AT 2017: Day 155, Speck Pond Shelter to Baldpate Lean-to

Did you hear what I just heard?

Tengo Hambre and Stick in the Woods

As difficult as the last three days had been, they didn’t leave me feeling broken down and worn out. Far from it.

It’s true I was feeling sore when I woke up this morning, but that was true every morning.

Still, something felt different. Call it more confidence or just a more positive outlook, but I was feeling better about the day ahead than I had in a while.

DateTuesday, September 12, 2017
WeatherMostly sunny with a high temperature in the upper 60s
Trail ConditionsBoulder field, followed by a steep, rocky climb, then an easy descent
Today's Miles6.9
Trip Miles1905.7

Of course, like any day on the Appalachian Trail, I knew the trail ahead was not going to be easy. Stick and Tengo knew it too.

We had wanted to leave Speck Pond Shelter early, but for whatever reason we weren’t able to get going until 8 a.m.

Speck Pond Shelter

Speck Pond Shelter was completely rebuilt this year using a new design. It was nice.

Tengo slept in the shelter, but Stick and I slept in our tents, which we pitched on a wooden platform nearby.

Speck Pond

To get back on the trail this morning we had to first take a short side trail that went next to the pond. From there, the trail immediately began a long, steep, and sometimes sketchy climb up Old Speck Mountain.

Red chokeberries

Red chokeberries stood out brilliantly in the sun as we made the climb.

Red and green moss

The nature show continued with some moss displaying bright reds and greens.

Elsewhere I could see brief glimpses of leaves changing to their fall colors. These were reminders that the season was changing, ready or not.

View of Old Speck Mountain

Before long, Stick and Tengo got ahead of me, but that didn’t bother me. I was content to hike alone. The weather was beautiful and soon I was getting a gorgeous view of Old Speck’s summit.

View from Old Speck Mountain

The trail didn’t go directly to the mountain’s summit. Instead, it traversed along the upper reaches for about a tenth of a mile. More good view spots appeared the higher I went.

Far in the distance I could see Lake Umbagog, one of the largest lakes in Maine.

The trail intersected with a side trail that went to Old Speck's summit. The views I saw from the trail seemed unbeatable, so I decided to skip the extra three-tenths of a mile walk to the top.

View from Old Speck Mountain

Looking back from where the AT and the side trail met, I could see most of the White Mountains, including Mt. Washington and Mt. Madison.

Descent from Old Speck Mountain

The descent from Old Speck was not difficult, especially when compared to the approach from the other side.

View of Baldpate Mountain

As I followed the trail down the mountain I got a brief view of the next big peak, Baldpate Mountain, which was located on the other side of Grafton Notch.

Trickle waterfall

I was taking my time and enjoying the day. When I stopped for water I didn’t hurry.

There were several day hikers out today, and I chatted with a few.

Grafton Notch

At the bottom of the descent the trail reached Grafton Notch.

On the other side of Maine Highway 26, the trail entered Grafton Notch State Park. I stopped here at 12:30 p.m. and ate my lunch while siting on a log.

As I prepared to leave, I thought I heard voices on the other side of the road. For a second it seemed the voices were from Stick and Tengo. I looked back to see if that was them, but didn’t see anybody so I dismissed that idea.

I thought for sure they were well ahead of me, so I guessed I had heard some day hikers.

Stepping stones on the trail

The trail began to climb up Baldpate Mountain. Initially, it was not steep and not too rocky. In fact, at one spot stepping stones were laid along the trail to make it easier to walk in wet weather. This was unusual, compared to trail conditions I had seen for the last several weeks.

A couple hours after I first thought I had heard Stick and Tengo, I heard voices behind me again. This time, though, the voices were calling my name.

When I turned around I was surprised to see it really was Stick and Tengo. They were not ahead of me as had assumed.

They told me they had made a wrong turn on Old Speck Mountain and took the side trail to the top. We had a good laugh about that, especially when I told them I thought I had heard their voices down at Grafton Notch.

After arriving at Baldpate Lean-to shortly after 3 p.m., we looked at our maps and trail guides to consider our options from here.

We calculated that we had about four hours of daylight remaining, but based on the terrain ahead and our normal hiking speed, we probably had more than four hours of walking to reach to the next available camping spot.

Between here and the next shelter, Frye Notch Lean-to, there were no other places to camp because the trail went above treeline.

Most of the shelters in Maine are called lean-tos, though they’re are usually constructed in the same way as other AT shelters. The difference is in name only.

As much as we’d like to keep moving, we decided to stay here for the night.

Frodo, Gimli and Samwise arrived later. They caught up with us after stopping early yesterday after Mahoosuc Notch.

The last three days had been challenging, and today wasn’t easy. I should have been grateful to stop a few hours early.

Nevertheless, seeing more signs today of the change in seasons made me think we don’t have much time to waste to get to Mt. Katahdin.

There's mosquitoes on the river
Fish are rising up like birds
It's been hot for seven weeks now
Too hot to even speak now
Did you hear what I just heard?


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.