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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.
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.
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.
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.
The area between the peaks and below headed towards the road was full of little creeks many of which had nice drops to them.
This snowmobile bridge over the Bear River made things easy
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.
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!
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
Which included a nice view of E Baldpate where I was headed next
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!
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
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!!