Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Wild Sugarloaf, Spaulding, & Abraham - 10/7/2012

Two weekends ago, we didn't get off to as quick of a start as we had hoped in Maine after a tough hike to the Bigelow's, but we were content with getting a second solid hike in on Sunday, with no rush to get home because of the Monday holiday, and coming back another weekend to continue on our goal. Up next was one of the hikes from the Caribou Valley Road. After our Bigelow hike on Saturday afternoon, we grabbed some food for now and for the next day and drove to the trail head 4.3 miles down Caribou Valley Road. Our next choice for tomorrow's early start was Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham, with a bushwhack from the AT to the CRV and back. It was pretty much raining all evening, so there was no chance of any type of hike starting soon. We ate our food, and relaxed as it poured outside. There were a couple of other cars in the lot, and within a few hours, they had returned and they were gone as light faded. We passed more time looking at the maps and studying the routes, before dozing off.

Each of us were sound asleep at least for 2-3 hours, until my brother was awoken by some light scratching noises outside. it could have easily been a branch or mass of leaves blowing in the wind outside, anything...After just another moment later, my brother saw something right against the window, and I was then shaken and wakened to a frantic, "Dan, there's something at the window!" I had never been so reactive from a dead sleep in my life, it was insane. It could be a person, it could be anything. Just as quickly as we had our flashlights on and camera out, it was gone, but my brother clearly saw the bear run away between the our car and the other car that was there for multiple days. We waited quite a while to go outside. It was dark, cold, wet and raw, and undoubtedly a creepy fall night in Maine. We walked around the car to see mud marks all around the 3 front sides, and one clear print on the driver's side. It was a small one, but quite the experience, but he must have had a good nose for something inside, maybe those Nutter Butters?

Anyways, the next morning, after thankfully a few more hours of sleep, we were about to hit CVR towards the AT crossing. We found it no problem (marked with small flags), but its cool to see how natural it is as it crosses the CVR. We descended a steep bank to side of the Carrabasset River, where we pondered for a bit where the heck we'd cross. There was a crazy movable board tied to a rope, for AT use. Tied to the rope so that its usable in the most of conditions. In my opinion it would be nuts to leap onto a board that can move, so we opted for another route a short distance up the bank of the river. Talk about trying to get warmed up and ready to go on your hike. We just had a bear try to get in the car, now we can barely get started with this river crossing. Maine is TOUGH!
I was nervous about this one.... 
Bill led the way, and made it look easy 
I had a reason to be nervous, I made it over fine, but my right leg did not.
Finally we were off and running. I wasted no time simply removing my pant leg and attaching it to my pack to dry. With winter coming, it was good practice to make the quick decision to remove the wet piece of clothing and continue moving to stay warm. After all, we were just trying to get warmed up. So now up and down the side of the mountain we went as the trail hid under wet leaves. Eventually it got steeper with some pretty cool scrambles, but gee, pretty tough start again, and we've got a long way to go.
Ascending Sugarloaf on AT 
Nice yellow across the valley (Carrabasset River bottom right)
Pretty nice ravine on Sugarloaf, have a name?
We made it to the junction with the Sugarloaf side trail, and it was another steep 700 feet to the summit. The Appalachian Trail Guide to Maine states that it is worth the 700 feet ascent, to get one of the best views in the state. I would have to agree with that. Boy was it chilly on the top as we approached the summit. We took note of a section of frozen mud with ice crystals as we approached the summit. Its amazing how quickly the season is changing. We enjoyed the amazing 360 degree views from the summit of Sugarloaf, Maine's second highest mountain.
Sugarloaf Side Trail - 700 feet vertical to the summit from AT
Approaching the summit of Sugarloaf  
Summit of Sugarloaf

