Thursday, September 6, 2012

Old Speck Mountain (ME) - 9/1/2012

About one year ago, I climbed Old Speck when I hiked the Grafton Loop Trail. Since my brother and I are going for the NE67 together, we took the opportunity this weekend so Bill could get Old Speck. My 8-year old niece was coming too - lots of excitement! Now that Bill's got Old Speck out of the way, we can focus on the rest of the peaks in VT and ME.

As you're on way to your hike, do you ever get that excitement knowing its going to be a great day? The sunrise as we drove over the Piscataqua River Bridge and into Maine gave us that feeling. The air was cool and comfortable, and there were many patches of low lying fog over many of the bogs and wetlands along the route.

Finally, after a rather pleasant drive, we made it to Grafton Notch State Park and the Appalachian Trail parking lot. From the parking lot, dramatic cliffs soar overhead. The Old Speck Trail ascends to the left. We signed ourselves into the register (why not?) and we were ready to go after paying our entrance fee.

Signing in, ready to go!
Grafton Notch State Park - Fee sign
Old Speck Trail
We opted to make the ascent on the Old Speck Trail and Appalachian Trail, leaving the Eyebrow Trail up for option later. Everything was wet and damp, but the warm sunlight and temperature made things perfect. We passed the waterfall section where there was a little bit of water. It was nice. We passed an open spot near the junction with the Eyebrow Trail, giving us a nice view of where we were headed. The trail continued and did a few ups and downs, but the beautiful forest made up for that pain. The soaking wet moss on the sides of the trail was giving off a cool mist that was visible. It was like walking through a misting station at an amusement park!
Old Speck Trail waterfall 
Viewpoint on Old Speck Trail 
Old Speck Trail
Mist from the Moss
The next excitement came from a friendly (or crazy) red squirrel. When you expect these things to go away from you, it was funny to see this one try to get really close. After his poses on the tree directly in front of me, he shot up really fast, making these weird noises; it was quite strange. After this, we started to get a little bit a of a view after a few switchbacks, then we arrived at the Mahoosuc Trail junction, which meant just .3 mi to go. We stopped a moment to talk to a young girl on her way from Georgia on the AT. She had a sinus infection, and she was headed into town for some medicine. She told us before she set out on this trip, she had never hiked a day in her life. She went on her way down, and we pondered in amazement at what it would be like to hike it all. We smelt many AT through hikers throughout our hike. After that, we were on the summit of Old Speck! We climbed the tower too, and it was just great to be there!
Crazy red squirrel 
Mahoosuc Trail - Old Speck 
Me, Kiara, Bill on Old Speck tower, with NH in background 

We spent a good half hour or more at the summit, starting right away with a climb of the tower. Without a climb of the tower, you will not be able to see the peaks of New Hampshire or to the west. It was gratifying for her to see Mt. Washington from another state. The view from the tower is just amazing. I enjoyed looking again at the peaks on the Grafton Loop. What a hike that is, similar to Pemi Loop, but not as many peaks. I don't think I've ever seen so many grasshoppers on a summit in my life.  This kept her occupied for plenty of time after we got down from the tower. We refueled with snacks, checked in, and got ready to go. It was already afternoon. It took us a while to get up there.
Looking west towards the White Mountains from Old Speck 
East Baldpate from Old Speck 
Climbing the Old Speck Tower 
Ladder on Old Speck Tower 
Creators of the Old Speck tower? 
Maine Loon License Plates pay for repairs to Old Speck Tower
Time for the descent. My knees were hurting again and still from the manic Pemi Loop. It was tough for me. This time, I persuaded that we take the Eyebrow Trail since we're not sure when we'll get back here. It leaves the Old Speck Trail and actually goes up a couple of hundred maybe, but then the trail passes a clearing with a daring ledge and a couple of outlook spots. This trail brought us even with Route 26, seemingly right in the middle of Grafton Notch on a cliff basically. It was interesting, and immediately worth it. The parking lot was visible well over a thousand feet below us. This was no place to let your guard down.
Grafton Notch from the Eyebrow Trail 
Old Speck from the Eyebrow 
Further on down, the terrain remains steep and challenging. We came to a spot with iron rungs like a ladder. Wow, had no idea this was like this! That wasn't it, we then came to rock slab that had a ladder and railings, as the trail crossed the wet slab of rock. We were quite surprised, but traversed the section with due caution and had no problems. Right after this section, a cable railing helped us down a couple of hundred feet more, where it finally evened out and brought us pack to the parking lot.
Iron rungs on the Eyebrow Trail 
Steepness of Eyebrow Trail 
Ladder on Eyebrow Trail
This was a just perfect day on the mountain; great company, great views, and lots of chatting about mountains, the forest, hiking, everything! Old Speck was my niece's 4th 4000 footer and first Maine 4000 footer. My brother and I are now set to take on the rest of the NE67. With the Vermont 5 on the docket for this weekend, we hope to be able to finish the 11 remaining peaks in Maine before winter.

Here's the video; don't miss the ladder and rungs on the Eyebrow Trail at the end!

Hike Stats
Trails: Old Speck Trail, Grafton Loop Trail, Eyebrow Trail (descent)
Distance: 7.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,800 feet
Book Time: 9hrs 10min


  1. Very cool hike! This is one my son and I have talked about doing, just haven't gone yet. The pictures are great. Congrats to your niece, too for hiking it!

    1. Thanks Summer! I guess it's time to stop talking about it and go out and do it (when you get the chance) :) Thank you, she had a blast on this one. The terrain is fairly steep, but its fun, a nice day hike. Little legs go a little bit slower.