The Maine Uber Trip
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
A while ago I got the (not so) bright idea of trying to hike all of my remaining peaks in Maine (except those in Baxter and Old Speck) in one long weekend. We used the AMC Maine mountain guide (and map) as our primary source of information, supplemented with Google maps satellite imagery and other peoples reports. There were some highs and lows but all in all it was a great trip. The only change I would make is stay closer to Stratton, we were at the state campground in Rangeley, which led to a 45-60 minutes commute each way to the mountains.|
(9 miles - 2800 feet gain)
Our plan for the first day was to hike Abraham Mountain via the Fire Wardens Trail. Others had advised to save this hike for a nice day due to the amount of time above tree line so we got it out of the way on the first nice day of the trip. Finding the trailhead was a bit of a challenge as the AMC guide leaves a little to be desired when navigating logging roads. In the book it states to go 5 miles in and then make a right over the "new bridge". Well really you end up going less than 5 miles and then make a right over 2 new bridges. After that the road forks (with no mention in the book) stay to the right and it will bring you to a "T" intersection, off to the left is a parking area (4-5 cars max). This road was passable (slowly) with a fwd compact car. The book mentions driving farther up the logging roads to find where the trail crosses another logging road, we didn’t dare press our luck.
We hiked straight into the woods and enjoyed the hike through an open forest, eventually we crossed the other logging road mentioned in the book. A few miles later we arrived at the fire warden’s cabin. We took a break there and enjoyed sitting on the porch. It looks as if the cabin has been opened for camping, but it is listing pretty badly so I personally wouldn’t sleep in it. Up until this point the hike was very gradual over good trail conditions (a few muddy sections). After the break at the cabin our climb really began. At first we climbed steeply through open forests and eventually got to treeline. The views really opened up as soon as you broke through the trees. Unfortunately I got my hopes up when I hit treeline and didn’t realize that we still had a ways to go (don’t get excited until you can see the tower). At the summit we enjoyed some lunch and the amazing views (highly recommended). It was exciting and demoralizing at the same time to stand on the summit and pick out the remaining 9 peaks we had to go. The climb down was uneventful and we eventually got back down to the car.
Follow the directions in the AMC guide to the trailhead, cross 2 bridges instead of 1, make a right at the fork after the bridges. Climb is gradual to the cabin, steep after that, navigation above treeline in bad weather would be difficult.
South Crocker, North Crocker, Reddington
(~12 miles - 3390 feet gain)
This was the day that I was most apprehensive about due to the logging road driving, the total distance, and the navigation between South Crocker to Reddington. For these reasons we decided to do them on the second day (and the weather was mildly questionable). The logging road wasn’t bad until the metal bridge, from there the road became severely rutted; I attempted to climb but was un-successful. I backed down the hill and parked before the metal bridge (there’s a parking area for 5-6 cars right before the bridge on the left side). We began our hike across the metal bridge and were pleased to find that the “un-crossable” bridge was only a few hundred yards up the road from where we parked. We began the hike up to South Crocker from the AT crossing. The trail was awesomely maintained and was a nice gradual grade until we reached the campsite spur trail. From there the trail got steep for a ways, however eventually we were treated to an old slide with great views back to Sugarloaf as well as views across to North Crocker. After the steep section the grade becomes gentile again until the spur trail to the South Crocker summit. We took a snack break here and headed off to North Crocker. The descent and ascent of North Crocker wasn’t very steep, but it wasn’t gradual either. We tagged the North Crocker summit (and met someone from NY who was also working on their 115). From the summit we followed the AT property cut to get a view of Reddington; it was helpful to see the clearing that we were going to end up in (hopefully) from the herd path.
