New England HighpointingOn May 23, 2006, I flew up to Hartford, CT, on American Airlines ($235 roundtrip) thru St Louis for a 7 day trip to visit the highpoints in the area. Arriving around 6 pm, I went over to Enterprise Car Rentals to pick up a Chevy Aveo economy car which was $154/week plus taxes and gas and unlimited mileage (other than attempting to limit use to three states!). I drove it to Salisbury, CT, which is close to the trailhead for Mt Frissell, the highpoint. After driving up the Mt Riga road to the Mt Washington road which goes up across the state line into MA, I pulled over about 100 yds south of the state line and slept in the front seat of the car since the ground was muddy and damp as well as not very inviting looking for putting up my tent. Before retiring for the evening, I was reading my climbing guide about the route and glanced up in the diminishing light to see a beautiful, large (300#?) black bear walking south on the road in front of the car. Quickly, I grabbed my camera and got out to take a picture, then I shouted at the bear and it became aware of my presence, turned sideways to look back and then took off running down the road away from me.
The next morning, I started my hike to the summit of Mt Frissell (2,380’) about 5:15 am and almost immediately made a mistake in the route by heading straight down the woods road whereas the trail makes a sharp left turn off the road shortly after the start. Since the road was getting more difficult to travel, I concluded something was amiss and backtracked finding the correct path which was marked with blazes on the trees and rocks along the way. The first small peak I climbed was Round Mountain (2,296’) which obviously was not the highpoint, since I could see Mt Frissell ahead and above me. The trail dropped off Round Mountain and then ascended Mt Frissell which is actually in Mass. From the summit, you head south into CT on the ridge to the highpoint for CT which was only about .1 mile down the ridge. After a couple of photos, I hiked back to the car and was done by 6:45 am. The hike is about 1,000’ elev gain and about 2.6 miles roundtrip.
Then I headed back to Salisbury, and drove north to the town of Adams, MA, which is about 2.5 miles from the trailhead for the Cheshire Harbor Trail which goes up 2.6 miles and connects with the Appalachian trail for the final .6 mile to the summit of Mount Greylock (3,487’) where there is a Massachusetts War Memorial built of rock which looks similar to a
From Adams, MA, I drove north and west to near Lake Placid, NY, which is about 12 miles from Mt Marcy (5,344’) located in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The trailhead I used started from the Adirondack Loj campground built and operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) about 8 miles from Lake Placid. I used the Van Hoevenburg trail which was rough in places due to water and mud changing to snow and ice as the elevation increased. I camped there that night setting up my tent in a nice
Feeling refreshed, I drove northeast to take the ferry across Lake Champlain to Grand Isle, VT, from near Plattsburgh, NY. From Grand Isle, you can drive through Burlington, VT on I89 which is part of US Hwy 2 in Vermont and exited on hwy 100 north to Stowe, VT, arriving at the ski resort north of town on hwy 108 about 4:30 pm. I checked the status of the various routes to Mt Mansfield and found that the Gondola and the Toll road were not open for the summer season until June 2, but that I was welcome to hike up the Toll road for free. I considered camping right there at the start of the toll road which was gated, but decided it would be frowned upon when I saw a security truck patrolling after eating some supper following a short hike partway up the road as the sun was setting. Instead, I headed out of town on hwy 108 several miles to where it was a winding narrow road with little traffic and found a nice pullout by a rushing stream where I again slept in the driver’s seat slipping into my sleeping bag as the temps dropped.
The next morning I drove back to the trailhead and started my hike about 5:30 am up the 4.5 mile road to the top of the ridge which runs north about 1.5 miles to the chin (summit) of Mt Mansfield (4,393’) along the Vermont Long Trail which is followed in this portion of the Appalacian trail. The granite was slab-like and very nice to hike over en route to the summit. After summit photos, I hiked back to the car and finished about 9:30 am. The elevation gain is about 2,800’ on this 12 mile roundtrip.
From Stowe, I headed north and then east to Twin Mountain, N.H., which is about 12 mi west of Mt Washington (6,288’). I arrived about noon at the base of the Cog Railway which runs to the summit, but since it was a Friday and not yet the summer season, I could only find a couple of tourists wandering around and no one was available to answer questions about tickets and schedule. The sign said a run would be made at 11 am, but if so, it was in progress and I was left to puzzle over what conditions might be like at the top. After a moment’s hesitation, although I had not planned to climb it until the next day, I decided the weather looked reasonable (since I could see the top) and decided to take my crampons along in case it was cold and/or icy nearer the summit and give it a shot. I used the Ammonoosuc Ravine/Crawford Path route which starts near the Cog Railway and gains about 3,800’ in about 9 miles roundtrip. It was a challenging climb alongside a very full stream fed by rapidly melting snow and ice near the summit. There were some good friction moves on steep granite slabs in places and several dicey stream crossings due to the volume of water and exposure if you fell in and were washed down over falls. All went well except for one crossing where water over flowed my one boot giving me a fresh soggy feeling. After reaching the Lake of the Clouds hut operated by the Appalacian Mountain Club as part of its White Mountains hut to hut system, I headed NE on the Crawford Path to the summit which is a segment of the AT. From this point on I was mostly on snow trying to avoid post holing since it was warm and there was a lot of water trapped underneath which would quickly get into my waterproof boots. These conditions were not very pleasant and would probably not have lasted more than a week if the warmer temps continued to stay above freezing around the clock. There were many cairns which made route finding simple, plus you could see your goal due to reasonable visibility that day. At the summit after taking some photos, I met another hiker who had come up the Tuckerman Ravine trail from the N Conway side. He suggested I use the Jewell trail to make a loop on my return to the car which I decided would be interesting. Near the top where the wet snow was continuing to overcome my boots, I passed over the Cog railway and decided to try descending it for a distance to avoid some of the snow since I could see the cairns marking the Jewell trail were not that far from my alternate route. After some distance, I grew concerned about how difficult the railway ties might become when I hit some of the steep sections and decided to switch back over to the trail now that I had descended past much of the troublesome snowy areas. This proved to be an interesting route and I reached my car around 5 pm after a long day with climbs of both Mansfield and Washington. My crampons surely enjoyed their ride in the mountain air though the conditions never provided a need for their use. I hung around the base station for a long period contemplating my next move since I had already reached my goal of the following day. I enjoyed a PB and honey sandwich on the deck at one of the many tables which I assume are very busy during the summer season when they have their restaurant open. After a few more photos, I went back to the car and took a cat nap for awhile. Then, since it was still light, I decided to start north toward my final climb of the trip.
