Sunday, June 29, 2008
Lost in the mist.
We planned a very ambitious hiking day yesterday with Mike and Katie. It was our intention to leave Dixfield at 6 a.m. (check) and drive up to the Caribou Pond Road near Sugarloaf (check) and hike to South Crocker, Crocker and Reddington Mountains (here's where the checks get blurry and soggy).
Our plan was to drive as far up the road as we could and then walk to the place where the Appalachian Trail crosses Caribou Pond Road and hike north on the AT to South Crocker, then take what was described as a well-defined bushwhack up to Reddington Peak then re-trace our steps and get back on the AT to Crocker--it seemed simple enough.
Well, our first mistake was by walking past the trailhead and continuing to the end of Caribou Pond Road--maybe an hour or more of walking and 1000 feet in elevation that we didn't need to do. How all four of us managed to miss the AT going off both to the right and the left is beyond me, but we missed.
Once we found the trail, off we trotted. Soon we found a cluster of Amanita muscaria also known as Fly Agaric (used at one time to make fly poison it is now known to produce states of delirium and raving but few fatalities). We didn't sample it, although had we known it's properties we might have been tempted on the return hike.
About a mile into the hike, we stopped for trail mix and water and were passed by a large group of friendly hikers that were doing a traverse of the Crockers.
After the rest break, the trail got very steep--Mike had GPS and while I tried not to listen when he said our elevation at our break stop, I heard enough to realize that the next 1.4 miles was going to exceed my generally acceptable 1 mile:1000 feet ratio. I took my time, kind of embarrassed by my tortoise speed but getting there nonetheless. We were in clouds the whole way but there were several spots where we could imagine panoramic views of the Sugarloaf region.
We made the summit of South Crocker and then decided to make the bushwhack of Reddington--this is where it all fell apart. The bushwhack was very tough and not well-defined at all--eventually an hour into it we were into a spruce-fir thicket so dense that we couldn't see the person in front or behind and so we decided to cut our losses and head back to South Crocker. It turns out, we had gotten off track--well I guess that should have been obvious. Back at the summit, we enjoyed our lunch and headed back down the mountain.
It was nice to have shared the day with Charlie, Mike and Katie and now that we know where the trailhead is and where the bushwhack isn't, I may return some day to capture the views but maybe not too soon.