We hiked back into the North/South Crocker col and enjoyed lunch in a clearing/campsite right in the col. While eating we met “Fiesta” an AT southbound thru-hiker who seemed like a really nice guy. Eventually we hiked back out of the col to the South Crocker summit. The herd path is easily seen from the summit. I took a bearing to Reddington and then we began on the herd path. A short ways after the summit the trail seems to fork, left to a viewpoint facing Reddington and right downhill, we followed the right fork which seemed to follow the main herd path. After a little while we crossed the AT property cut (continue straight across). All along the herd path there was sporadic flagging but it was possible to lose the path if you weren’t careful. After following the herd path for a while we eventually lost the path, it took us 5-10 minutes to find the last piece of flagging that dumped us out into the logged clearing on the NW side of the Crocker-Reddington col. We followed the clearing uphill and eventually spotted the skidder road (be careful in the logged clearing, there’s a lot of plants that cover holes, logs, etc… making for tricky footing). Once on the logging road we started looking for the path to the summit. At first we spotted a VERY faint trail marked with blue/orange blazing, but we decided to look for a better path. Eventually we came up to the “Chuck” blazed trail from the skidder road and we followed that until it intersected with the ATV trail to the summit. At the summit we enjoyed the views to the north, and also found the canister (on the right hand side of the north clearing facing away from the tower). We hiked back down the ATV trail and then pretty much just followed the “most used” path back to the CVR and eventually the car. The CVR got pretty old pretty fast and we took frequent breaks to save our feet and knees from the rocky road. We were glad to see the AT crossing when we finally reached it.
CVR only passable to metal grate bridge with a FWD compact car. AT gradual grade to campsite, steep to S. Crocker. Gradual out and back to N. Crocker. Herd path to Reddington somewhat defined, follow flagging, head uphill in logged clearing, follow chuck blazes up to summit. Heading down from summit follow most used routes.
Bigelow (Avery & West)
(10.6 Miles – 2850 Feet Gain)
From advice I had gotten on the hiking boards I was told that this would be a very tough day so I wanted to get it out of the way and somewhat “coast” out the remaining days. The problem was that I wasn’t feeling very good after a few nights of sleeping poorly (colder than expected weather combined with some very loud crows that started at 4:30 am) so when we finally began I was somewhat downtrodden. We took the access road to the trailhead and were greeted by a big puddle before we even got to the AT, I decided to go for it (which was the right choice) since the puddle had a rocky bottom and we weren’t at much of a risk of getting stuck. We began the hike up via the fire warden’s trail and after a while we got to the intersection with the horns pond trail. We continued up the fire warden’s trail and eventually reached the first campsite. From here the trail gets steep all the way up into the col. along the way we met the volunteer trail maintainer who was a great guy. He was brushing the trail because within a few days of our visit the MATC trail crew was going to be adding more rock steps to this already well maintained trail. We thanked him for taking care of the trail and he thanked us for hiking it. We (slowly) climbed the remaining trail to the col where we took a break at the AT junction. Along the way from the first campsite to the col I was feeling like crap and definitely wanted to give up. I got a pick me up when we got to the col and made it up to the Avery summit in pretty good time. We enjoyed the views from the summit; however cool weather and high winds kept us from enjoying the summit for too long. We retreated down to the col again, and after using the nicest “facilities” I’ve ever been in, we continued to the summit of west peak. On the way up we ran across a large group of people who were section hiking the AT. At the summit of west we hid from the wind and enjoyed the views of sugarloaf, and our previously climbed mountains. The views from the Avery Mountains were pretty awesome; the best part of the views was steepness of the Avery range (which coincidentally made the hike more difficult). We hiked back down into the col and hiked out to the car where we were attacked en-masse by mosquitoes. They were so bad that we had to jump into the car and get the heck out of there. In the time that it took the 3 of us to jump into the car, another 6 bugs got in and tormented us on the drive out. At the end of the access road we stopped and changed out of our hiking boots with the benefit of not getting eaten alive.
On the way home we stopped at the diner in Stratton and we highly recommend it, good food, good portions, and good prices (also good milkshakes which ended up being the theme of the trip).
Long day with a long steep section. If there’s a big puddle on the access road check it out but it was doable in my car. Amazing views from the summits, great campsites in the area. Don’t get eaten alive at the trailhead.
