Grafton Notch State Park: Newry, Maine Part 1
Date: June 14-15th, 2014
Wx: Windy and rainy with highs in the 60’s. With a recent low pressure system moving through, I was hedging my bets that it would pass overnight and I would wake to dry warm temperatures. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Location: Grafton Notch State Park Newry, Maine
Old Speck Summit 4,170 ft (1,270 m) (SOTA: W/AM-004)
Goal/Purpose: To hike to the summit of Old Speck Mountain, camp overnight at Speck Pond (the highest pond in Maine) and attempt an amateur radio Summit on the Air contact (SOTA).
Route:Start at the trailhead on Route 26, hike up to Old Speck and down to Speck Pond campsite for the night. The following morning hike back up to Old Speck and attempt radio contact for SOTA.
Mileage hiked: ~9 miles
Old Speck makes for a challenging climb up to 4,000 feet. Typical for Maine, it’s up or down with no switchbacks, and all roots, rocks and mud. Yep, that is the trail shown below.
Nights out: 1
Gear: Due to the rain and still mild temperatures (especially at 4,000 feet), I packed semi-winter gear including thermal underwear and a hat. I didn’t pack my rain pants and gloves thinking I wouldn’t need them which I came to regret the next morning.
That night at Speck Pond campsite, I slept in a 35 degree synthetic LL Bean sleeping bag, and was pretty cold throughout the night. Having slept in both synthetic and down sleeping bags, I prefer down. Having the dog next to me did help some. I think he was as miserable as I was that night.
Caution: 1000 yard Canine Stare!
Around 12am, some through hikers came through and starting setting up camp. Moments later I heard someone yell,”*&% there’s a bear!”. Apparently the bear lost interest in two thru-hikers shining a flashlight in his eyes and wandered off. My dog didn’t even stir. After that adrenaline inducing event, I finally fell asleep around 0100.
As on all my hiking trips, I use Leki hiking poles. I have to say they are one of the greatest pieces of hiking gear I own. They have prevented numerous falls, protected my already messed up knees and served as shelter poles. On this hike I did manage to bend one of the lower sections in a crevice and upon returning home, contacted Leki who then mailed me a new pole section two days later. Excellent product and excellent customer service. I highly recommend Leki hiking poles to anyone in the backcountry.
One of these does not look like the other…
A new item I tried out on this trip was Krave Jerky. I randomly picked it out at the food store and I am glad I did. Hands down it is some of the best jerky I have ever eaten. Unlike other jerky meat, Krave jerky is tender, and is coated with a dry rub. It comes in a wide varieties of flavors. The only downside is that it’s cost a little more (~.50 to $1.00) than the regular jerky offerings. However, it is well worth the extra money.
No major gear failures on this trip. On the morning hike from Speck Pond campsite to the summit of Old Speck, the rain and wind were blowing something fierce. The whole time I was in shorts, and if I kept moving, it was tolerable. I would have preferred rain pants and gloves.
At the top of Old Speck is a fire tower that makes an excellent spot to conduct radio ops. Unfortunately by the time I got to the top of it on the second day, I was wet and cold. Climbing the tower with bare hands provided an excellent demonstration of heat transfer from my hands to the cold steel ladder. Gloves? I don’t need any stinkin’ gloves!
For this particular SOTA radio ops, I decided to use an ultralight yagi antenna that I had made and a 4 watt Baofeng handheld. Climbing a tower with a radio and antenna made for a challenging climb. Upon getting to the top with frozen hands, I attempted to turn on the radio and dial in the calling frequency I had designated for the day: 146.520 Mhz. This proved extremely difficult as I had zero sensation in my fingers. I chalked it up to good comms practice under stressful situations where adrenaline induced “fat fingers” could come in to play.
After a very cold 30 minutes with zero contacts, I decided to call it a day and descend the tower to hike back to the trailhead and finish my trip.
Navigation: Using a topo map and my Suunto MC2-Pro compass, I was able to practice taking bearings off nearby peaks to establish a rough estimated position. Having route 26 provided a good hand rail as well. I also utilized my new pacing/timing cards and Uni-Ball Power Tank Eco Pen that I got from the Shaven Raspberry Navigation Store.
Misc Notes: After climbing off the tower and collecting all my gear I started my long descent down the mountain back to the trailhead. Half way down is an opening with amazing views. At this point the nasty weather cleared and the sun came out. I did a pack dump and attempted to dry out all my gear. The dog took a snooze and I drank some coffee.
Overall: A pretty miserable cold trip. Like emergencies, when you hike you don’t always get to pick the conditions in which you find yourself. Even though this was June(!) in Maine, the conditions can still deteriote and you need to be prepared for variable weather conditions.