Throwback Thursday #6 - Gulf Hagas loop hiking in July 2013. 

The Gulf Hagas rim trails are known only in passing to AT thru hikers.  By reading guidebooks, you’ll know that 0.7 miles apart, the AT bisects the Gulf Hagas Trail, but it takes you more than 5 miles to hike that distance if you take the Gulf Hagas Trail.  Many thru hikers keep on going when they have this gem of a hike within a stone’s throw of Katahdin.  

This trail system has some beautiful waterfalls, seven to be exact, and is extremely rugged hiking.  When we hiked it in July it was incredibly hot and the black flies were brutal, but being that we had to cross the east branch of the Pleasant River to get there, it was nice to get the chance to cool off a few times during the hike.  Despite being a waterfall-heavy trail, there are only two stream crossings that are of any concern.  The only hitch in our day was the fact that one of the trail signs wasn’t properly secured in the ground and had actually been turned, so we did “bonus miles” taking us to the Head of the Gulf instead of back to the AT.  Thankfully, we ran into the only people we would see all day on this particular trail and they showed us their map, getting us back on course.  

The photos you’re seeing above are: 1) The plaque on the other side of the second water crossing with the double blue blazes, letting you know you’re now off the AT and in Gulf Hagas, which is designated as a National Scenic Landmark; 2) Screw Auger Falls; 3) Buttermilk Falls; 4) A typical canyon/gorge that follows this trail system. The water below feeds the east branch of the Pleasant River; 5) The Head of the Gulf, where two large streams convene into a larger one and create the system which feeds the waterfalls. 

Throwback Thursday #5 - Hiking southbound on the AT over Chairback and down Third Mountain Trail, forming a loop with the logging roads in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  

We did this hike in June 2013.  The Gulf Hagas area of the 100 Mile Wilderness takes nearly 2 hours to drive to from Millinocket, but the drive is definitely worth it.  We decided to hike a “loop” that we formed by hiking southbound up and over Chairback, down Third Mountain, Trail, and finally hiking 2 miles on the logging roads back to our car at the Gulf Hagas Trailhead.  The weather was beautiful and starting to warm up, but the warm weather and sunshine after weeks of rain and cold in Central Maine means one thing - BLACK FLIES.  They were absolutely brutal on this hike, nailing us in the face and back of the neck (they left scabs on my neck for weeks after this hike!) 

The hiking southbound over this mountain, which is a boulder-scramble for the SoBo’s, was a lot tougher than it seemed the first time we hiked it (northbound, of course) during our thru hike in early September 2012. A 16-mile day in the 100 Mile Wilderness was ambitious and it was a full day of hiking, but the views were stunning and the hike left us both blissfully exhausted.  Above, you’ll see 1) the view from Monument Cliff, 2) a bog on the logging roads on the way back to the car, 3) the typical trail scenery in this part of Maine, 4) the view looking at the back of Chairback (aptly named, now you can see), and 5) NoKey on top of Chairback. 

"Throwback Thursday" hiking adventures - October 2013

Since I didn’t have much time to blog while I was living in Maine, I’ve decided to start a “Throwback Thursday” edition of my blog for the next several weeks to profile my hikes while I was in Maine.  Today’s adventure will take place in the 100 Mile Wilderness of Maine - Turtle Ridge Trail in October 2013.

Turtle Ridge is a fairly new trail, constructed by the MCC (Maine Conservation Corps) about 8 years ago.  The trail is a figure-eight of sorts and can be done many different ways, so for my hike today I decided to wing it and go where I felt like hiking.  To get to the trailhead, I drove down Route 11 South from Millinocket to Jo-Mary Road. I drove in Jo-Mary, took the first fork toward Cooper Brook and drove through the Henderson Gate, about an hour and ten minutes or so from Millinocket.  The trailhead parking is well-marked, but the actual trailhead is not!

The trail is a blue blaze and begins a gentle uphill on soft, pine-covered trail and is in amazing shape.  After about a half mile or so you’ll come to a summit with the first trail junction and obscured views of other hill tops.  I decided to continue straight down to Rabbit Pond and a stream crossing.  There were a few ups and down, but all gentle or switchbacked for the next two miles or so until I came to Turtle Ridge, which looks down on Sing-Sing Pond and across the pond to the AT at the Whitecap Range.  There was a beautiful view here and I took some time for a snack and a few pictures before heading downhill to the next trail junction.  

On the way down to the next section of trail (which is a second access point at ITS 85/86 (Musquash), there was a little bit more steepness but I had noticed some beautiful signs of fall with fresh fallen, colorful leaves underfoot.  When I reached the bottom of the hill, the trail turned into an old logging roadbed and was gentle and pleasant, following along the edge of Sing-Sing Pond.  I hadn’t seen a person or any wildlife all day so I was frightened by a moose who had seen me first and was taking off in the opposite direction and splashed into the pond! After a mild heart attack I began a steeper uphill that was more in Maine fashion than the rest of the trail to Long and Henderson Ponds.  This section of trail is more remote and, therefore, rockier and steeper than the first part.  I made my way uphill, stopping a few views and stopping once to ponder a green-blazed trail not on mine or any map I had seen before, slowly making my way down to yet another scenic pond.  

The last uphill of the day had some beautiful step work done by the MCC and a “scenic overlook” which turned out to be overgrown.  It was starting to get later in the day, around 3:15, so I was ready to be finished.  I was summiting my final hill when I came around a corner to the most stunning frontal view of Katahdin!  It was an amazing surprise!  To look down and see the ponds and little logging trucks snaking along Jo-Mary Road and then look straight ahead and see this beautiful mountain in the fall was stunning.  I had another snack break and took a few photos and videos before heading back downhill to the original trail junction and then, finally down to the car.  

Just before getting back to my car I had to walk along Jo-Mary Road for a quick minute.  I crossed a logging bridge and directly beneath me heard a splash… it turned out to be a beaver swimming through the small stream!  I stretched out and got ready to drive back to Millinocket.  After crossing the Henderson Gate I came to the Cooper Brook/AT junction of the road and saw two thru’s sitting on a rock looking exhausted.  They were dreaming of lunch at White House Landing, which was no longer serving lunch to hikers without a night’s stay (for the two of them, this would have cost around 90 bucks after the food and stay!)  I broke the bad news to them to find out they were pretty much out of food and looking forward to packing out burgers.  I had no food or trail magic, but offered to jump them ahead a day’s walk or so on the trail to Nahmakanta Lake if they wanted.  They gladly accepted and we drove the half-hour back in the other direction to the lake. 

They actually did stay with us at the hostel a few days later and gave me their blog to follow, even though they had already finished the trail. They were incredibly grateful, which was nice to see that late in the season. 

Katahdin from the top of the mountain:

The beaver in the stream: 

The view from Turtle Ridge: