Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nearing the Finish - East Baldpate - July 19, 2014

Route: Table Rock Trail, Appalachian Trail
Peaks: Table Rock (2400'), West Baldpate (3662'), East Baldpate (3780', NEHH)
Mileage: 8.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 3300ft
Book Time: 6 hrs

With the 6-pack now out of the way, I had a mere 3 peaks remaining to finish the New England 100-Highest list. All 3 were supposed to have great views, but with a trip with friends coming up in a few weeks to head up to Baxter State Park (where 2 of the 3 are located), I was hoping to hike East Baldpate first so that I could finish with friends on that trip. If the weather wasn't going to cooperate, so be it, but there was a good forecast for this weekend, so off I went for Grafton Notch. I once again slept in for this hike, which is a nice thing to be able to do this time of the year, as I figured that even starting late in the morning I would be out well before dark.

The plan was to head up the Table Rock Trail, which swings over a great viewpoint on its ascent, head all the way out to East Baldpate, and then return to the car via the Appalachian Trail. What I wasn't expecting was the rather steep and scrambly ascent up to Table Rock. The footing was rough in one stretch, and it was definitely steep, but the most interesting part was actually the caves section that I wandered into below Table Rock, thinking the trail went through there (it doesn't). The caves section was similar to portions of Mahoosuc Notch across the road, but after carefully heading up for a short ways, I came to an impassible wall of rock with deep holes below it. Turning around and carefully descending out of the caves section, I found the correct route (cleverly indicated by the word "trail" painted in orange on a rock, whereas I followed a side trail that looks like at one time was marked by the word "caves"), and finished the final ascent to the great views from Table Rock.

Old Speck from near Table Rock

"The Eyebrow" on Old Speck

The Table Rock Trail had a few boulder scrambles...

While it looked like it, the main trail does NOT go through here. In very faint orange paint on the left rock, it says "caves" and the path leads to some cool caves.

The trail goes sharp right at the previous picture. This marker points the way (though it appeared to me at the time that it was pointing for downhill travel).
Pano across Grafton Notch from Table Rock

From Table Rock, the trail continues mostly level to its upper junction with the Appalachian Trail, and continues mostly level until near the Baldpate Lean-to. I took that spur to check out the shelter, where I met a section-hiker heading up to Katahdin to finish the Appalachian Trail, and a couple attempting to backpack the Grafton Loop with their very friendly pup. Some good conversation and snacking later, and I was set for the fairly steep climb up to the viewless summit of West Baldpate, just beyond which you get a great view of the fun climb to come.

Nice rock staircase on the way to West Baldpate

Just beyond the summit of West Baldpate, you get this view of the awesome ledges on the way up to East Baldpate.
From West Baldpate, the trail descends on ledges, passes through an alpine meadow, and ascends fairly steeply up a series of ledges, which was an awesome trek. The views were unfortunately limited on this day due to a thin overcast (instead of the sunny skies that were forecast), but even still the views were very nice, and this was easily one of my favorite peaks on the list. The summit itself offers roughly 360-degree views, and while I couldn't see far, I could see out to the Kilkenny Range in Northern New Hampshire, and up a decent portion of the way towards Rangeley, ME.

I love these alpine boardwalks

West Baldpate from the col

Ledges on the way up East Baldpate

Some zig-zagging was necessary as a few stretches of the ledges were really steep.

After a lengthy stay at the summit where I chatted with a few other hikers, I headed out. The descent was uneventful thanks to fairly good footing the whole way, and mostly dry rocks. In a fairly short time, I was back at the car, and off to get some dinner and find my campground. The penultimate hike was complete, and I will definitely be back for this one again, it's an awesome hike!

No comments:

Post a Comment