Date: Sunday, 8/10/14
This was a solo venture across the length of the Mahoosucs from Grafton Notch to Hogan Road in Shelburne. I was going to title this report “Trident Col Campsite Spur via Mahoosuc Trail from Grafton Notch” because in looking over my redlining list I noted with some annoyance that I’d never done this 0.2 mile spur off the Mahoosuc Trail. It had been 3 years since my last Mahoosuc Traverse, and other than a goofy 24-mile redlining day on Chocorua (up-down-up-down-up-down, without ever touching the summit) a few weeks back, it had been some time since I’d done a really long excursion in the White Mtns. Not a lot of planning went into this; the idea popped into my head on Friday afternoon. I love, love, LOVE the Mahoosucs! They are my favorite area of the Whites and it had been too long. Chris agreed to schlep me up to Grafton Notch and was happy to climb his first Maine 4000 footer, followed by a visit to lovely Speck Pond, where he handed out extra candy to some starving thru-hikers.
A more detailed description of the one-day Mahoosuc Traverse can be found with a quick Google search. Suffice it to say the route is very rugged and slow. Although the numbers look comparable to the Pemi Loop -- 30ish miles, 9-10,000 feet elevation gain -- IMO you can plan on adding another 50% to your best Pemi time. This would be my 4th Mahoosuc Traverse in as many attempts. I have also backpacked it twice, once during an AT thru-hike (yes, when going through the Notch especially, 4-5 vs. 30-40 lbs. on the back makes for a much more enjoyable experience), so I knew what I was getting myself into.
The weather forecast for the day looked almost perfect, calling for just a 10 percent chance of showers. My pack contained more food than was needed, a one liter collapsible water container, a light jacket, a long-sleeve lightweight wool shirt, space blanket, phone, one ibuprofen (not taken), a headlamp and a small backup flashlight w/extra batteries (not used), and a SteriPen. I carried a 24 oz. water bottle. At 6:54 am I was off!
The climb up Old Speck went pretty well although I felt sort of groggy, slow, and not yet awake. I took it pretty easy going down to Speck Pond, up Mahoosuc Arm, DOWN Mahoosuc Arm, and through the Notch. I don’t “do” Strava, SPOT, or any of that stuff but did glance at my Timex every now and then and was pleased to make it through the Notch in just over 30 minutes. This included time spent jumping into a hole to retrieve some litter -- a water bottle, a plastic shopping bag, and a pair of disposable contact lenses -- and time spent biting my tongue as a couple of morons attempted to drag their whining, resistant dog through the Notch. (I realize that many dogs have made it through, but this one was clearly distressed.) Grr…!!
Perhaps due to the adrenaline surge resulting from the moron encounter, my body finally seemed to wake up on the climb of Fulling Mill Mtn, and I felt great! Upon reaching Stuffed Goose Shelter, I headed down to the water supply only to discover that my stupid SteriPen seemed to be broken. Time will tell if a bandana suffices as a good enough water filter in an area teeming with oodles of backpackers this time of year…
Over the next stretch to Goose Eye, I met many thru-hikers, probably around 30 for the day (30 times holding my breath as they passed), as well as a few other backpackers but only one other day hiker. Everything was going smoothly and I progressed at a steady pace past the Goose Eyes, Mt. Carlo, Carlo Col, and across the ME/NH state line although I was saddened to see the blue “Welcome to Maine, the Way Life Should Be” sign gone. The climb of Mt. Success was punctuated by the first of two thunderstorms. This first one lasted only 15 minutes and proved to be rather refreshing and cooling. The section of trail down and up and down and up to Gentian Pond took about a hundred years, but I breezed on by the first of the two “quitter trails” that one can use to bail out to North Road, Austin Brook Trail. The fact that the last 10 miles seem to drag on and on is one reason why I actually prefer the south-to-north direction. Sure, the footing gets rougher as you proceed north, but it makes for a more interesting, challenging finish with no easy bailout trails. But I digress.
Somewhere between Gentian Pond and Dream Lake, the rumbling in the sky began again in earnest (10 percent my ass). By Dream Lake -- and Quitter Trail #2, aka Peabody Brook Trail -- it was raining pretty steadily. Bailing was beginning to look pretty good, BUT I still had that pesky Trident Col Campsite Spur to do, soooo... With rain, thunder and a bit of lightning continuing for the next 2 hours, I skittishly motored over Wocket Ledge - I HATE lightning! Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize what the continuous rain was doing to all those slimy and sloping ledges and rocks. Somehow, surprisingly, I didn’t fall once all day! I was experimenting with my Hoka trail runners today and have to say they performed marvelously. They seemed pretty grippy on the rocks, and my feet felt fantastic by the end of the day. No blisters, pain, or any lacing adjustments, etc., required. (DirtyGirl gaiters also helped immensely in keeping crap out of my shoes.)
Finally I reached the much anticipated Trident Col Campsite Spur (yippee). Although there is no shelter here, there IS a nice composting privy where I spent ~5 minutes luxuriating out of the rain while changing into my long-sleeve. The remaining 6+ miles up Cascade Mtn and Mt Hayes were a bit of a slog, and I went into git-r-done mode. For the route off Mt. Hayes, I prefer the Centennial Trail (AT) to the Mahoosuc, mostly just to avoid negotiating the confusing roads and trails at the southern end of the MT.
I didn’t break any records today but was happy: (a) to finish before needing to pull out the headlamp, (b) that I accomplished 100 percent what I’d set out to do, and (c) that I felt pretty good all day, at the finish, and as of this writing the next day. The only question that remains to be answered is: Does a bandana suffice as a water filter?