Sunday, August 9, 2009

Red Rock Loop 8/8/09

Looking for a secluded trail I studied my map and book looking for something that might be less traveled (as I generally do). The Red Rock Mt. "loop" in Maine in the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness seemed appropriate. After taking what I thought might be a short cut through Maine (instead of going through Ossipee) and missing a bike race by two minutes (thank God) we found ourselves back at conway's 113 junction 45 min. later than if we had taken 16. Oh well, there were nice farm houses and lakes to view on the way! We continued onto 113 and straight through Fryeburgh to Rt. 5. Once in North Lovell we made a left onto West Stoneham Rd. than a right onto Hut Rd. The road changed to dirt and we made our way to the last gate to park, arriving at 9:30am.

After getting our packs and bug repellent on we headed back up the road to find the Miles Notch Trail which we didn't see coming in. We walked past a memorial (looks to have been a vehicle went off the road judging by the damaged trees) and up the hill to the Great Brook Trailhead. The book had said the Miles Notch Trail was 100 yards before this trailhead so we walked down the hill and back up again with no luck finding a trailhead sign. Coming back again I saw a grassy logging Rd. with a faint path through the grass, "Could this be the trail?" I asked. Scott shrugged his shoulders. Well it was about a hundred yards from the other trail and was supposed to be a logging road, so I figured we would check it out.

Up the road we went at about 10:00am, no markers, just mud and truck tread marks. We came to a spot where the road takes a sharp right and to the left an unused road with a "no ATV" sign...and a yellow blaze!!! We headed up excited to find the possible trail. Once up the hill and down a little ways we came to another yellow blaze and a small cairn, thus confirming this was in fact the trail. On our way now, stopping regularly to snap shots of mushrooms (despite our agreement to lay off the shroom pics a bit, ya right) we made our way through the young forest. We came to a rather muddy, wet section, got across and soon found a steep section of trail which brought us up to the top of a small ridge with some exposed rock and a limited view through the trees. We cleared some overgrowth from the trail here and carried on. The trail descends as it makes it's way into a valley of Miles Notch towards Beaver Brook. At the river the trail picks up an old logging road then breaks off onto an even older road.

Once past this section the trail begins to climb steeply up the notch, the trail blazed thus far with small cairns, yellow blazes, pink marker tape and a lot of cut up trees that had been across the trail. After an exuasting climb and as we topped the notch the trail began to become overgrown and difficult to follow. Blazes became farther apart and the trail lost in spots, which made for some slow going. We continued clearing overgrowth in these sections as we found the trail sections. Some areas were covered with large blow downs and in this area we found some very fresh moose droppings. We eventually rounded around Miles Knob with it's ledges visible through the trees and back into some very overgrown trail sections. Out of breath and getting very hungry we trudged our way along until a good ol' pheasant took off just as we were on top of it. These pesky foul love to make you jump when your out of breath! We climbed to about 1900ft. then back down to 1700 ft. were we came to the trail junction for Red Rock Trail (finally!)

Starving for a good lunch on a ledge we hurried along climbing moderatley up to the North West side of Miles Knob then back down into a col. and up again now more steeply. We arrived atop a small knob at 1:15pm and a small ledge which we checked out. Looking down was a large cliff (Red Rock Ledge! We finally made it!!) We carefully made our way through the trees, being very careful of the drop-offs to our right and came out onto the ledge. This was one of the best ledges I have been on. Between the view, the way the ledge jutted a bit away from the mountain (giving it a suspended feel), the serenity, the sheer drop, or just the fact that we were exhausted and hungry, it was a wonderful ledge. We scarfed down our food and just took in the view of Miles Knob, Kezar Lake, Speckled Mt., Washington in the distance, Durgin Mt., Butters Mt., and the red rock cliff to our right on the so named Mt. We then heard a loud crash in the valley below and the sound of a moose "clickity-clacking" over some rock. How very cool! We listened for a while scanning the open sections hoping to spot him (no such luck).

Satisfied with our stay we headed out at 2:00pm. We quickly arrived at the top of Red Rock Mt. with a view North of the ledgy Caribou Range, took some picks and continued on. Once off the small ledgy section the trail once again drops to a col. where the only marking we saw was an old metal National Forest sign with an arrow. We decided to follow that arrow ignoring the path to the right leading North. We crossed the col. and attacked the steep trail ahead of us. Again the trail became difficult to follow as we made our way to more open forest atop Butters Mt.'s North East knob and from here to the Great Brook junction the trail became almost lost. We carefully looked for signs of a trail, careful to stay near the top of the ridge as the map indicated. Hoping we were not following some herd path we continued on, once again getting a jump out of two pheasants this time (simultaniously one on the left, then one on the right), it was rather humorous to watch Scott jump to the right than immediately jumping to the left as I mimmicked the same startled moves like we were in a haunted house! We carefully made our way finally dropping slightly after hovering at 2100 ft. We spotted yellow marker tape on a tree and then a yellow blaze (yes, we made it alive!) then soon the Great Brook trailhead.

Heading down was much of the same. Steep and more muddy we met the first humans of the day (group of four) on a steep muddy section of trail. As the two men waited for the two woman who insisted we go ahead we made our way carefully down the mud and rock. Despite the cautious attept, the mud let loose under my foot and I went rolling down just past Scott. I picked myself up, retrieved my water bottle and viewed the damage. A muddy, bloody arm but nothing too serious. Of course this sort of thing happens when we are in front of the only people all day! Oh well, it didn't bother me. Shortly after this mishap we again lost the trail breifly, found it and carried on past some nice cascades where I was happy to wash myself off! Soon after we came to the logging road. I guess right around here is an empty house cellar, rock wall and grave site of the Butters family but we unfortunatley somehow missed it. The road joins another road running North & South, and we headed South. The road than breaks right as an older road breaks left. Not sure which way to go (as there were still no blazes) we opted to stay on the newer road. This proved to be correct as there were footprints and pole marks in the dirt and this road appears to still be in operation. After a rather level walk we came to the final road junction, banged a left and immediately came to the gate and my truck! Time 5:00pm

We threw our gear in the truck, washed off at the river and headed back home. All in all this was an exhausting hike made worse by the poor trail conditions particularly at Miles Notch and on Butters Mt. The little use of this trail was made even more apparent by the mushrooms and moss growing directly on the trail in many sections. The trail was immaculate on Miles Notch trail from the road up to the notch however. This was the first time I really made good use of my altimeter which I was glad to have. The ledge is well worth the visit and Scott and I have talked seriously about returing to do some minor trail work. Temps. for the day ranged in the 70's under partly to mostly cloudy skies and a wonderful gentle breeze most of the day and a few mosquitos coming down on the logging roads. Total Trip time: 7.5hrs. - Total Mileage: 11.1miles

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