190 forum posts
Recently, my good lifelong buddy Sam and I got together with his friends, a cute couple named Matt and ML for a day hike through Mahoosuc Notch. The last time Sam and I tried to do this hike we never quite met up, and I almost died on the trail after 4 days of hiking alone, sick, and with way too much gear. This time, we would conquer the trail and do it together, and I made two new friends along the way! All experienced hikers, Sam and I have hiked the Mahoosuc range in the past, Matt and ML have hiked New Zealand's south island among other things. We geared up and got out there bright and early.
The four of us headed up for a lazy day hike loop through the western Mountains of Maine. On the ride up, we joked about the last time we tried to hike the area together, and flashbacks of projectile vomit, running a fever and feet wrapped in duct tape flashed through my memory. As we approached White Mountain National forest, I became overwhelmed with excitement. Luckily it was my turn to play DJ with the ipod, and the selection of tunes Matt had brought provided plenty of distraction. We stopped along Rt. 26 at Old Spec parking area to loose some extra body mass and consult the map. Our point of entry was up Success Pond Road where we would park the truck shortly after crossing over into NH. Piece of cake, the Gazetteer had the road, and the Toyota's GPS confirmed this fact, despite the AMC map not having this road. Onward and upward the map and GPS told us that we were on the Success Pond Road road when whomp! The truck became sort of stuck in a stream crossing. Matt was so excited to get his truck dirty, we forgot to make a video or take a picture of the fording. Shortly after the three wheeled diagonal fording the road disappeared completely. So we stopped and re-consulted the map. As it turned out, there were 4 "Success Pond Road"(s) all within this one square mile area on our GPS unit. We just happened to be on the wrong one. Lesson Learned: Never trust GPS, and the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer is a trustworthy map. After a short retreat, and another fording, we found the correct road and floored it to the trailhead.
Once we reached the trailhead, we stretched out, and headed up the access trail towards the Notch trail. This time, I'd bring along my enormous, and aging 1 lb. camera since it was only a day trip. We crossed a stream a couple of times on our way up to the Notch trail and that's where the fun begins. As soon as we reached the Notch, I began to have more flashbacks of me stumbling across this terrain with about 40lbs of gear. Our pace was easy going, and we hopped jumped and crawled our way following the white blazes through the boulder field. There isn't a whole lot of light that gets to the bottom of the notch, and we saw a couple spots that still had ice from last winter. There was a nice cool fog from the ice and it added to what was a perfect cloudless late morning on the trail. we stopped to rest under what I call SOB Rock, because of it's size and a white arrow pointing under rather than over the rock. Sam joked about our "lazy hike through the forest" at one point, and ML joked "This is what you Mainer's call fun eh?"
Sam and I had similar thoughts as we traversed the terrain, thinking back and recalling The Arm as being the tough part. One thing I noticed is the lack of litter. The only thing I packed out was a small container of dental floss. There was a hat, and a dog leash left by the gnomes as well. Our route through the boulder field was swift, or at least I thought so, mostly because when I did this 8 years earlier I thought it took me all day with my expedition pack and illness. After the notch, we took a breather, checked and compared scrapes and scratches and had some lunch. With the boulder field behind us, the trip gets even more exciting going up the side of Mahoosuc Mtn.
We stopped to rest and refuel at the stream crossing that marked the start of the Arm.
The stream was as high as I remembered from my spring passage years ago. For those that heard tales about the Mahoosuc Notch being the "toughest mile on the AT," well in my opinion it's the arm that gets you heading north. We climbed up steep rock and root faced angles at a snails pace, joking the we were not 23 anymore. It's a bear of a climb, but also fun. When I say fun, it really was a great time up the hill. They don't have switchbacks here in Maine, and I liked the fact that the trail went straight up the hill. We passed a 65 year old gentleman that looked like a multi-day explorer, possibly a thru-hiker and chatted it up for a bit. He was in terrific shape, and had himself a scrape or two from the Notch. He joked about how good the water tasted, and when we asked him where he was coming from his response of "The Rocks" said it all. Shortly after that we reached what I like to call SOB corner. It's one of about half a dozen on the Arm that as you approach, you think to yourself "This has to be the last of the hard stuff" and after a 20 degree turn it goes straight back up the face of the Mtn. "Son of a....!"
As the birches and hardwoods dwindle into alpine forests of stunted furs, our legs were barking and the sweat was pouring. "What a pretty place" I blurted out through my deep breaths over and over. H20 was running low, and we had only gone about 4 miles. The four of us decided to take a breather and some pics just shy of the summit overlooking Mahoosuc Notch, and Sunday River ski area in the distance. Once we started to feel the afternoon chill, we made the decision that summiting Old Spec would not be reachable if we wanted to get back home before dark. We took the May cut-off short loop back down the Mtn in hopes of reaching the car by dusk. Shortly after that we were back down into the forest with the hardwoods and descending through the birch groves. There were a couple of moose droppings along the trail on the way down too. We had hoped to see one, only from a distance. Sam joked, "If I suddenly sprint by you guys in the other direction, you'll be seeing a moose soon thereafter."
As we approached the end of the trail we snacked on some wild blackberries, a great snack that got our energy up. It was a grand hike, even though it was only a day trip. All in all, we did about 7 miles in 7 hours. We had a blast, and plan on making this an annual excursion to the White Mountains.