My late June trip proved enjoyable but I was continually vexed by Maine’s confusing maze of logging roads and ATV trails.
Day one started with a relaxing drive up through the Adirondacks into Canada and then east through Quebec back towards the US and Maine. Just before reaching the US border, I peeled off into the Mont Gosford park (ZEC Louise Gosford) and started down some rutted dirt roads to an ATV trail that I knew would lead uphill to the US-Canada border swath, which I could then follow to the summit of Boundary Peak. Also known as Panther, this peak literally sits on the Maine-Quebec border. Pretty cool and pretty easy although the weather grew gradually unsettled during my hike. Wound up hurrying back to my XTerra during the descent and the skies opened up with some ferocious thunderstorm activity shortly thereafter.
Approaching Boundary Peak on the Maine - Quebec Border
The next two days would prove far more frustrating in terms of route-finding and it soon became clear that I had no hopes of tagging all of my remaining New England Hundred Highest peaks on this trip. On Snow (Chain of Ponds), the key issue was the ATV trails and trying to figure out exactly where to break off and start working my way up the mountain. And on East Kennebago, I struggled with navigating the rock-covered old logging and camp roads to find the precise starting point of my off-trail hike. But as the saying goes, a bad day in the mountains is still better than a good day at work.
So instead of completing all six peaks, I was happy to return home with Boundary, Snow (Chain of Ponds) and East Kennebago ... in addition to the slightly lower and nearby East Kennebago - West Peak, which I climbed entirely by accident. An unexpected bonus peak.
Outlook near the summit of Snow (Chain of Ponds)
East Kennebago - New England Hundred Highest Peak #97
Rare view while descending East Kennebago
Round 2 - August 12th and 13th, 2017
A little under two months later in mid-August, I returned to the Stratton area with the intent of “grabbing” those last three six-pack peaks, but was foiled once again. After summiting White Cap and returning to its col (and the “lower” cairn) with North Kennebago Divide, I repeatedly got myself turned around on a confusing network of herd paths and ultimately chose to mentally reset and leave it for another day. Bushwhacking would be required. The following day brought a successful and super fun hike of Cupsuptic Snow although rainy conditions during my descent dampened my enthusiasm for an afternoon second attempt of the very nearby North Kennebago Divide. Once again, the grand finale would have to wait for another trip.
Mountain View Motel - “I’ll take Room 7, please.”
Flagstaff General Store , Stratton - Coffee up and to the mountains
White Cap selfie - NEHH #98
Cupsuptic Snow - Just one to go
NH Interlude - August 23rd, 2017
The unexpected “miss” on North Kennebago also gave me the chance to update my Owl’s Head, NH credentials. My previous summit of this peak in October 1997 had finished off the Northeast 111 for me (I later added Redington, Spaulding and Wildcat D when a new survey was released) but in the intervening years, the location of the accepted true summit of Owl’s Head had been relocated to just a short distance away along the same ridge. I had always meant to go back but an 18 mile round trip for a fairly insignificant difference seemed a long way to go. But now I had motivation since I really didn’t want to do a NEHH post-script hike. I wanted North Kennebago Divide to have a sense of finality. So on August 23rd, I banged out Owl’s Head V2.0 on a beautiful summer day.
Red Sox Nation atop Owl’s Head, NH
Super views from the Owl’s Head slide to Franconia Ridge.
Grand Finale - October 7, 2017
So here it was ... Columbus Day weekend and I had actually developed my very own “Stratton routine,” staying now for the third time in Room 7 of the Mountain View Motel and having a pre-hike dinner at the White Wolf Inn. I awoke early and was there for the opening of the Flagstaff General Store for a coffee and breakfast sandwich before beginning the now familiar drive on Tim Pond Road and eventually to the old skidder landing where I would begin my hike. Originally, I considered and was leaning toward a full whack up the south facing slope of North Kennebago from the parking area. I felt it out briefly but I really wasn’t digging it so returned to the grassy path that leads towards the lower cairn and eventually the White Cap herd path. Once again, I scouted out the herd path at the lower cairn but decided to do a little more recon before committing to it. There is another little-talked-about grassy path with a cairn that lies between the lower NKD herd path and the upper White Cap herd path. I had been on this path during my failed August attempt and decided to check it out again. While heading west on this path, I kept looking to my left hoping to catch just a glimpse of the NKD summit ridge and finally spied it through the trees after 1500 feet or so. FINALLY, I had a target I could lock in on. My compass indicated a due south bearing to the summit area and the terrain looked like it would head downhill slightly, before levelling off and then going back uphill to the ridge. I really didn’t care how thick it was going to be. I knew if I just kept a true south bearing, I would be good to go.
At the “trailhead” ... actually an old skidder landing
Gaining elevation on North Kennebago Divide
As it turned out, the going wasn’t too thick and the many pine branches that had been cracked off suggested I was not the first to come through this way, whether it be man or moose. I stopped to consult my compass every 50 feet or so and within 20-30 minutes, I was heading back uphill towards what I believed to be the summit ridge. And as soon as I hit the ridge, a beautiful herd path leading to the promised land lay at my feet. My enthusiasm soared far more than I had expected it would. You really never how you are going to react to a list completion until you are in the final steps. When I finally spotted the N. Kennebago wooden summit sign another 20 minutes or so later, I let out a loud war whoop and then just started laughing. It was done. The final peak on my final list.
North Kennebago. Another list completed! This one my last.
Keeping it brief in my final summit register
As my wife had told me before I left, it was now time to get myself home, where I belong. This time for good.
(Author’s note: The last few sentences should not be interpreted as a cryptic message. I expect to be around many more years to cause aggravation to all those who know me. Promises to keep.)