Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Hardest Mile

We were out for another hike today.  Short hike, but a very long drive to get to the trailhead.  I think we made a loop around the entire Mahoosuc Range.

For years we have heard of the infamous “Mahoosuc Notch”.  By most who have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, it is considered to be the hardest mile.  This mile long section of trail is filled with boulders some say are the size of small cars and are turned in every direction.  A few years ago a moose wandered into the notch and was unable to get out.  They say his bones are still there.  The hiker who is brave enough traverses this section by climbing over, under, and around these huge boulders that have fallen off the side of Mahoosuc Mountain.  Don’t expect to do the standard 30-minute mile through here.  I’m not sure what the average time is, but it can easily take two or three hours.

Gene and I didn’t want to hike through there, but we did want to have a look.  By studying the map, we found a short, relatively easy trail that took us right to this infamous notch.  The Notch Trail (pretty aptly named, don’t you think) started on an old logging road not so far from our campground--as the crow flies.  Of course, our truck couldn’t get there as the crow flies, so we went around.

We went east on US 2 into Maine and then turned north on route 26.  As we passed through Grafton Notch State Park, we stopped for just a minute to view Screw Auger Falls.  It wasn’t a spectacular, high waterfall, but pretty anyway.  We found where the AT crosses route 26 then were on the lookout for our turn.  Success Pond Road is a dirt logging road that runs from Berlin, NH to Grafton Notch, ME a distance of about 22 miles.  We turned on Success Pond Rd, slowed down to about 15 mph and headed back toward New Hampshire.  Finally, after about an hour we found the tiny, single lane, dirt road off the dirt logging road which took us to the trailhead.  Surprising, there were three other cars in the small parking area.

As we started our hike, we thought we had hit the jackpot as far as trails go.  It was wonderful--no rocks, roots, or ruts with a very gentle incline.  This perfect trail didn’t last very long, but never got really bad either.  There were a few rocks and slippery roots and the grade got a little steeper, but all in all it was a very pleasant walk along a small mountain brook.  We got to cross that brook three times, but all crossings were easy--just rock hops.

At the top, our trail ended right at the junction of the Mahoosuc Trail (AT) at the south end of Mahoosuc Notch.  At this elevation today we were in the cloud and everything was wet and a very fine mist was floating in the air.  We wanted to get a good look at the notch so we headed down.  A short drop brought us to an open spot and then it was up again over roots and around trees to the next down.  We didn’t do that down.  It went around a tree and then straight down into the cavern of boulders.  The next white blaze I could see was on the side of a boulder that didn’t look like it could be scaled.  We wanted a look at the notch and we got to.  Then we were out of there.

For our drive back home, we continued west on Success Pond Rd.  This side was much rougher than the first half and we crept along at about 10 mph.  At one point, we came upon a taillight that had fallen off someone’s car.  That was kinda funny until we got home and found one of our mud flaps barely hanging on.

At dinner tonight while reflecting on our hike, we both agreed it was way cool to be in “Mahoosuc Notch”.  But perhaps our favorite thing about the hike was the distinctive “north woods” feel of the forest today.  It was awesome.

Storms are moving into our area over night tonight so tomorrow will be a chore day.  It’s just as well since my laundry basket is overflowing.

That’s it for today.

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