Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back to It - Goose Eye - NEHH 86 - May 31, 2014

Route: Goose Eye Trail, Mahoosuc Trail, Carlo Col Trail
Peaks: Goose Eye (3870', NEHH), Goose Eye - East Peak (3794'), Mount Carlo (3565')
Mileage: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3200ft
Book Time: 5hr 50min (actual 5hr 25min)

With winter's last traces having finally faded away and closed-for-winter roads once again open, it's back to working on the New England 100 Highest for me. I hope to finish this list sometime this summer, with 15 peaks remaining entering 2014. First up this year turned out to be Goose Eye, a great peak in the middle of the always-fun Mahoosuc Range and just over the New Hampshire border into Maine.

After a nasty experience on the rough logging road known as Success Pond Road last Spring where I was barely able to manage a 10mph average over 12+ miles of rough road in my low-clearance car (and I was pushing it in many places), I had resigned myself to driving into Maine for the Eastern approach via the Wright Trail. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that trail (I've never done it and don't know many folks that have), but I really wanted to do the Goose Eye-Mount Carlo Loop from Success Pond Road (more red-lining that way :) ). I was pleasantly pleased to hear in late May that the first 3 miles of the road had been regraded this Spring, as that was the worst part from last year. I was cautiously optimistic that I could make it in without beating up my car, so I decided to give it a shot.

The weather for this day was supposed to be cloudy and even a little drizzly early, but clearing out nicely in the afternoon, so knowing the hike wasn't super-long and sunset is late this time of the year, I slept in and took a leisurely drive up North, shooting for a roughly 11AM departure. The road was actually in far better shape than I could have ever imagined, with lots of re-grading having been done (mostly on the first 3 miles, but in a few other spots further out as well), and almost no large rocks sticking up. Without even pushing it, I was comfortably able to maintain a 20mph average, slowing down below 15mph in only 1 or 2 spots to deal with small ditches that were easily dealt with. It took 25 minutes to drive the 8.1 miles to the Carlo Col Trailhead, my starting and ending point.

Starting off just before 11, the skies were just starting to clear up a little, and it looked like my timing was going to work out well. After only 1/4-mile on the Carlo Col Trail, I hung a left off the road that the first part of that trail follows and picked up the Goose Eye Trail which would take me to the summit. The lower portion of this trail had several stream crossings that were wide but not deep and thus easily managed, and then a TON of mud. Soon the trail began to climb, and passed a sign that must have marked the state line (I found a survey marker indicating as much next to it), but the sign itself was blank.

Clearing skies as I started out on the Carlo Col Trail

One of a couple of early semi-major stream crossings on the Goose Eye Trail

I imagine the sign once stapled on here indicated the NH/ME state line

State Line survey marker near the above sign

Young hardwoods low on the Goose Eye Trail
Soon after the state line, the trail began climbing, and hard. There was the not un-expected erosion along the trail, and even a couple small patches of ice near the top, but it climbed and soon reached the open, awesome main summit of Goose Eye. Some maps incorrectly mark the East Peak of Goose Eye, 1/2-mile North on the Mahoosuc Trail, as the main summit, but it is in fact on the Goose Eye Trail near the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail. The skies had cleared up in the immediate area nicely, though the Presidential and other high ranges were still playing with the clouds. Still, it was an awesome peak, which I had all to myself for the 20-30 minutes I spent on it. I was ahead of my schedule, and decided I should also venture over the the cool-looking East Peak of Goose Eye, since it wasn't all that far away.

First views high on the Goose Eye Trail

Old Speck in the distance

The infamous Mahoosuc Notch

Pano from Goose Eye over the Success Pond Road vicinity

Goose Eye East Peak

A couple people hanging out on Goose Eye's East Peak

Mahoosuc Range heading North

Old Speck, Mahoosuc Arm, Mahoosuc Mountain, Fulling Mill Mountain in order from furthest to nearest

Kilkenny Range - 3-bumped Terrace, then Cabot, The Bulge, and The Horn left to right

Southern Kilkenny Range - Starr King, Waumbek, and the 3 Weeks left to right
Heading over to the East Peak, I ran into the 2 people I had seen from the summit of Goose Eye. They had come up the Wright Trail and were tagging Goose Eye, so I also saw them on my way back towards Mount Carlo. The East Peak was cool and it had good views to the ridge heading North with lots of awesome-looking alpine bogs. One of these days I will get back up to hike that section of the Mahoosuc Trail. Heading back down the East Peak to return to near the main peak where I would continue South on the Mahoosuc Trail, I had a fun encounter with my nemesis: angled, wet rock slabs. I skidded pretty good and ripped up the side of my left hand some, but after some self-first aid I was back in action.

The trail off of Goose Eye towards Mount Carlo has a section with a steep ladder mounted to a cliff face and several steel rungs mounted into the rock below it. Descending this wasn't actually that bad thankfully, but I forgot to take some good pictures of this spot, which was one of the reasons I had wanted to do this route! Oops!

The main peak of Goose Eye from the East Peak

The Baldpates in Grafton Notch

Cool-looking alpine bog stretch heading North on the Mahoosuc Trail

Pano from the East Peak of Goose Eye looking towards the main peak and Mount Carlo

Looking down the ladder

Do you see the ladder?

How about now?

Goose Eye from a shoulder en-route to Mount Carlo
From the alpine shoulder below the ladder/rungs section, the trail entered the woods, passed through the col, and climbed moderately to Mount Carlo. I'm not sure what I was expecting from this summit, but after Goose Eye it was disappointing. The views were limited to over the mid-height trees, and so I took a few pictures and just headed down. Shortly before the Carlo Col Trail entered, I ran into the 3rd and final person I would see on this hike, a backpacker heading North, who looked to possibly be a thru-hiker (the majority of the Mahoosuc Trail is on the Appalachian Trail).

I made a quick stop at the Carlo Col Shelter just off the Carlo Col Trail, which had a lot of bags of what I assume to be material for the composting toilet stacked right in front of it. From the shelter, the initial descent down the trail constantly crossed, recrossed, and often followed down the middle of a stream bed. But eventually it turned into a nice, smooth trail down with some avoidable mud, before popping out onto a road for the last stretch back to the car. #86 down!

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