Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Barren Mountain Hike

Several weeks passed since my last hike so I was eager to hit the trail.  One of the closest mountains to my house with worthwhile views is Barren Mountain.  I usually hike here a few times a year.  It is the first peak along the Appalachian Trail heading north in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  At less than 2700 feet in elevation, it's not a terribly high mountain.  However, the climb to the summit is fairly rugged along the AT and requires around 2000 feet of climbing and the hike is about an 8 mile roundtrip.  Despite it's low elevation, there is some nice scenery on the hike.

Despite a forecast for clear skies, clouds prevailed Sunday morning.  As the J Man and I arrived at the trailhead, much of the mountain was obscured by clouds.  On the way to the summit the trail passes several rocky ledges which offer good views to the south.  Barren Slide and Barren Ledges were both in the clouds so we struck out on the views there.  About two miles beyond Barren Ledges is the actual summit.  On the summit is the remains of an old fire tower.  The cabin is no longer on the tower but the frame still stands.  While the summit is partially open, it is possible to climb a few rungs of the tower to get a 360 degree view.  (Use great caution climbing as the structural integrity may be questionable)  Upon reaching the summit the trail broke out of the clouds providing some interesting views looking over an area of undercast. (a layer of clouds beneath the summit)  To the south was a sea of clouds below the summit.  In the distance, only the Bigelow Range, Coburn Mountain, and Big Squaw Mountain poked above the clouds.  To the north, the valley along Katahdin Iron Works Road was clear with the peaks of the Lily Bay and White Cap Ranges visible above the shroud of clouds.  Undercast clouds are neat to experience.  It gives you a "on top of the world" feeling.  It provided unique views from a summit that I have been to many times.  The hike returns back to the trailhead on the AT.  The views at the slide and ledges were still obscured when we passed them on the return trip.  By the time we reached the trailhead, the morning clouds burned off and the mountain was in the clear.  It was a little disappointing that weather didn't cooperate but without the clouds we would have missed out on the beauty of the undercast clouds on the summit.

A typical section of rocky trail along AT

Smooth section of AT in spruce forest approaching Barren Mtn

Looking at the White Cap Range poking out of the undercast

A sea of clouds with Big Squaw (Moose) and Coburn Mtn. peaking out in the distance (Click for larger view)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Moose Mayhem on Mountain Bike Ride and Sasquatch!

The weather this weekend was gorgeous and I wanted to get out on another ride on the mountain bike.  I headed to Barnard, Maine and started at the same spot as my ride last weekend.  This time I headed a different direction to ride a favorite route of mine in the area.  This ride follows mostly logging roads that are closed to all motorized vehicles.  It travels through land owned by Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt's Bees, then passes through land owned by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club), then goes on an ATV/snowmobile trail before finishing the last several miles back on the Quimby land.

This ride is truly a wilderness experience.  The ride travels along and around the mountains in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  There is usually wildlife to be seen and several views of the mountains of the Whitecap and Barren-Chairback Ranges. Even with a map, the logging roads and trails can be difficult to navigate.  The best way to learn the complex system of routes is to find someone with local knowledge of the area, then explore on your own.  As my last post showed, even with some knowledge of the area, it's easy to take the wrong path. The terrain is rolling with a few long climbs and descents but rarely technical.  The loop I ride is 38 miles and I didn't see anyone else.  In fact except for a couple of camps near the Katahdin Iron Works area, there is little signs of civilization.

My route starts out on a logging road that used to be used regularly.  Now it closed to all motorized traffic.  After about 8 miles the road is trenched to make it unpassable to any ATVs or Snowmobiles and probably horses.  I very well may be the one of literally a few people that venture to this point each year.  Another old logging road takes me a couple miles to an dilapidated old camp and to a very rough old ATV trail that ends in a field.  A short bushwack through the field brings me to another series of logging roads that is now on AMC property.  The right combination of roads brings me to the Katahdin Iron Works road (popular road with hikers in the area) before immediately hitting a ATV/Snowmobile trail along the Pleasant River.  A few miles along the rivers brings me back to an old logging road back on Quimby land and eventually back to where I started.

While the riding was alright, the highlight of this ride was the moose activity.  I saw four moose on the ride.  A loner about 12 miles from the start.  Another smallish loner about 8 miles later.  Finally about 5 miles from the end I saw a pair of moose.  The first was browsing along the path.  After a few pictures, it grew tired of my presence and disappeared into the woods.  The second was laying down along the edge of the logging road.  I startled it and it jumped up no more than 10 yards in front of me.  In the process it startled me.  Again it lingered long enough for a few pictures before heading off into the woods.  

The last two moose were the most amusing of the sightings.  I was descending a steep section that crosses railroad tracks. (Same tracks in my last post)  I had some speed as I crossed the tracks but noticed movement several hundred feet down the track.  I looked over and noticed two moose walking side by side on the middle of the tracks.  I startled them but they didn't move.  I stopped to watch them from behind scrub along the trail.  Slowly they continued down the tracks after they realized I wasn't a threat.  They past me no more than 25 yards away.  I was able to snap a few photos before they got completely out of sight now off the tracks.  I actually see more moose while mountain biking than I do hiking and four isn't even the most I have seen in a single ride.

The most amazing part of the ride though was a Sasquatch and two-headed moose sighting.  I know you will be skeptical of my pictures.  You can choose not to believe me and my pictures.  But it's more fun to think you are actually looking at a Sasquatch and a two-headed moose.

First moose

First moose running away

Second moose- a small one
Second moose

Second moose, notice the shedding of winter coat

Moose 3

Moose 4

Moose 3 and 4

Moose 3 and 4 running away

Click for bigger view, Two-headed moose on railroad tracks (or is it just moose 3 and 4 side by side?)
A Sasquatch with its back to me along trail

Taking picture as I ride away from charging Sasquatch, I know it's blurry but what respectable Sasquatch photo isn't blurry