Monday, August 11, 2014

An "Interesting" Day on Old Speck - July 20, 2014

Route: Eyebrow Trail, Old Speck Trail
Peaks: Old Speck (4170', NE67)
Mileage: 7.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 3000ft
Book Time: 5hr 20min (actual 4hr 50min)

Since I was up in Grafton Notch for the weekend hiking East Baldpate the day before, I figured what the heck, I might as well climb up the other side of the notch and hike Old Speck from this side and grab a few red-lines while I was at it. Starting up fairly early, I took the Eyebrow Trail on the ascent. The Maine Mountain Guide makes this trail sound steep and tricky, with a steel cable section and numerous steel rungs in the rock, and a bad trail to descend or to hike on at all when wet. Luckily, it had been fairly dry of late, and I also had my new hiking boots which had gripped awesomely on the wet ledges on Whiteface back in the Spring.

The Eyebrow Trail starts off easy, but pretty quickly begins climbing, and then hits the cable section. All this section really was was a series of ledges in the woods, fairly steep but with lots of root pockets and the like making the cable hand rail redundant. Still, since it was there I made use of it. Above the cable handrail (which is maybe 100 feet or so long), there is a tricky ledge crossing, where there are several steel handrails mounted into the rock and a small steel bar ladder and the far side. The ledge was pretty dry, but definitely had a long dropoff so a slip would not be good. The far side had a slimy rock near the trail, which constituted the only actually tricky part of this trail, and it wasn't that big a deal with the steel rungs to hold onto.

The start of the cable handrail section

More of the cable handrail

And more cable handrail

The ledge crossing at the top of the cables section. Note the ladder on the far side.

Just before the ladder on the far side of the ledge was this slimy ledge next to the trail.
With that crossed, the trail was just a steep climb in the woods from here, with some limited but nice views from a couple short side spurs near the top of the Eyebrow. From there, the trail descended briefly to the upper junction with the Old Speck Trail (also part of the Appalachian Trail). Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by this trail. While a stiff climb with a few nice views, I felt that its difficulty was vastly over-stated. Still, on a wet day, or on the descent, I could see this trail being fairly treacherous in a few spots, and it is only 1/10-mile longer than taking the Old Speck Trail, though its grade is steeper (due to a flat start and a slight descent on the top).

An interesting-looking alpine shoulder on Old Speck.

Looking down Grafton Notch from the top of the Eyebrow

The Baldpates (East on left, West just right of center) from The Eyebrow

Table Rock

Table Rock from a slightly different angle

Viewpoint just below the Old Speck Trail/Mahoosuc Trail junction, looking over the cliffs of the Eyebrow
 At the junction I saw the first hikers of the day, and we would leap-frog the bulk of the rest of the day as we were doing the same loop. The climb now goes over several small PUDs (pointless ups and downs), and I saw many backpackers as well. Most had apparently spent a night at Speck Pond campsite as an out-and-back from Grafton Notch as a straight-forward weekend backpack, but there were a few thru-hikers out and about as well, most heading South. Over the ups and downs, steadily gaining elevation, the trail had mostly good footing though a few of the usual Mahoosuc Range ledges, but in what seemed like short order I was at the viewpoint right below the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail. A short mostly flat walk later, and I was at the summit clearing, just as a few drops of rain fell. So, a short chat with a young fellow leading some sort of outing group on an overnight trip (they too had spent the night at Speck Pond and were on their way out) and a few pictures later, I put the camera away (in case it rained heavier) and headed down. I didn't bother climbing the tower on this visit since there was not going to be much if anything to see from up there.

A scout troop or some sort of group left their packs near the summit. Not sure why the life guard pool noodle...

Old Speck observation tower

Clouds rolling in from the South

The ledges of East Baldpate on the right
 It never really rained, but it did spit here and there for most of the descent. This thankfully meant that the ledges scattered along the trail were all pretty dry and so reasonably easy to descend, and I made good time back to the car for the lengthy drive home. As I had suspected, the section of the Old Speck Trail between the ends of the Eyebrow Trail was a steady but never steep descent, and was probably the easiest stretch of this hike. Down early in the afternoon, I was set to arrive home early, but of course my car's throttle module decided to die 65 miles from home, turning an early arrival home into a ride in a tow truck and a few days of trying to get it fixed...such is life, and it didn't put a damper on a fun and fairly quiet weekend on the trails, even if the weather forecast was wrong for both days.

No comments:

Post a Comment