After it got dark, I found a roadside rest area and pulled over to sleep for awhile. It was raining lightly and very pleasant to listen to the raindrops on the roof since I was not interested in tenting in the rain in an area where parking and camping overnight were not allowed. After a few hours rest, I resumed driving about 2 am and shortly thereafter had an encounter with a yearling cow moose running along the roadside on my side of the highway. As I slowed and started to pass, she swerved left and almost collided with the car. I’m sure I’d have received body damage to the vehicle if I hadn’t swerved left out of her way. Fully alert by now, I drove on as the dawn approached and I passed into Maine heading north. In the light of morning I saw another mature cow moose on the side of the interstate contemplating ??, but she stayed in place on the hillside as I sped north. Eventually, I reached Millinocket, ME, which is about 20 mi from Mt Katahdin (5,267’). I entered Baxter State Park paying the entrance fee of about $7 and drove to the Roaring Brook Campground which is also the trailhead for the route I chose known as the Chimney Pond trail/Helon Taylor trail/Knife Edge trail. This trail is about 8.6 mi roundtrip and 4,300’ elevation gain over lots of granite boulders and Pamola Peak (4,902) en route to the summit. This climb turned out to be the most enjoyable of the trip and in some respects reminded me of Mt Russell in the Sierras, especially along the Knife Edge ridge section. The weather was threatening and thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon so I hit the trail by 9 am after the long drive. After the soggy experience on Mt Washington the prior day, I expected to see various water sources along the way. In this, I was wrong, for after the initial .1 mile along the roaring brook, the route heads steeply up the Helon Taylor trail which was dry all the way to the summit of Pamola Pk. There were clouds obscuring the peaks as I gained elevation and it was fairly warm and little wind to aid my efforts. I was losing a lot of water and wishing I had brought more than 1 liter. When I reached the first peak, the wind picked up which was a welcome relief although I still could not see my objective through the clouds.
Bar Harbor was a good choice for a place to relax and recover from the exertions of the prior days. I found a nice campground on the road heading into town called Bar Harbor Campground which had large clean campsites with either nice trees for shade or views of the bay with sunshine. They had clean restrooms and a heated pool which I sampled. Since the weather had cooperated and allowed me expeditious completion of my endeavors, I had several days to explore the Bar Harbor scene. It was very nice with few bugs and cooler than Baxter State Park. They were having their 5th annual Acadia climbing festival that weekend and I went to a screening of a couple of interesting climbing movies at the cinema in town called Reel Pizza which featured fresh pizza to take into the show and seating to accommodate feasting while enjoying the movies. The first movie was Benedictus, presented by its film maker Jennifer Tennican of Jackson Hole about Tom Callaghan’s epic quest to establish a new climb on NH’s Cannon Cliff. The second movie was by Rob Frost called Harvest Moon and documented a Swiss expedition to climb the immense 4,600 ft North face on India’s Himalayan peak, Thalay Sagar which is more than 20,000’ in elevation. Before the movies, I went to a restaurant named Poor Boy’s and had an incredibly delicious baked stuffed Haddock fillet with scallops and bay shrimp with a pasta side dish for only $8.95. The serving size was very generous and it was perfectly prepared. It was a fitting climax to a successful climbing trip. The last day in Bar Harbor, I drove the 27 mile park loop road and pulled out at numerous locations to take in the tourist sights and sounds including hiking up to Gorham mountain on a loop trail that passed some interesting granite cliffs. I stopped at Sand Beach and did some hiking down to Thunder Hole after walking up and down the beach barefoot. Since the tide was going out, the Thunder was sporatic, but you could see some of the rocks that tumbled around in the narrow opening gradually eroding the granite with the action of the waves. After that stop, I stopped at Otter Point where I explored the area of the Otter cliffs finding various rock climbers testing their skills there in the early morning quiet.
Having seen some of the Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park area, it was time to head the final 400 miles back to Hartford for my return flight. On the way I routed my travel across the state border of Rhode Island