Old Speck. Baldpate. Goose Eye. 30 Hours, 3 HH Peaks, 3 hikes. | 9/10-11/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
September is my perfect month. The temps go down, no leaves to slip on, and the trails are quieter because everyone went back to school. The only downfall in this situation is that I am one of the kids who went back to school.
Having already made plans to base camp out of Dolly Copp on just my third weekend back at college, I knew this had to be big. Being a weekend warrior is difficult. There’s not enough time and there is way too much driving. But, I think I made it worth it.
I woke up at 6:30 on Saturday morning for Ryan and me to quickly scramble our belongings together before going in opposite directions for opposite objectives. With a Bobo in hand, I made my way towards Grafton Notch where I arrived promptly at 7:55 am.
I knew it was a weekend and I was late, but I was stunned to see I was like the 20th car in the lot. That never happens, at least I wouldn’t feel isolated despite my solo today. I got going at 8 am sharp with two women right behind me whom I played tag with back and forth for the first 2 miles before I took a phone call to have last night's events back on campus broken down to me. College students am I, right?
After about ten minutes, I told my friends I couldn’t scramble with one hand so I kept on with both hands at my disposal. Thankfully, after the first two miles the constant up and man-made stairs eased a little bit, but it kept up very Mahoosuc-y to the top with a wet slab that constantly went up and down.
By the time I got up to the open ledges, things got easier for me and passerbys kept on asking me if I was through hiking. Which was probably code for wow you have big legs and a Garmin inReach on your backpack strap, but god damn you smell.
The summit was quite pleasant, as was the company up there. All seasoned hikers, I think I was the only first-timer on the summit! Despite this, I was there the shortest and went back down after 15 minutes. I had some stuff to take care of.
The way down wasn’t that much shorter than the way up, but this was no surprise to me. I don’t hike down slow, it’s more of an average, but I hike up pretty fast and then they almost always are within 20 minutes of each other. I’m not sure if the dog situation made me faster or slower, but wow was it rough. I love black labs as much as the next, but not when they’re unleashed and under my heels down the technical bits. I could name-drop drop her, but I don’t want to start beef with a dog today.
I got down at 12:30 pm and had a lot of thinking to do. Without knowing how knee-killing Old Speck was, I had it in my head that I was going to do Baldpate right after it. I was doubting it big time. I thought to myself, it would make way more sense to just do a 52WAV or something near Pinkham so that I could be back earlier and not do something ambitious alone.
I thought some more, had some seaweed and a Bluephoria tea, and said fuck it. Ryan preaches that big solo days make you the strongest and I was about to put that to the test.
I crossed the street at 1 pm, still drinking my Yerb, and started up the AT towards Table Rock. After the bog bridges, a through hiker complimented my pace and had me go ahead of him. With the through hiker a consistent 20 feet behind me up until the shelter, we got up there in a little under an hour. No running or racing, just pushing along.
I went down to the Baldpate Shelter mostly because I wasn’t sure if it was part of my trace and didn’t want to take any chances, but when I got down there I realized I was out of water, perfect timing. I whipped out my filter and got going at the stream.
After my 20-minute venture to the shelter, shit got real. The shelter is less than a 1.5 from the summit but you seriously have to earn it. The ascent of West Baldpate is legit and worked me hard. I think that even if I hadn't had Old Speck under me, that would have still hurt. It was gorgeous though, exceptionally lush and green.
The summit of West Baldpate was such a relief. Walking away from it and seeing what I had to go up with my turnaround time just 25 minutes away was not such a relief.
Descending into the base of the mini-col was wet, involved a ladder (I have an infamous fear of ladders), and muddy. Then, from the bottom, I realized I would need to face my other fear of open slabs. It didn’t matter though I was too close and the clock was ticking.
By the time I started going up the slab, it realistically only took me ten minutes, which was far better than my anxiety would have allowed me do a year ago. Besides, the view at the top was beyond worth a little bit of second-guessing. At that moment, Baldpate entered my list of the greats. 360 views, a completely open summit, and getting to see the beast I was on just 5 hours prior was incredible.
When I left the summit, I was hoping to be back between 6 and 6:30 so that I could time out getting back to camp when Ryan did. But, with so much elevation already underneath me, I knew I’d have to play it safe at times with the weak condition of my muscles.
Getting back up to West went as expected, but getting down from it was challenging. It took me longer than getting up and I was starting to get the mind-body disconnect. I kept seeing blue blazes even though I was nowhere near them. I wanted so badly to see one, because it would mean I finally hit the shelter and the rest would be easy. Though it took me an hour and five minutes from the summit of Baldpate to see a non fiction blue blaze, it was such a relief.
