A Blustery Weekend at East Baldpate, ME

Our intention was to do some trail work on a section of the Grafton Loop Trail (GLT) that Earl volunteered to maintain. This section is difficult to reach because it is 6 miles from one end of the GLT and a dozen miles from the other end!

We have been assured that there is a shorter trail to reach the section of trail between East Baldpate and Lane campsites, but we still don’t know where it is! Eventually we will coordinate a time to hike this section with the man who oversees the efforts of the trail maintainers for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC). But for this weekend, we opted for the 6-mile route which would take us up East Baldpate (elevation 3,812′).

It was chilly and blustery when we started up the trail at 11:30 a.m. We were prepared for the cold, but preparing yourself to hike in windy conditions is much more challenging. The wind factor is also something Earl and I tend to overlook when checking the weather forecast. Maybe one day we will learn, but so far we keep getting surprised by high winds.

 As we hiked up we met a couple of hikers on their way down. They warned us of the high winds on the summit, “I think it was gusting to 70 mph” one man said.

Yikes! That’s a bit brisk!

We made good time to West Peak, about 3 miles up the trail. In fact, we were so focused and hiking so fast, we passed the summit sign and had to go back to take a picture.

Baldpate West Peak summit

Baldpate West Peak summit

The view of East Baldpate from just beyond West Peak is stunning. It also causes one to think, “I have to climb THAT?! In this wind?!”
Looking up at Baldpate's East Peak. Looks so far away.

Looking up at Baldpate’s East Peak. Looks so far away.

This picture was taken when we hiked the GLT last Memorial Day weekend.
I was too cold to take a picture of it, this time around so pulled this photo out of the archives. Notice the expression on my face. I think it appropriately conveys the “WTF” attitude.
But first we had to hike down to the saddle between the two peaks. A lovely, muddy bog sits between them. We’ve hiked this section of trail several times and I keep forgetting this bog area exists. Earl laughs at me because I can never remember trails we’ve already hiked.
We were somewhat protected from the wind while crossing the saddle, but once we started up East Baldpate, it hit us with its full force.

Climbing East Baldpate is like playing with a marble maze game

Climbing East Baldpate is like playing with a marble maze game

Hiking up East Baldpate reminded me of the wooden maze and marble game. We were the marbles, the mountain was the maze, and the wind controlled our movements.

We moved as quickly as we could, while being mindful that the wind could blow us off the mountain if we weren’t careful with our footing.

Watch the video of Earl hiking in the wind.

East Baldpate is like a staircase of extremely high, extremely wide, and extremely long steps. I collapsed my hiking poles and scrambled up the steps like a toddler would. The wind increased the difficulty level tremendously. It was blowing against our backs so kept pushing us where we didn’t necessarily plan to go.

Donna climbing East Baldpate. This is another picture from Memorial Day weekend.

Donna climbing East Baldpate. This is another picture from Memorial Day weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We reached the summit at 2:25 p.m., took a few photos and then headed off down the Grafton Loop Trail toward East Baldpate campsite–2.3 miles away.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t encounter anyone on this section of trail. We reached the East Baldpate campsite just before 4 p.m. Our total hiking time for the day was 4 ½ hours covering 6 miles. It was another 1.6 miles to Lane campsite. We decided to stop for the night.The first task upon arriving at the campsite was picking a site and setting up our portable home. The task that used to be frustrating and time-consuming is now accomplished in mere minutes.

The second task is to get water and start cooking dinner. Okay, I admit that calling it “cooking” is a bit overstated, because even I can typically boil water without a problem. Earl ate instant rice and Spam. I had cheese tortellini.

Cheese tortellini? Really? How does one make cheese tortellini out in the woods? Here’s how you do it… put your serving of dried tortellini in a Ziploc bag. Add water to the bag a few hours before you want to eat it. Water plus time softens the tortellini enough so they don’t require much cooking time. When the water was boiling I add just enough to cover the noodles and let them sit for about five minutes. The tortellini still wasn’t warm enough, so I put it on the little stove for a few minutes. Once they were warm, I removed them from the heat, poured some powdered cheddar cheese over them, and gobbled them up!

Camping at the East Baldpate campsite

Camping at the East Baldpate campsite

Our home away from home. Earl laughs at me because I don’t like to sit on the ground. I’m sitting on a piece of Tyvec (the stuff you use to wrap houses).
I mentioned that it was cold, right? Soon after we finished eating and cleaning up, we headed into the tent. It was early, but it was warm under our down quilt.Each time I woke, I hoped I’d hear the silence of the woods, but the wind continued to blow throughout the night. I could feel the cold air on my face, but I stayed warm and felt protected in our little tent.

Sunday morning was a lazy morning. Earl didn’t want to get out of bed.I finally got up and “cooked” our breakfast! Breakfast on the trail typically consists of hot cocoa, oatmeal, and a PopTart for me.

After breakfast we cleaned up, packed up, and were on the trail at 9 a.m.

Remember my opening sentence that we intended to do trail maintenance between East Baldpate and Lane campsites? Getting a 9 a.m. start on Sunday morning meant that we wouldn’t have time to do trail maintenance as we’d hoped. We did however, clean up the trash we found at the campsite where we stayed. As we hiked back to East Baldpate, we also cleared some fresh blow-downs that fell across the trail during the night.

As we neared the summit of East Baldpate we stopped to put on our windbreakers again. Our packs were on the ground and we were pulling our jackets out of them. A gust of wind whipped through the trees. Tinkling shards of ice struck our faces.

Rime ice! On September 24th!

Rime Ice background

Rime Ice background

Rime ice

Rime ice

Rime ice is formed on surfaces when the water droplets in fog freeze. Although the temperature was cold overnight, I don’t think it dropped below freezing. However, the wind chill was most certainly below freezing.
We didn’t bother taking the dozen or so steps to visit the summit again. Instead we scurried across the bald following cairns and white blazes. We had only gone a few dozen feet when I had to stop to wipe my eyes which were tearing up due to the cold and wind.Earl said, “Don’t wait for me. Keep moving.”

“I can’t move if I can’t see,” I told him. While I wiped my eyes, Earl hurried past me.

The top of East Baldpate is open. Hikers have a 360 degree view of the world from it. Hikers need to pay attention to the trail markings to make sure they don’t head off in the wrong direction. In snowy, icy, foggy, and windy conditions, hikers who go off the marked trail will spend more time exposed to the weather conditions.

Why mention that? Because not long after Earl scurried past me, he kept hiking straight when the trail swerved right. He hadn’t gone far before he realized his error, but his mistake allowed me to catch up with him again.

We each focused on our own hike. Talking over the wind was futile. We kept moving, leaning into the wind. We navigated our way down the mountain, using the cairns and blazes as our guides.

I still hadn’t removed my hat or gloves when we met hikers on their way up the mountain. These hikers were wearing short sleeve shirts and shorts. Earl and I warned them of the high winds on the summit.

“I feel very overdressed,” I told Earl. “But I know I am warm. They look cold.”

Our short adventure ended just before 1 p.m. when we arrived back at the car. Despite not doing the trail work we had planned, it was a wonderful weekend away from the stressors of life. Fresh air and exercise work wonders for the heart and soul.

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