On Sugarloaf, with the rest of the way to go in the background 

We made our way back to the Appalachian Trail, and took a short break. Next it would be approximately 2 miles to Spaulding Mountain. The trail along this section (and mostly throughout this entire hike) was very pretty. It stood out to us as a bit easier walking, and the woods were just pleasant and amazingly quiet. It was nice to have some solid 2 mile sections of easier travel between the mountains. It broke up the hike into even sections. Along this section, we passed the marking of the spot where the last section of Appalachian Trail was connected to complete the link to Georgia. We thought about what it would be like to be a thru-hiker on the AT, and come to this point. on the way to Katahdin.
Appalachian Trail between Sugarloaf and Spaulding
Final link of the Appalachian Trail - Completed in 1937  
Civilian Conservation Corps plaque - Final link to AT
After some more trail, we came to the Spaulding summit spur, which is a short scoot up a spur to the summit. Surprisingly, the summit had a decent view down into the valley. Little did we ponder the short few minutes at the summit, Spaulding was number 60 of 67 on the New England 4000 footers list for us, just 6 more to go.
Spaulding Mountain summit spur 
View from Spaulding Mountain summit 
Summit marker, which still reads under 4,000ft
Next, we headed towards Abraham. It seemed like it was a solid distance to get there from Spaulding, but we made it to the junction with the Abraham Trail, and readied ourselves for a 2.4 mile round trip out and back to this junction. We eye-balled the possible bushwhack route that leaves this junction for later. The trail out to Mt. Abraham had quite a unique feel to it. From looking at the ridge before, you will see that you clearly go over a few humps, but in general, the trail seemed to skirt it, and it was easy going right out to the first talus slope.
Mt. Abraham Trail
Rugged trail

Heading out to Mt. Abraham
We ascended the talus over the first exposed hump. We were the only ones around, seeing one person on the summit of Sugarloaf, and only passing only one other hiker on the AT that day. Abraham is impressive, and has a Presidential feel to it, despite it barely surpassing 4,000 feet. The views in all directions were beautiful, with patches of fall color everywhere. After a long haul to here, and the best feeling of the day thus far, we had a shot of some Glenlivet and let it take the chill off by warming us up from the inside out :). We checked out the emergency shelter on the summit, which was pretty cool, and we were on our way.

The hike back to the AT was uneventful. It had been a long day so far, but we were looking forward to our first bushwhack other than the Black Pond Bushwhack. Following the route suggestions others have taken in the past, we left the AT right at the junction with the Abraham Trail, and we headed into the woods on a well trodden path. Our goal was to hit the Caribou Valley Road, and follow the road whatever distance back to the metal grate bridge. We followed the beaten path for a while in a straight westerly direction. Our plan of attack was to take a somewhat NNW bearing. After the beaten path got rugged, we headed on that general bearing and made some progress and eventually got into some pretty serious bushwhacking.
Now, we were crossing countless animal paths and many different types of animal droppings. We thought, there could be a bear (a much bigger one than the one that visited us) hanging out in any one of these little open areas we came to. Or, we could have turned around and a moose could be standing right there. It was a pretty intense and nerve-racking experience at some points along the way. Should we go through this or follow this path a little bit longer? We made some noise approaching certain areas to alert anything that we were coming through.

We seemed to be doing OK. Maybe halfway into the whack, Bill was leading the way as we broke out into this large area of downed and dead trees. Looking at the picture below, our decision was to aim towards the end of the pine trees on the left of this open area, and then pick up a hard NNW track so to not come out beyond the end of Caribou Pond, which I was really worried about. The thick stuff kept us going WSW slightly. About 2/3 of the way into this open area, a brown mass among the white birches caught my eye. I said quietly, "hey Bill, look, there is a pretty big moose standing right over there." We stopped for a few moments to see how it acted and take in the moment. We were a good distance away, causing it no stress, but it had its eyes peeled on us every single second until we were out of sight, in the trees again. As we were looking to our left at the moose, to our right, there were grayish-blue and white birds (not gray jays, I don't think) flying around and perching on the abundant dead wood. It was a pretty sweet moment to be traversing this remote section being surrounded by wildlife. We kept a careful eye on the moose. It was dead silent around us, like it had been the entire hike, and our senses were on such high alert given all that's happened.
Wow look at this! (No idea yet that a large Moose is right near us)
First sight of the moose a good distance away, dead center 

There is a gray and white bird in this picture, dead center

Best shot of the moose
Now that we were passed this, we were faced with some more difficult vegetation. There were wet bogs too as we pushed forward, which required more careful steps, and more exertion. Eventually, I could sense that were getting closer to the road. Finally, we came out onto the logging road, and were relieved, and felt much more confident that we were doing fine all along. We came out somewhere just beyond the mile 8 marker, I believe.

