I have never had a backpacking day like this one.
It involved GPS skills and bushwhacking my way through the thick of the Maine mountain forest. I’m short on both proficiencies.
After breakfast at the Laughing Moose I gave another another hiker, Trainwreck, a ride down to the Caribou Pond Road, where we drove to the end, and encountered the blocked bridge. I had no problem dealing with the gravel road, and any car could make it down to the end of the line, as long as you can dodge one scary pointed rock and one gaping hole.
From here, we road walked about a half-mile until we reached the crossroads with the AT, where The Wreck headed north and I kept up a good clip on the gently ascending, meandering gravel road. Before he took off, we took a short jaunt south on the AT to view the water level in the South Branch of the Carabassett River. Trainwreck’s north progress had been stopped here on Wednesday after 4″ of rain raised the river to the point where it was impassible. A plank that had been cabled to assist hikers get across was broken, and was still fluttering in the deep flow. Trainwreck verified that the water level had already dropped two feet.
It would be possible to get across right now, but you’d have to get your feet wet, and not be dismayed by the sound of roaring water flowing all around you. I proceeded to stroll down this road for about three more mile.
Before this trip, I put in two frustrating,struggling, but ultimately rewarding hours at home downloading a .gpx file that I then transferred to the eTrex30. THANK GOD I DID SO! To obtain this.gpx track, go to the Peakbagger.com website, and hit the onscreen link to get the file.
The purple line on the screen of my GPS started out exactly where we left the car. At around the three mile point and after the 7 mile marker that is signed on the road, veer right and continue through several intersections, most of which were marked in pink tape, wooden arrows, or combinations of both. Be sure to take the left side of the first intersection, the one that is marked as a “snowmobile trail”. It is clearly the CVR. Here’s the view as you are leaving the graveled road and entering a much less used double-rutted grassy path.
As you approach the view of Caribou Pond on your left the following major intersection appears, where you take your first right.
You walk on a wide, open solid gravel road until you come to the next turn, a left, where this log points the way. The trail then finds another pink tape marking a more traditional path that goes all the way to the top, a cut-over clearing hacked out of the thick woods.
To the north turned the distant blades of the Kibby Mtn. wind farm, where a similar 30 windmill project failed to be approved here in 2007.
Now what? It’s only 11:30 AM. I could go back down the way I came or go to plan B. I was up for some variety, so I decided to bushwhack my way from the top of Redington over to the summit of South Crocker, at 4,500′ another of the 14 “Maine 4,000 Footer” list. It was about a mile away, via trail, a straight line that could be negotiated by a compass bearing orienteering. But I still had the purple line to assist me! At that point I’d pick up the AT and follow it a couple of miles south back to the car.
How did it work out?
I was in awe and in great appreciation for the miracle of the GPS’s purple line as it guided me through the game trails that I followed for more than a mile within 500 feet of descending and then reascending. At times I veered off the purple line on the GPS, which I held in my hand the whole time and checked nearly constantly. I dealt with my digressions by heading either left or right until I found the correct track again.
There were times when the woods were so thick and intertwined I had to walk real low, like Groucho, and shuffle along the barely perceptible animal trails. Once i had to crawl on my hands and knees. After reaching the low point in the col, a wide old road crossed my path, and the purple line had me turn left down that a few hundred feet until it directed me to take a sharp right and start uphill on a new set of not-quite-believable trails. A short while into the abrasion zone, I tore off most of one of my pack’s water bottle pockets, then the shoulder off my shirt. There was one place where three blowdowns were stacked on top of each other. I bloodied my knee getting over them. My GPS got ripped out of a different pocket , and thankfully if didn’t incur a cracked screen when it bounced off a rock on the ground.
Even with the Purple Line, I had a hard time figuring out what trail I came upon atop South Crocker. It looked like the AT but it wasn’t My GPS didn’t have any of these trails on it. I just kept moving on the ridge until I encountered the summit sign, at the AT. It was a tremendous relief to get there.
At this point I had two choices: continue walking 6.2 miles to reach the intersection of Rt. 27, where I’d have to walk 6 extra miles along the highway and then back down the Caribou Pond Road, or descend 2.1 miles on the AT south to CVR and walk a mere half mile back to the car. The GPS track kept going north, so I shut the device off and enjoyed skirting the remains of the heavy rains , which left pools like this to deal with:
Half way down, I encountered three hikers from New York who told me they spent most of a very frustrating day wandering around lost between South Crocker and Mt. Redington. They had actually started up before me on the same path to the top that I did but took a wrong turn after only a half-mile or so after they passed the AT intersection. They had no GPS. I wished them luck with whatever horror-show they were about to encounter, as it was now 2 PM and they still thought they could figure out how to get over to Redington, bushwhacking from South Crocker like I just did.
I really enjoyed the rest of the descent.
There were some great portions of stone work to be appreciated, and some rich episodes of vibrant foliage, even though I’d estimate there was only about 35% of peak color out there right now.
The advice on different reports about Redington were absolutely correct: you’d better have a GPS with you or go with someone who has been there before. I met three guys from New York today who will vouch for that!