looking back I made the comment to Andy that there was no way I would have been able to do this hike as an out and back like I had planned. A big "Thanks" for the car spot and helping me to redline this section of trail. On the drive down I was already planning my next hike with another car spot as I spied a spot where I can save a chunk of miles. Stay tuned!


Final numbers: 10.8 miles, 8 hours 25 minutes.

Redline Miles: 10, Total to Date: 1381.7