Grafton Loop - Two Sections

3:17 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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The plan was to do the whole loop as a 40 mile, 4 night trip last month. Then the rains came heh. Two days of flash flood warnings pushed my start back and cut my timeline down to 3 nights. More rain on day one made for a late start followed by 2 hours on the motorcycle in the rain before I hit the trail.  Things were looking better as I arrived.


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I parked at the south lot and walked the .6 miles south along the road until I reached the trailhead for the west side of the loop.  The start on this side is actually a snowmobile trail for about a half a mile then the real trail branches off to the left.


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About this time the rain started again and didn't let up til late afternoon.  Temps were in the upper 40s but I generate a lot of heat climbing.  The camera stayed stashed so no pics for a while though.  The trail was pretty soggy but considering how much rain there had been it was in pretty good shape.  Being steep and rocky means good drainage heh.

I made it to Sgt Brook camp by about 3pm and realized I was way behind schedule.  I had another 4.5 miles to my expected camp including over a mile of pretty steep up.  Cold, wet and setting up camp in the dark is no way to live so I opted to stop there for the night.

Despite all the rain the campsites were in great shape.  The AMC maintains this part of the loop and they created drainage ditches around each tent pad.  This pic is from the next morning as I was tearing down camp.


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There was a communal cooking area which included a big steel bear box and the water source was along the camp spur pretty close to the main trail. Nice little camp if the weather had  been better.

Temps dropped to upper 30s with showers off and on all night. 14 hours in the tent gave me plenty of time to do the math and I knew my loop was not happening this trip.  It also gave me time to appreciate the heavy Bean fleece I found at Goodwill last month though I made the mistake of falling asleep in it and woke up sweating under my quilt heh.

Heading back the way I came in the clouds started to break at times. This is Stowe Mt looking SE towards Sunday River I believe.
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The AMC put some nice effort into their section of trail. These wooden ladders really help keep the dirt in place on the steep sections and the squirrels seem to like to use them as a dinner table.
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The area between the peaks and below headed towards the road was full of little creeks many of which had nice drops to them.

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This snowmobile bridge over the Bear River made things easy

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Since I knew I wouldn't have time to do the whole loop at once this year I opted to go back last weekend for another one night section.  This time I started at the north lot which is right on the AT and headed north towards the West Baldpate shelter planning to take the AT until the Grafton Loop branched off  on top of East Baldpate.


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Depending on who tells the story I either opted to go out of my way to snap a few pics from the scenic outlook at Tablerock or I am so used to following blue blazes that I didn't notice I'd left the AT until I came to the viewpoint hehe.  Either way it sure was pretty...far down!

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There are some incredible stone staircases leading up to W. Baldpate.  The MATC club handles the AT on this side of the highway as well as the Loop trail on this side.  The amount of work that went into this section of trail is astounding.  The erosion in areas that weren't staircased only hinted at how bad this trail might be if not so well taken care of.  Sorry I didn't get any pics but just dragging my butt up those rocks was all I could manage heh.

Finally the view from W Baldpate

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Which included a nice view of E Baldpate where I was headed next

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That peak being pretty much one big rock they didn't have to build any staircases going up
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They did have to build this ladder coming down the other side though.
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Spent an incredibly peaceful night here at the E Baldpate Campsite. Despite the name it is 2.1 miles past the peak and about 1400' below.  These sites looked like they'd probably be a bit soggier in the rain than the ones at Sgt Brook but for once I wasn't getting wet!
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Weather was a little better for pics in the morning
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Some fog way way down below
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W Baldpate from the ledges atop E Baldpate
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Heading back up W Baldpate I took this series of pics to give some sense of perspective of the size of the East peak If you look closely in the last shot you can make out a tiny little person making their way up
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Of course one of the best shots came from the parking lot heh The Eyebrow hangs off the side of Old Speck as an option for those who like ledges. 
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I think heading up that way to Speck Pond may be my next section to try on this loop.  Who knows, maybe I'll even find the time to do the whole thing at once?

Now for a sad note.  I am pretty sure this was the last trip for my hat.  It has lasted through two seasons of soaking rains, drenching sweats and being stuffed in the saddlebags on the scoot, but oh the places it has seen!!

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4:52 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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LS Nice pictures and trip..You keep this up Iam going to have to make a trip to Maine in the Summer..

7:32 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Great photos!  I've never ventured out there so it gives me a nice glimpse of that part of the country.

8:25 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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BTW.. correct me if I'm wrong.. but you got the Hubba Hubba right?  Did you use it in the rain?  How did it hold up?

7:53 a.m. on October 2, 2013 (EDT)
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It was just a Hubba that I picked up and I've only had it on three trips so not quite ready for a review.  It went up fast in the rain which was nice and was stable in the wind with minimal staking/guying but there was definitely some splatter going on.  Not enough to get me wet inside, but enough to make a mess of the tent. A few more inches of fly might be nice, but so far I'm liking it in all weather.

10:25 a.m. on October 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Loved the report LS!

If I ever get to thru-hike the AT I'll look forward to that section for sure!