Once I knew I’d entered the easy territory, I forecasted it would take me about an hour to do the rest. Near-running at times, I got down to my car right on time, where I satisfied my craving of listening to “Life is a Highway.” I listened to it three times in a row coming out of Grafton. Sometimes pride is just feeling pretending you're Lightning McQueen.
I made it back to camp sore but not limping. I can't say I ever feasted off of a camp stove as hard as I did Saturday night.
I’d done Old Speck and Baldpate, out & back, and just shy of 6,000 feet of elevation gain in only 13.6 miles, it was time to rest.
Well, I guess I should say it was time to rest up for Goose Eye.
Like clockwork, we rose about the same time on Sunday. This time, I decided to be a bit more gentle with myself as I doubted my ability to do Goose Eye. Ryan and I went to the White Mountain Cafe, which was fantastic, and fueled up good for our days. I plan on eating their whole menu by the end of the year, as they serve great gluten free bread!
Anyways, food aside, after Ryan headed south to Conway I did homework for half an hour until I decided to drive to Berlin. Though the paved driving only took around 20 minutes, I was on Success Pond Road way longer than my GPS thought I would be. I have a fairly new SUV, yet this road was still a challenge for her at times.
After the first leg of my hike, driving there, I alleviated the fact that I never filled my water bladder by pouring all 5 of the fractionally full water vessels in my car into my 2.5-liter bag. With that done, I started up the road to Goose Eye trail, which despite all the reviews saying otherwise, Ryan said I should start with. He knows my ability and had done the peak twice, so I took his word for it.
I was so super paranoid going up the Goose Eye trail. I knew there was at some point a dead moose somewhere along this hike but had no idea where, which put me on edge from the get-go.
Despite thinking I was going super slow, I did the first 1.5 in 35 minutes, it was the easy part by a long shot. Onwards, I struggled about as much as I expected. The steeps were difficult and required my most entertaining podcasts to get through it. The last mile to the summit was relentless and the final crawl was the worst of it.
Though short, the scramble to the summit was too logistical for me to do quickly. It took a significant amount of focus to navigate the limited number of foot holds along the wet and ridiculously angled slab. At last, with an impressive pull, I did it. My pole, however, had other plans and went right back down what I’d struggled to get up. Darn.
Though I was willing to live without that pole, I couldn’t stomach an LNT violation that bad so I rescued it and did it all again. For the rest of the day, every time I put my poles above or below me I was extra cautious because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get them in every spot today.
Once I finally got up to the top, I took longer than I normally do to absorb and recharge. I dug into my first aid kit for my caffeine blocks, ate my horrible snack selection, and took a couple of pictures while I had the summit to myself. The Presidentials were in a cloud, but Old Speck, which I was atop 24 hours ago, was clear in view.
Once I got going towards the AT, I knew I was going to be in for it immediately. Steep slabs, yup. Wooden ladder, yup. Steel rungs, yup. I knew it was coming, cause well, it’s the Mahoosucs, but it was not easy for me to do alone. I have a lot of hiking fears, I think that’s what keeps me consistent with hiking in the first place, but facing all of them at once was tough.
The constant ups and downs over wet slabs, interrupted by occasionally through hikers, were repetitive and a bit of a time warp. It didn’t help that I was listening to a real estate podcast at the time either.
Just before the summit of Carlo, I ran into a friendly guy who told me it was all easy from here unless I went down to the Carlo Campsite because there was a "60ft ordeal" there. This was upsetting because I was planning on going down there. Not for water or the bathroom, but to dot my i’s and cross my t’s on my trace.
The way down from Carlo was a change of pace and the first 0.2 from the AT to the site was easy as well. Interestingly, there was nothing hard at all about getting to that campsite. It was man-made stairs and a bridge, I even double-checked my GPS to make sure I was in the right place.
I came out of the campsite and had 2.4 to go on Carlo Col before I was back in my lovely air-conditioned car. The first mile from the top was emotionally challenging because I was going slow enough to think about where the dead moose was but too fast to look around for it. My speed choice, however, was practical because the logs and rocks were very slick.
Once the grade eased and the old trail bed came into view on my left, I moved far more quickly and accepted that the moose had probably long decomposed by now, phew.
Reaching the open and grassy logging road felt so good after many hours out in the woods. I got down the road section fairly quickly and popped out by my car where I could finally say I’d done it.
I'd done all three high peaks on the Mahoosuc Range in 25 hours, in three separate hikes. And solo, at that. Proud of how much I have grown as an athlete is an understatement.
Weekend Round Up: 8,082 vert | 20.83 miles | 0 frogs/toads | 7 honey stinger waffles consumed