On Saturday I went solo up to Maine to hike 3 mountains that I hadn’t been on yet – the Crockers and Mt. Redington (if time allowed). I took the Appalachian Trail from Caribou Valley Road – also called Caribou Pond Road. The name of the road doesn’t really matter, as there is no street sign! But for what it’s worth, Google Maps calls it Caribou Pond Road, and its .9 miles from the Sugarloaf main entrance, on the left.
When I hike solo I often try to keep the mileage low to medium, and visit mountains that see a fair amount of traffic. That’s what I decided to do here. I knew I had a 3.5 hour drive each way, the days are getting short, and Redington is a herd path peak (although the herd path is easy to follow and not too grown in at all – not that I knew that for sure before seeing it myself).
I had read that the 2 wooden bridges and the metal bridge just before the trailhead were in bad shape. I usually find these descriptions of dirt/logging roads to be overblown in terms of “tough to navigate”, “very rough”, etc. That was the case here (I read this in a few different places). The road was fine, much better than Success Pond Road on the way to the Goose Eye trailhead. The wooden bridges were ugly but nothing I had to consider not driving over.
However, the road was closed before the metal bridge. As I walked over it after putting on my boots and pack, it mostly looked fine, but there were some sharp edges that had been bent up, which probably would have caused a flat and would have been very tough to see while driving. There is a parking area for about a dozen cars just before the yellow gate blocking the road. The closure adds .45 miles to the hike, but it’s very easy walking.
It was raining at the start, and as I had passed several hunters on the drive, some who were parked next to me, I wasn’t thrilled about covering my orange R1 with my black rain jacket. Start a solo hike in new territory wet, or possibly get shot? I rolled the dice and put on the rain jacket, opting to stay dry and warm. I made sure to walk down the middle of the trail and bang my poles together in a little beat I made up every minute or so – no idea if this would help, but why not?
Later I saw someone with a blaze orange pack cover. I don’t use pack covers to keep my stuff dry, but I’ll probably pick one of those up for hiking during the hunting season.
The trail starts on the right side of the road, it could be a little tough to spot, so watch out for it. The well marked trail on the left is a good thing to look for – you can just turn around at this and walk about 30 feet back and find the trail. Both are the Appalachian Trail, which is what takes you up the Crockers.
Just a few feet in, I came to this sad sign:
Geraldine’s remains had been found just a few weeks earlier. Not everyone who gets in trouble out here is inexperienced or foolish.
The trail starts pretty flat up to the junction for the tent site, a mile in. It was wet and slippery, but I made good time. After that there are a few very steep sections spread out over the remaining 1.1 to South Crocker, but they are short and the stretches between them aren’t bad, with some really nice views on some landslide/fallen rock areas.
Overall, getting to South Crocker by this route is downright easy. The rain had turned to snow about halfway up the trail, which I prefer. Just at the summit, the snow stopped and it cleared up a bit. Funny how often this happens to me. Very nice views, a cinnamon raisin bagel, and off I went, determined to make good time on the 2 mile round trip to summit Crocker.
I hate paying attention to my time/pace, as it sets me up to roll an ankle or make some other mistake. But I wanted to visit Redington today, so I struck a reasonable balance between safety and speed, and made it over to Crocker in 21 minutes. On the way I passed a group of 4 people doing trail maintenance – in this case, cleaning out and repairing water bars. I said thanks, but didn’t stop to chat for long.
I made it back to South Crocker in 19 minutes, took another rest and ate an apple, then went to find the 1.2ish mile herd path over to Redington. It was 1:30, and my plan was to turn around at my first instance of losing the trail or if my pace was averaging below 1 mile per hour. Luckily I never lost the trail and was able to keep a good pace.
Since Redington is a 4000 footer, it’s frequently climbed and the trail is pretty obvious. Even if it wasn’t, someone had marked the route very well with orange and pink tape – not overdoing it but putting some up somewhere in sight in every spot I had to take a good hard look around to figure things out. Well done!
As you near the summit of Redington, a few more colors of tape start to appear – remember which color/s you followed up for the way down. In my case, all I had to do to get back was to keep to the left at the 2 major forks. There are a few little benches and the telltale signs of some structure (I’m guessing a fire tower) around the summit, but no great views. I got the impression that with a few feet of snow on the ground, the views would be excellent. I’ll have to come back.
The trip back to the car was uneventful, following the same route I had taken up. I got there just a few minutes before I would have had to throw on the headlamp. I had put on my orange top when I reached the junction for the tent site, so I wasn’t as worried about being shot as I was in the morning, but I still drummed my little beat on my poles.
As I drove down the road, a little sound I had noticed on the way up was increasingly getting worse, and the car was shaking. You’re probably not here to read about the drive, so I’ll just say I spent 4 hours with a white knuckle grip on the wheel, fully expecting my car to literally disintegrate or explode at any moment. At least it kept me from falling asleep. When I know what the problem is/was, I’ll add it here – likely something to do with the front axle. **It was the front axle, and a few other things… new car!**
All told, it was about a 9.5 mile hike (due to having to walk about a mile on the road). The Crockers are very easy as far as 4000 footers in New England go, and Redington wasn’t bad either. The terrain and the views were beautiful, and well worth the drive.