Saddleback and the Horn
(6.7 miles – 2700 Feet Gain)
After feeling like junk the past two days I decided to try and sleep in to feel better. I woke up after 8 and we went to a nice sit down breakfast in Rangeley. A delicious breakfast of pancakes got me prepared for the hike. We ascended saddleback via the ski area. We parked in the main ski area parking lot and then hiked past the lodge and under the double chairlift. On the climbers left side of the mountain is an access road that will bring you up to the T-bar, from there you have a choice, you can bear climbers right and follow the trail to the top of the double chairlift, or you can follow the T-bar to the top. On the way up we opted for the T-bar which has a consistent steep grade. Down lower there was an ATV track that petered out as we gained elevation. At the summit we took a break in the lift operator’s cabin to get out of the wind. We met another climber who had come up the right side instead of climbing the T-Bar. From the lift operators cabin we went behind the lift shed and up to the summit. The climb up to the summit from the ski area was very enjoyable. From the summit we continued on to The Horn. This ridge walk is AWESOME. It has amazing views with an effort level that I would consider equal to climbing Cascade and Porter. Despite advice we got not to attempt this hike in bad weather the forecast called for a 30% chance of showers for the next two days so we didn’t have much choice. As we hiked down to the col we could see a storm coming in from the west. We hunkered down in a small spot in the trees and waited for it to pass, one in our party stayed above the trees to see where it was going, eventually we all came out of the trees and watched the storm pass less than a mile to our north. After the storm passed we climbed up to the summit of The Horn and took some pictures. Then we headed back to Saddleback. As we were re-ascending Saddleback we could see another storm coming in. It looked like it was coming straight for us, but as it approached it “bounced” off of the mountain and curved a few hundred yards to our South. From the summit we went back down to the lift attendant’s shack and enjoyed lunch. After lunch we descended the ski trail to descenders left (marked with yellow blazes). We followed the trail to the descenders right past the top of the double chairlift. This eventually brought us down to the bottom of the T-bar; from there we followed the service road down to the base area. This was the shortest and most enjoyable of our days.
The best bang for your buck in the area. Ascent up ski area was not too bad, views from the summit and ridge were great. Follow the service road from the base area to the summit for the most gradual climb.
Day 5: Sugarloaf and Spaulding
(9 miles – 3540 Feet Gain)
We started this day with a nice big breakfast at the Stratton diner, since it was our last day and we were all hurting we decided to take everything slow and steady. We decided to do the ski area approach due to the fact that I didn’t trust my car on the CVR again. We followed the directions given in the AMC guide which first got us lost (because there was never a fork in the road) after stopping at the visitors center we figured out what they were trying to say in the guide book and the lady there gave us directions (go to the condos past the golf course). When we arrived at the “parking area” described by the guide book we were greeted to a number of signs which included “please respect landowners rights”, “keep out”, “trespassers will be prosecuted”, etc… so we drove around the neighborhood until we found a right of way onto the ski slopes. Although it seemed like driving up to the condos was saving us a ton of elevation gain we really only started at 2100 feet instead of 1800 feet at the base area. Personally I would say it isn’t worth it to go and park by the condos and worry about upsetting landowners and getting towed, plus you have to hike up an un-mowed ski trail which also slows you down quite a bit. The ski trail was so overgrown that the baskets on our poles were getting caught so often we opted to remove them. Eventually we reached the top of the lift and found the service road to the summit.
The service road wasn’t much better than the ski trail, it was rocky, dusty, and hard on the legs. Eventually we reached the summit, but it was somewhat anti-climactic due to the fact that there’s all that junk up top. We took a quick break and headed down to Spaulding. The trail down to the AT was very nice and well maintained, when we got to the AT junction we enjoyed lunch and then headed across the ridge to Spaulding. Although the maps show a number of bumps between sugarloaf and Spaulding none of them are very severe and the terrain is very gradual until you begin the ascent of Spaulding. After a while we reached the spur trail to the Spaulding summit. It always seems like when they list trail distances in yards it takes FOREVER to hike those few hundred yards. We got to the summit (which was quite the disappointment for our 10th of the week) and took some pictures. We followed the lookout trail to the north that gave us good views back to sugarloaf and into the valley.
We hiked back down to the AT and over to Sugarloaf, along the way we noticed a plaque that we hadn’t noticed on the way out. When we reached the AT/Sugarloaf junction we took another snack break before ascending to the summit. At the summit we took a break in the warming hut (a creepy place when empty in the middle of summer) and then headed back down.
Climbing up the ski area wasn’t much fun, would recommend AT instead. Going up to the condos doesn’t save much elevation and adds grief, take service road from base. AT trail in great shape, but both summits were disappointments.
The Good and The Bad
The views from the bigelows
Feeling like absolute crap the day we hiked the Bigelows
|We drove all the way across New England to get to the mountains. We did a pretty good Diner tour on the way there and back.|