Aug 31, 2009 at 9:55 am #1238941
Last week I headed up to Maine for a few days on the Grafton Loop Trail. It's a recently constructed ~40 mile loop that utilizes a few miles of the Appalachian Trail in the western part of the state.
Took me about ten hours to drive up from Jersey. Arrived mid to late afternoon and parked at the designated lot on Route 26. I decided to do the loop clockwise so my trip started with a 0.6-mile road walk to the western trailhead. A couple hundred yards from my car, a moose shot out of the woods about 25 feet in front of me. We both froze. She did a 360 like a puppy on a linoleum floor and headed back into the brush. A great start to the trip.
The signage is a little lacking in the first part of the western section as you cross a few fields and follow some snowmobile trails for a short time. It didn't help that the skies had opened up and it was pouring. Soon enough though, I found the blue blazes and was comfortably, however wet, on my way.
I spent a wet first night at Sargent Brook Campsite just past Stowe Mountain (all camping on the trail must be at designated locations). The next morning the skies had cleared and I headed up to the summit of Sunday River Whitecap for some breakfast.
Summit of Sunday River Whitecap
The trails continues over Slide Mountain and up to Old Speck where a fire tower provides some great views. I enjoyed some lunch and dried out some gear in the welcomed sunshine.
From here, the trail meets up with the AT. Heading south would take you to Mahoosuc Notch which is a fun hike for anyone who hasn't experienced it. I continued north on the AT which drops steeply into Grafton Notch where there is a hiker parking lot. It was busy with day hikers and a group of AT hikers. Someone later told me that one of the owners of Gossamer Gear was in the crowd helping out some of the AT hikers. Very cool.
A steep climb out of the notch wiped me out so I decided to spend the night at the Baldpate Lean-to. Enjoyed a nice dinner and spoke to a few northbound AT thru-hikers who stopped in for dinner before heading back out on the trail.
Dinner at Baldpate Lean-to
I woke early to catch the sunrise on the Baldpates. The hike over these two peaks is one of the best on the AT imo. Lots of exposed climbing and great views above treeline.
Between the Baldpates
Summit of East Baldpate
After East Baldpate, the AT heads north while the Grafton Loop splits off to the east. After a steep decent from the Baldpates, the next section of trail follows easy grades through some diverse terrain. Moose "deuce" and tracks were everywhere. There are several designated campsites in this section so you can stop and spend some time exploring the enchanting mossy alpine forests or hit a few of the great little swimming holes.
I camped my last night at the Stewart campsite just below the summit of Puzzle Mountain. Shared a site with a local hiker as most of the others were flooded out from the rains early in the week. Enjoyed the company and spent the evening talking gear and hiking trips. He showed me some pictures of a bull moose that he ran into on the trail earlier that day. I was very jealous.
One lazy step over a log…ouch.
After a quick climb the next morning, I reached the summit of Puzzle Mountain. More beautiful weather and great views. I also saw a huge wild porcupine. Followed him along the trail for a few hundred feet until he waddled off on his own. Very unexpected and very cool. Easy decent down to the parking lot on Route 26 and I was done.
Overall, a very good trip. Great scenery, plentiful wildlife, and mostly great weather. The trail itself was very well built and is mostly in great shape. You can see the difference in erosion between the AT and GLT – there's actually some soil left on many stretches of the GLT. Could probably be completed in 3 days/2 nights, but I was in no rush. Highly recommended for anyone in the northeast.Aug 31, 2009 at 2:32 pm #1524039
Wow, amazing pictures and looks like a great trip. I've been to Grafton Notch before but I didn't get a chance to do any backpacking. Definitely on my to-do list.Aug 31, 2009 at 2:52 pm #1524042
@hammer-oneLocale: Walking With The Son
I'm always a little jealous of others Baldpate pics, since it was raining and gusting 50+ (according to the local news)the day I went over Baldpate.
Reclimbing Baldpate is definitely on my to do list :). Great pics and trip report!Aug 31, 2009 at 3:35 pm #1524048
Thanks guys. I meant to mention that all of the pics were taken with my new camera-phone, a Samsung Memoir. I was quite impressed with the image quality since most phone cameras are pretty poor. The only issue is battery life – wouldn't work on longer trips but is fine for a short trek like this where I might normally carry a camera and my phone.
@george. That is quite the different view from the Baldpates. Looks like I've been lucky the two times I've been up there.Aug 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm #1524053
Brad, I did the GLT exactly a month ago and didn't have nearly the good weather and views that you did. Baldpate is one of the finest views on the AT as far as I'm concerned, and Sunday River Whitecap is a hell of a summit, too. Even without views they are both fun hikes, especially the trip up East Baldpate from the saddle between it and the West Peak.
Did you see anyone on the GLT section besides your last night out? When I was out there I saw no one except on the part that follows the AT. If that doesn't qualify the GLT as a hidden gem, I don't know what does.Aug 31, 2009 at 5:59 pm #1524064
Good point Ryan. There was barely anyone out there. I saw nobody on day 1, a family of four on day 2, and three others on day 3. The AT section was much busier and there were some day hikers heading out to the overlooks from the notch. The GLT seems to be a great place to find some solitude.Sep 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm #1524363
@hammer-oneLocale: Walking With The Son
I've had some spectacular days in Maine,and I think about my trips to Maine probably more than any other AT state, even with the rain. Your pics show why I keep going back.
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