Day 2, 14 miles
Day 2 on the Grafton Loop Trail (GLT) found the Maine Train greeting the day off The G Loop.
We rousted ourselves in the cool morning temps a mere stone’s throw from Spec Pond, lying at an elevation of 3,500 feet and said to be the highest pond in Maine, bordered by thick woods. Yesterday, we passed up the Slide Mountain campsite on our press to the top of Old Spec, 13.3 miles from the start of our hike. We felt we had enough gas in the tank to make it to the Spec Pond campsite, approximately 1 mile off the GLT, descending on the Mahoosuc Trail, which is also the Appalachian Trail. It would require a mile backtrack this morning, making up even more elevation before we started new ground. Here’
s a short morning video of Rangoon and General Tso at the shelter taken just before we start walking in the morning:
On the section from Old Spec headed downhill we encountered snow, some four feet deep in places:
Our first major landmark was the upper parking lot at Grafton Notch State park, but not before we took a side loop trail out over The Eyebrow. The Eyebrow trail features numerous rock outlooks, views of sheer faces and a beautiful beech grove near the lower part of the trail.
We were motoring along this trail when we spotted a family of four sitting near the top of the Eyebrow taking a break. As I approached them, a red haired , ten year old boy called out, “ Hey, its Uncle Tom!” Some glimmer of familiarity started to register from deep in my consciousness, and I slowly realized I also recognized his father . Myles was a fifth grader at South School, where I had given a talk/ demonstration/slide show of my AT thru hike. Maybe my efforts to reach out about the Trail played some part in this Rockland, Maine family’s decision to do hike their own hike on this Memorial Day weekend?
Soon, Tso, ‘
Goon and I were hanging out, eating snacks at the picnic table in the parking lot. The lot was filling up.
First, we observed a large family group of Asians heading toward the trail, dressed in new hiking clothes, and chattering away in words we did not understand. Next , we talked with a sightseer from MA who thought he was headed to Vermont, but instead found himself in Maine, product of a serious wrong turn. He joked about his appreciation for Maine, specifically, about his appreciation for the outhouse at the edge of the lot. He thanked us Mainers for allowing him to make a “ deposit” in out great state and promised to come back again sometime. Then we talked up a young , obviously pregnant woman who joined us for a few moments of talk before she and her friends headed up the Eyebrow. We shared some safety concerns with her and wished her well.
Next, we headed North up the AT, where we’d be spending the next 4 miles climbing toward the East Baldpate summit at 3,812 feet. On the way up, we stopped for a snack at the Baldpate Lean-to, the only lean to that was actually on the whole GLT loop. I remembered snacking here last August.
The views that came next are some of the best on the AT. After one reaches the West Baldpate summit at 3,680 feet, you look out over an expanse of a mile and a half toward the exposed ledges of East Baldpate. If one looks carefully enough, and your eyes are good, you might even make out human forms against the ledges far off in the distance. Between there and here, you look down over the winding trail ahead and see the cuts in the low Trail, elevated wooden walkways, and may even see a permanent ladder silhouetted against the sky. It is also very satisfying to move so quickly across what appears to be perceived as a very long distance, and be there in no time. Here’s a video of Tso and ‘
Goon resting after the climb up to West Baldpate with a look over toward East Baldpate:
We had a steep descent off the summit of East Baldpate
as we headed toward Lightening Ledge below at 2,644 feet. We negotiated a section that was so steep that metal rungs were employed to descend. More snow.
Views west are plentiful. Ever present in the western skyline are the snow capped summits of the New Hampshire’
s Presidential range.
Our destination at the end of our first full day of hiking was the Knoll Campsite. All the sites on the GLT have earthen pads, and outhouses. A side trail led to a Wight Brook swimming hole, which I didn’
t visit. We located a suitable spot for the guys to put up their hammocks and me my tent.
We had neighbors. At some point as we were setting up , a group composed of two couples and a single woman from the Boston , MA area settled in nearby. As darkness fell they invited us over to their campfire (for the record, open fires are not permitted at any campsites on the GLT). No matter, we sat near it, grilled some marshmallows, and assembled a couple of Someore’
s . Turns out that one of the women was the ex-girlfriend of Gabe, a fellow mountain biker I know who lives down the street from me in Hope, ME.
It was a satisfying day, and we continued to be pleasantly surprised about our ability to do relatively serious miles , walking right onto part of the most rugged hiking in ME. Part of my success, for sure, was my afternoon dose of a 2 ounce bottle of 5-Hour Energy. My friend Chris swears by the stuff, and I have conctinued to be amazed by the support if gives me when i need it the most, in the afternoon. Could it be the 8333.0 % minimum daily requirement of the trusty vitamin B12 in there ? Here a photo of my good friend and AT benefactor Clarkie, who has even been known to buy the stuff by the case!
I was beat . My tent was beckoning me, and the experience of sliding into my familiar down bag on top of my reliable and comfortable Big Agnes air core mattress was all I needed to drift off, surrounded by the wilds of the Mahoosucs.