Trip Report: Old Speck, Maine (Solo 6-7-97)
Map of the Mahoosic Range (600K) courtesy of HTI and Photoshop.
My first 4000'er in Maine, Old Speck marks the northern terminus of the Mahoosic Range before it dips down into Grafton Notch--a marvelous place full of waterfalls and great cliffs practically undiscovered by the people who stick to the more southerly attractions. After a late start, I ascended the Eyebrow, a dramatic 800' cliff imediately looming over the parking area on a spur trail. The ascent was extremely steep including some crossings of wet rock, but the views of crows soaring at eye level and below in the spectacularly glacier carved valley made the climb worth it. Furthermore, it descended not much at all before meeting back up with the AT for the rest of the climb up the mountain.
|The harrowing descent down the East Spur |
was notable for views like this detail.
337K JPG image, panoramaed by the author.
The trail wound upwards to the 4180' summit. Snow was encountered at about 3200' which made for slow going. The advantage was the the bugs vanished and the temperatures became much more comfortable for hiking. The summit itself was not particularly interesting though the views from the (now closed) observation tower are reported to be excellant.
For the descent, I decided to take the Eastern Spur trail which drops down a steep face onto an alpine shoulder of the mountain. Though this trail supposedly drops about 1000' and then regains 500' to meet back with the main trail, this was not found. I was clearly the first person to travel this path in several months as the snow showed no tracks nor was the trail particularly a) maintained or b) even at all apparent in many places. This problem was compounded by the fact that, much of the time, the trail dropped over steep snow-covered rock faces and the blazes, helpfully painted on the rocks, were still burried. The fact that I was alone at this point and, should I break an ankle, in deep trouble, began to worry me at this point. My Super Makalu treking poles proved invaluable in maintaining balance. Definitely a good invention!
The views were, however, spectacular! Somewhat reminiscent of the upper slopes of Mt. Washington with the jumble of boulders, lichen and dwarf balsam.
After much thrashing through a remarkable number of spruce traps, surprisingly deep snow, and dead-ends, I managed to find a small stream the was cutting it's way down to bedrock. Following this down, I managed to regain the trail and find my way onto the old Fire Warden's trail. Fire wardens, apparently, do not care about such things as switchbacks or scenic detours because this trail descended at a moderately steep steady grade in a straight line two miles and 2000' down to the road.
All in all, an interesting hike with good views in several spots.
From the south, take Route 2 north from Bethel Maine. Turn left onto Route 26 and follow to the top of Grafton Notch. Parking area for Old Speck as well as several other hikes, is on the left just past the height of land. Total trip milage (~8.5 miles, 6 hours).