I had made the drive from Gorham to Grafton Notch multiple times in the last two weeks for the car spots and pickup for our Mahoosucs backpack. I was looking forward to returning and having a hike that I could remember a bit more fondly. I wasn't going to be disappointed. We got a leisurely 10:30 start, but we had no place to be and a beautiful day ahead. We scoped out the many pies at the "pie lady" stand as we went by and promised to return to get desert for the evening meal on the way back. With another day of white blazes ahead we were off...
Typical trail (at least when there weren't steps)
Never saw one of these before. Very cool!
We took our time on the ascent of Baldpate West Peak. The trail was pretty nice with no real features of note in this part except the MANY stone steps up the final steep sections to the summit (and the AT benchmark along the way). It's a nice enough trail and another testament to the experience we've had on all the trails in Maine so far. When we got to West Peak things got a bit more interesting.
Reaching the summit of West Baldpate - East Peak ahead
Love these Maine views!
Trail down to the West Baldpate ledges
The path awaits
We took a long lunch break on West Peak, enjoying the amazing views and anticipating the fun ahead. The path up East Peak follows the line of ledges at the far left. What a great path!
Kevin heading into the col
The walk across the col between the peaks is just gorgeous. I could walk in places like this forever!
Looking back to West Peak from the col
Bog bridges through the col. What a beautiful section!
East Peak ahead
After crossing the col we were treated to a wonderful walk (and occasional scramble) up the East Peak ledges. They're quite steep, but very manageable and the views along the way make you forget where you are. These are the kinds of places in the mountains that I love the most.
Old Speck on the other side of Grafton Notch over West Baldpate
Yes, the West Peak ledges are pretty steep
Another cool AT marker
Kevin coming up
The Mahoosucs over West Baldpate
Cairns leading into the sky
The summit plateau is no less spectacular than the ledges. The actual summit of East Peak is on the opposite side and the walk across is simply gorgeous. More of the 360 views open up the further across you get.
Approaching the summit plateau
Kevin and Old Speck
Nat and Judy on the summit
On Baldpate East Peak summit with Old Speck in the distance
Wind farm with Mt Blue beyond
We hung out on the summit for a long time. Kevin, however, declared that it had not been long enough. He decided that it would be easier to die up there and have the helicopter remove his body sometime later. If you had to pick a place to die, this wouldn't be the worst choice...
Kevin, Erich and Gloria
Kevin waiting for the evac chopper
Nat and I on Baldpate East Peak. Another NEHH...
Despite the prior caption, we have no aspiration toward the NEHH. Repeat three times - "I will not start another list, I will not start...". Oh, who knows - the lists haven't lead us any bad places so far.
All good things must come to an end and we finally headed back. While I generally prefer loop hikes to out-and-backs, I didn't mind this one at all. Lots of great spots to revisit the second time of the day (and the promise of a visit to Table Rock as well).
West Peak, Old Speck and the Mahoosucs
Warning - kilts and ladders ahead!
Nat on the ladder
Back on West Peak
MANY stone steps
Another day of white blazes
We've learned to trust the MATC view rating system
Final climb onto Table Rock
The walk out to Table Rock involved regaining a bit of the elevation that we'd just lost and then a climb up a set of iron rungs on the final section to the ledge. We emerged from the trees to find the view which was, well, Extraordinary!
View from Table Rock. The MATC was right again!
Judy and I on Table Rock looking across Grafton Notch
Close to the edge? Yes.
Me on Table Rock - too close to the edge!
Erich on Table Rock - WAY too close to the edge!!
Nat - dancing on the edge! :-O
After enjoying the views and taking our turns hanging on the brink, we headed down and demonstrated our respective approaches to down-climbing a ledge with iron rungs.
Kevin's approach to the rungs
Judy's method (mine too)
Nat's method. Show off!
Erich too. Must be something about people in skirts - uh, kilts
The last mile to the car seemed longer than it was. It had been an amazing day, but we were ready to get back for a much needed shower our swim and get together for dinner (and the soon-to-be-purchased pie).
The huge AT crossing symbol in Grafton Notch
Our stop at the pie lady stand was disappointing - everything was gone for day! We stopped at the other stand back near Sunday River and found two remaining pies and a few whoopie pies left. An apple pie and a whoopie were secured and we headed back to camp. That night we got together for a great community meal and looked back on a most excellent day. It wasn't Mt Washington, and we never even made it above 4000 feet, but it couldn't have been a much better gathering of friends in a more beautiful place. Thanks Kevin, Judy, Erich and Gloria (and Nat of course) for making this a day to remember.
Here's the interactive GPS track: http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=eruthttzxvcsluzm
And the map of the route. Interesting that the GPS track seems to differ significantly from the map of the AT. This is the third time in the last month or so where we've done an AT section hike with this result. I really don't think the GPS is off. In this particular case the path that we were on was definitely flatter and along the contour lines as the GPS track would indicate and not up and down over the "bump" shown on the map along the trail. Is it possible that the AT map is out of date? This is consistent on both the Open Cycle Map version shown here and and the USGS topo maps as well.