Thursday, July 12, 2012

A-Maine-Zing Weekend Part 2 - Crockers & Redington 7-8-12

Part 2 of the first Maine weekend organized through the Random Hikers Meetup Group was for the Crockers (North and South) and Redington. The Crockers themselves are fairly straight forward, accessed along the Appalachian Trail and only 1 mile by trail from each other. Redington, to the South along the same rough ridgeline, has no established trail to the summit, the only other summit like this on the New England 4000-footer list (Owl's Head in NH being the other).

There is a decent, though very brushy herd path from South Crocker to Redington's cleared summit (though not open - there were some structures here at one time). There is also a series of old logging roads (still wide open and very hike-able) leading from the Caribou Valley Road (aka the Caribou Pond Road) to the herd path near the summit.

The CVR itself has been in declining shape the last several years; being merely a logging road that happened to cross the Appalachian Trail at a convenient point for peak-baggers (only 2.1 miles by trail to South Crocker from the road) it has not been maintained at all. Many bridges leading up to the AT crossing have been getting weak and Hurricane Irene last fall made things even worse. Of late, only high-clearance vehicles have been able to get anywhere near the AT crossing, and after Irene even those were having trouble. It looked like this might be the last year to "easily" access Redington, and I was glad to get a shot at it. However, awesome news came through from other trip reports a mere week before the hike that the CVR had been largely repaired up to a point 1/2 mile from the AT crossing, and was barricaded to vehicular traffic beyond that point. Still, bridges and culverts had been repaired or replaced and even low-clearance vehicles had been getting up to the 3.9-mile mark (which is where the barricades were) with minimal trouble. I had ridden up with Chris, who had a Subaru Outback, so we were certainly in good shape there.

No cars beyond this point - drivable by any vehicle up to here with a little care
Between this spot and the AT crossing there are 2 more smaller bridges. One had been replaced and merely needed a little re-grading of the road to be good to go, the other bridge looked a little sketchy but probably fine really. The road up to the AT is likely going to be opened again soon. It seems this work, minimal as it is, was done for the 75th anniversary of the AT being finished near this road, and some ceremonies seem to be forthcoming. (Note this information is 3rd-hand, but as the AT was completed nearby between Sugarloaf and Spaulding Mountains - on the East side of the CVR from the Crockers-, it seems plausible.)

Bridge after barricade, before AT crossing

Replaced bridge shortly before AT crossing
Only Chris and I were on this hike. We left the car and made short work of the 1/2-mile on the road to the poorly-marked (as in not at all) AT crossing. Watch for a small parking lot on the right side of the CVR, the crossing is just down the road from that. We saw a motorcycle at this spot, hope he realizes he cannot legally count the ascent for the 4000-footer list!

After turning right (West) onto the AT, we began a moderate ascent to the Crocker Cirque Campsite spur path roughly 1 mile up from the road. Above here the trail ascends steeper, twice climbing briefly up a talus slide with nice views toward North Crocker and the Bigelow Peaks from yesterday.

The Bigelow Range - Avery Peak, West Peak, the Horns from right to left

Little Bigelow Mountain

North Crocker

Crocker Cirque - campsite is near there

Looking down one of the talus slides you climb up
2 poor nights of sleep in a row and I was climbing slower than normal, but still at a solid pace. Roughly 1.5 hours and 2.6 miles from the car (and roughly 1900 feet of climbing) I reached South Crocker, several minutes behind Chris. Right by the summit is a man-made clearing towards the other side of the Caribou Valley, with good views of Sugarloaf, Spaulding, and Abraham (all 4000-footers themselves).


Spaulding, with the rocky summit of Abraham way off in the background

The ridge between Sugarloaf and Spaulding
A break here, where we met 3 guys backpacking along a section of the AT, hitting the 8 4000-footers in this region South of the Bigelows. They were in the process of dropping packs and taking the herd path to and from Redington before continuing over North Crocker and out to Maine Highway 27. We took a short break (Chris's was longer, haha) and then continued North to North Crocker, a mere 1 mile away. The col is fairly deep for a 1-mile trek, with a 480-foot descent and a 550-foot ascent in that span. But the going is pretty easy, and there is a unique artifact in the trail in this stretch.

