Saturday, April 6, 2013
SOUTHWEST RIDGE OF SPECKLED MOUNTAIN: 4/4/13
Spring is here, and on this spectacular sunny day Evans Notch was calling. An annual rite for me is to make the long drive up to the Evans Notch area for some lower elevation bushwhacking in late March/early April. As I headed up bumpy Route 113 through North Chatham I could see that the hardwood slope on the east flank of diminutive Sugarloaf Mountain was bare. I decided to revisit a favorite ledge on that mountain and then continue up the ridge to several more ledges I had lounged on during previous spring visits. I can think of no finer way to spend a bluebird early spring day.
I parked at the entrance to the Basin Pond road and walked up the snowmobile-packed highway past the gate and into the state of Maine.
The Cold River was flowing free, though winter still held a partial grip in the woods.
Nice view of the ledgy, lumpy ridges of West Royce from an orchard/wildlife opening.
The historic Brickett House, built in 1812 by John Brickett and now used by the Forest Service as an information center in summer.
Heading up the Bickford Brook Trail into one of my favorite valleys. The lower 0.3 mi. of the trail was a typical April mixed bag of old "monorail" snow, ice and bare ground.
Fully bare ground for a brief section on the old service road that the trail mostly follows en route to the summit of Speckled Mountain. At 0.5 mi. from Rt. 113 you enter the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness. At just 12,000 acres this is a pocket-sized Wilderness, but there are many interesting places to explore.
A mile in from the highway I headed left up a steep slope of bare hardwoods - the first of the spring!
Approaching the crest of Sugarloaf Mountain.
A gnarled oak behind the SE outlook ledge.
This was perhaps my fifth visit to this massive outcrop, and it's always a joy to pop out on it (taking care not to trample lichens) and see the view down the Cold River valley to the Baldface Range.
The ledge also looks up the Bickford Brook valley to part of Blueberry Ridge, another southern spur of Speckled.
A great place to lounge in the warm spring sun, listening to the muffled roar of Bickford Brook in the valley and not much else. Never even had to put a jacket on.
After a nice long stay on the ledge, I made the short whack up to a snowy ledge on the south summit of Sugarloaf.
This spot has a great perspective on the Baldfaces.
South Baldface was still well-caked with snow.
To the west, through a gap in the trees, I could see South, Middle and North Carter behind the Basin Rim.
I continued north up the snow-covered ridge, crossing over the 1451-ft. summit of Sugarloaf.
Just north of the summit I crossed a broad col with beautiful open hardwoods. The snow was still solid enough for bare-booting.
Next was a climb up a steep, rocky, snow-free slope at the south end of a shoulder that was named Long Mountain on AMC trail maps ca. 1930. Here there were some interesting layered rocks, reminiscent of the Catskills.
A pretty good scramble up through here.
Near the top of the steep pitch I stumbled upon a faint remnant of the Brickett Trail, which was maintained on this ridge by the WMNF from 1936-1947. Higher up I also saw a couple of old cairns.
I made my way out to perhaps my favorite view ledge on this ridge, with a great vista to The Basin and the Carter Range framed by Mt. Meader and West Royce.
Beautiful country out there!
Carter Dome and Mt. Hight.
South, Middle and North Carter.
The immense mass of West Royce.
After soaking this in for a while, I made the short climb to a south-facing clifftop with another good Baldface Range vista.
Here I could look down on Sugarloaf Mountain, where I'd been a short time ago.
Farther up the ridge were some good perches on the east side of the crest.
Looking down into the Bickford Brook valley - some tall oaks down there - and across to Blueberry Mountain.
I continued on snowshoes another half-mile or so up the ridge, sometimes on snowy ledges with limited views as shown here, at others through dense and prickly spruce woods.
On a hump on the northern end of the ridge was a secluded east-facing ledge looking across to Blueberry Ridge with Pleasant Mountain on the horizon. I spent a long time relaxing at this peaceful spot.
Then I pushed through some very dense spruce down to a frozen ridgetop bog (2100 ft.), with a nice lenticular floating overhead.
One last view ledge, with a look across at West and East Royce.
Then I dropped to the Bickford Brook Trail, descended it for a while, then snowshoed down through open hardwoods parallel to the trail in a broad part of the valley. The snow was turning mushy in the late afternoon sun, but it was enjoyable spring 'shoeing in a remote setting.
Back on the trail, I saw that the bears were on the move! I had heard some commotion down in the leaves below when I was up on the Sugarloaf ledge - perhaps it was this wandering bruin.
From a wildlife opening near the gate on Rt. 113, I had a view back up to where I'd been on Sugarloaf (R) and Long (L) Mountains.
Driving down Rt. 113, I stopped for a look back at Speckled Mountain (peeking over in back on the R) and its many spurs. The ridge I ascended is on the left side of the photo, with Spruce Hill behind. Ames Mountain is in the center, and part of Blueberry Mountain is on the R. A big slice of pizza from the Stow Corner Store capped a great early spring day in the mountains.