7:05 p.m. on October 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice to hear that you have some positive initial impressions with your new tent!

2:01 p.m. on November 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hi LS - I'm considering doing the full loop over thanksgiving. Any advice? Campsites you'd recommend in particular? Areas to be cautious of in cold weather?

2:48 p.m. on November 11, 2013 (EST)
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Patman said:

Loved the report LS!

If I ever get to thru-hike the AT I'll look forward to that section for sure!

 Ditto Patman's comment!

7:54 a.m. on November 12, 2013 (EST)
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Seth said:

Hi LS - I'm considering doing the full loop over thanksgiving. Any advice? Campsites you'd recommend in particular? Areas to be cautious of in cold weather?

 I'd let your schedule dictate the sites Seth depending on how many nights you have available.   They are not evenly spaced in terms of trail mileage and you really need to take the elevation changes into account.  Well I do anyway heh. Either direction from the North parking area on the AT and Puzzle Mt from the South end are all relatively short but steep climbs but they are tree sheltered so the snowpack shouldn't be too bad that early.

There are several areas that are fully exposed and the winds blow pretty hard up there.  None of the camps are on exposed peaks but with or without snow East Baldpate will probably be a bit exciting through the exposed ledges part. Sunday River Whitecap is also fully exposed but the terrain isn't as challenging on that side.

Water supplies were good at all camps last month but it has been pretty dry since. Should still be ok at most camps but I hear the creek near Stewart runs dry before the others. By then you may have enough snow not to worry about that though.

I am jealous that you have the time to do it all at once.  This full time baby daddy gig has lots of benefits but free time is not one of them. Lately I've been limited to doing some back yard cold weather testing.  Going into the low 20s the next few nights here so I have another sleep system test planned for tomorrow night. Just not as exciting as heading up the trail ;)

8:20 a.m. on November 12, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the feedback LS! Would you recommend complete the loop heading north, or south?

10:04 a.m. on November 12, 2013 (EST)
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My plan for the entire loop was to start at the South end and go up the West side over Sunday River Whitecap to the Slide camp site for night one, then over Speck and down into Speck Pond on the AT for night two, back up and down Speck on the AT to the North parking lot and up the other side to the East Baldpate campsite for night three, short day four to Town Corner leaving the rest for a long last day hike out. If I can find a spare four nights next year I'd like to give that another shot.

With Winter conditions I think that day two might be too ambitious so the Baldpate shelter on the AT might be more sensible spreading the extra distance into the short day four.  How many nights were you thinking of?  Like I say that sort of determines which camps you hit and if you have enough time to do the side trip to Speck Pond.

If you don't have better this elevation profile I worked up this Summer may help you get an idea of what you are facing.  I took one someone had posted and flipped it to reflect the direction then cut and pasted for starting point I described above but it doesn't include the Speck Pond side trip. Figure about 1 mile each way and about 1k elevation down to the pond and back up the next morning if you go that route.


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Not sure if you can read backwards text so I added a couple of reference points just now #1 is Slide Camp #2 is roughly where the W Baldpate AT shelter is before you get to the top of WB itself #3 is E Baldpate campsite and #4 is Town Corner. My point is be prepared to either be going up or down steeply for almost the entire trip! 8p

8:23 p.m. on November 14, 2013 (EST)
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LoneStranger said:

It was just a Hubba ... ..but there was definitely some splatter going on.  Not enough to get me wet inside, but enough to make a mess of the tent.

Hmm... I too own a Hubba.   I only use a tent because of weather, and had the opportunity to experience a few significant rain sessions in the few years I have owned the tent.  In all instances The interior was completely dry, except for the wetness from sodden gear.  The fly provided could be made to cover low enough to preclude splash from reaching the inner tent wall, or extended out and away from the tent in a manner that kept things dry.  Your description of your fly's coverage makes me wonder: Perhaps they mis-dimensioned your fly?  I would return the fly if you think the performance may not suffice.  I too had a fly problem; the WP coating delaminated and reeked.  MSR replaced it promptly, no questions asked.  And both flies provided complete coverage.

Hubba is a good 1P tent, but it is fairly minimalist as foul weather shelter goes.  Obvious the Hubba isn't a tent to take in the snow.  And the vestibule is too small to store a pack.  It seems instead the design of this tent considered the vestibule as primarily a means for a drier entry into the tent - and it is - and secondarily as a place to stow items you need in your tent.  But the rest of your pack will reside outside, perhaps under a large trash bag.  This system works well for me in three season use.  If you wanted to store you pack in this tent, for slight additional weight get the Hubba Hubba, and you will have plenty of gear space.  I could wax on, but I am off topic.

Ed

6:57 a.m. on November 15, 2013 (EST)
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Not off topic to me Ed ;)  I have had no issues with water getting into the tent.  What I was talking about was the head and the foot of the tent getting dirt splattered on them because the fly at those points is very narrow, just barely covering the tent.

I am able to fit my 65L Osprey under the vestibule once the tent is up and it is partially unpacked but I do drape a garbage bag over it as the vestibule is definitely in the splash zone.  I agree 100% this is not a snow tent heh.

October 31, 2014
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