After at least 1 mile of walking on the very rough CVR, I noticed I didn't have my GoPro. I thought I had it in my right pocket, and it wasn't there. I KNEW 100% that I had dropped it and it might have fallen out of my pocket, because we were playing Olympics and trying to long-jump the streams that crossed through the road. (Hey, gotta have some fun after it being a rather sketchy and stressful couple of days) I ran back about a mile, and lo-and behold, my GoPro was sitting on the ground in the middle of the road....ALL of the way back where we came out of the woods. I had put some gear down as we took a break, and clearly just didn't pick up the GoPro as we began the walk. I ran all of the way back to where Bill was waiting on the road. It was an extra 2 mile run for me on the back-end of this hike. We still had a few miles to go along the road, and light was fading. The rest of the walk out was pretty tough, we were exhausted, but we made it without the aid of headlamps, and we were thankful to close this one out, and thankful, actually, that we were alive!! We'll be back up for 3 more hikes to complete Maine and the NE67 before winter begins.

Hike Stats
Trails: Appalachian Trail, Sugarloaf Side Trail, Appalachian Trail, Spaulding Summit Spur, Appalachian Trail, Mt. Abrham Trail, Bushwhack.
Distance: 15 miles (approximately)
Elevation Gain: 4,280 ft.
AMC Book Time: 10hrs 30min (approximately, with the short bushwhack)
Actual Book Time: 12hrs


  1. Good old Sugarloaf Mountain, great place hike, I am going to add your blog to my reading list.

    1. Drew

      Thanks for reading, I appreciate that.

  2. I'm planning this hike (along with the other peaks in the area) for this summer. I found your trip report and video I found on youtube very helpful, especially with the parking and conditions of the CVR! I might have to pick your brain while planning these peaks!

    1. Hi Allison, Thanks and no problem, feel free. Getting the rest of Maine's peaks last fall was a lot tougher than I expected. Maine was definitely "wild", but it was a lot of fun and welcome change from the NH 4000 footers.

  3. Great hike report. I did Crockers and Redington last week and hope to do the same hike you did next week. Cool that you ran into a moose and had a bear encounter. I've only ran into a moose twice or rather was almost ran over by a moose at roads near the trail heads. I did have bear steal my food at a campground off the Kanc, but never saw him. Still hoping to see a bear or moose on the trail. I did score an antler on the BW part of my hike off Redington (see my site for pics of it). Anyway, do you happen to have a gps track of the BW you took from Abraham down to the CVS or at least latlons of key waypoints. If so can you send what you have to me at, I would appreciate it. I also caught your youtube site of this hike - very cool.

    I still have 9 more ME peaks and the VT peaks for my 67 NE4Ks- Marvin -

    1. Hi Marvin, I saw your post on VFTT. I was going to share my report with you, but pleased to see that you found it easily. Unfortunately, I don't have a GPS Track for the Abraham BW to CVR. At the junction with the AT when you get back from Abraham, there is a clear path that crosses the AT. This was the start of our bushwhack. See this picture

      For the most part we stayed on a direct bearing towards the road, which would be parallel to the AT. You will pass the AT boundary clearing a little while after taking the path until its hard to follow, which you also just pass, don't follow the AT Boundary right or left. There are definitely a couple of older grown in roads you may come to before hitting the CVR. I would tend to shift right a little rather than left. If you use them to "eye" a path of least resistance. For us, the Redington bushwhack and this bushwhack were our first real bushwhacks, so I would think you would be alright. The ground was really soft in some spots, nearing swampy, but never too crappy.

      Another resource that we partly used was Jeremy's link here. This describes going back towards the Spualding site to herd path there. We had no problems, though, going in a straight line from the "4-way intersection" after coming back from Abraham. If you hit that dead wood section, its about 30 minutes further of bushwhacking by estimation. Hopefully that helps a little. It's a good bushwhack for trial and error. No markers like Redington :)