An AT marker right in the center of the trail - these are mostly long gone now, it was cool to see one!
North Crocker was reached, where once again I met Chris talking to some thru-hikers, one whom we had met the day before on the Bigelows! The thru-hikers are a bit early this year, as the mild winter enabled an earlier start than usual for many of them. North Crocker is completely viewless, though a herd path to the Western direction had a very limited view. This path seemed to go all the way to the valley, my thought is it might be an approach from one of the logging roads in that direction.

We quickly executed a u-turn back to South Crocker.

Nice walk through the col between the Crockers
Now it was time for the fun part. The herd path off South Crocker is easily found at the summit, but it soon becomes less defined and pushes through a lot of needle-less spruce/pine branches. Shortly after the initial drop you come to the AT boundary corridor, a cleared swath of trees that parallels the AT on both sides (each is roughly 1000 feet from the AT). Here the herd path directly crosses, it does not follow the boundary at all! Many people report losing the herd path here, but if you cut straight across, you will find the herd path again. After a little while it turns into needled branches which were less painful, but still slow going. The path occasionally seems to just end, but a brief pause, short backtrack, and you find which way it is going again. This continues most of the way to the open col.

In the col, heading to Redington in the center

South Crocker from the col
Past the col, you soon come to an old logging road, which you follow to the left, uphill. Here we ran into the trio we had seen the first time on South Crocker, on their way back. A little way up the road, a carin and some tape marked a turn onto a herd path that continued up to the summit, with occasional blazes and tape (most orange). This side of the col is easier going overall, and we reached the flat summit area. There are a few building remants up here and a decent view towards what my map said was East Kennebago Mountain.

East Kennebago Mountain (I think)

Bigelows behind the Crockers col
Near the summit in the trees toward the Crockers is a summit canister, the first I've gotten to see. Inside was a mere 2 sheets of paper with a few names dating back to December. It seems the old log has been removed. The canister, incidentally, had the year 1986 marked on it's bottom. You need to be fairly tall to get into it, the top lifts off and the "log" and pens and pencils are in a ziplock inside. I signed my name and put it back after looking through the handful of other entries.

While up here 2 other people showed up. So at least 7 visited this summit on this day! After the annoying bushwhack we opted to take the longer, but easy-going route down the myriad of logging roads. The directions are rather mixed up out there on the internet, most people say "right, right, left, left" at the various intersections, but I'm pretty sure there were 3 rights before the lefts. The first is where the herd path that we followed up from the logging road splits, to go back to the logging road we came from, or to the right which we followed. There are some carins and wood arrows marking the way uphill (from the CVR), but I'd suggest downloading my GPS track from for this peak and overlaying it on Google Earth. It will give you a better idea, and if you have a GPS, you can load it on there as extra help.

The lower left turn is onto the CVR near Caribou Pond. From here it is over 3 miles back to the car. Along the way we saw many washout sections, broken bridges, and altogether missing bridges. Needless to say, without work being done on this stretch (unlikely), even a Jeep right now might not be able to get to the pond for a shorter attack on Redington.

One of the old roads we descended to the CVR

Turned left here onto the CVR
It was a long, mostly boring grind out to the car, but we got there a mere 5.5 hours after leaving it, averaging 2 mph over the ~11-mile hike! The weather in the morning was threatening over the Crockers, but as can be seen in the last couple of pictures, blue sky prevailed, and it ended up being a very nice day. Much cooler than the day before, which was welcome.

Peaks: South Crocker (4050', NE4K), North Crocker (4228', NE4K), Redington (4010', NE4K)
Mileage: ~11.3 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3400 feet
Time: 5.5 hours total, including breaks


  1. Why do you say that the motorcycle hiker can't count it as a 4,000 footer?

    1. Per the rules of the AMC 4000-Footer Committee, if a road is closed to motorized traffic (cars/motorcycles/trucks, etc), you have to walk the road (both ways) to "count" the ascent when applying for the patch. The road was clearly marked as prohibiting all motorized traffic beyond the barrier. The AMC rule mainly exists to provide guidelines for bicycle use, and in fact biking past the barrier here would technically violate the rules too. That said, no one follows you around to make sure you follow "the rules".