Last week I headed up to Maine for a few days on the Grafton Loop Trail. It's a recently constructed ~40 mile loop that utilizes a few miles of the Appalachian Trail in the western part of the state.
Took me about ten hours to drive up from Jersey. Arrived mid to late afternoon and parked at the designated lot on Route 26. I decided to do the loop clockwise so my trip started with a 0.6-mile road walk to the western trailhead. A couple hundred yards from my car, a moose shot out of the woods about 25 feet in front of me. We both froze. She did a 360 like a puppy on a linoleum floor and headed back into the brush. A great start to the trip.
The signage is a little lacking in the first part of the western section as you cross a few fields and follow some snowmobile trails for a short time. It didn't help that the skies had opened up and it was pouring. Soon enough though, I found the blue blazes and was comfortably, however wet, on my way.
I spent a wet first night at Sargent Brook Campsite just past Stowe Mountain (all camping on the trail must be at designated locations). The next morning the skies had cleared and I headed up to the summit of Sunday River Whitecap for some breakfast.
Summit of Sunday River Whitecap
The trails continues over Slide Mountain and up to Old Speck where a fire tower provides some great views. I enjoyed some lunch and dried out some gear in the welcomed sunshine.
From here, the trail meets up with the AT. Heading south would take you to Mahoosuc Notch which is a fun hike for anyone who hasn't experienced it. I continued north on the AT which drops steeply into Grafton Notch where there is a hiker parking lot. It was busy with day hikers and a group of AT hikers. Someone later told me that one of the owners of Gossamer Gear was in the crowd helping out some of the AT hikers. Very cool.
A steep climb out of the notch wiped me out so I decided to spend the night at the Baldpate Lean-to. Enjoyed a nice dinner and spoke to a few northbound AT thru-hikers who stopped in for dinner before heading back out on the trail.
Dinner at Baldpate Lean-to
I woke early to catch the sunrise on the Baldpates. The hike over these two peaks is one of the best on the AT imo. Lots of exposed climbing and great views above treeline.
Between the Baldpates
Summit of East Baldpate
After East Baldpate, the AT heads north while the Grafton Loop splits off to the east. After a steep decent from the Baldpates, the next section of trail follows easy grades through some diverse terrain. Moose "deuce" and tracks were everywhere. There are several designated campsites in this section so you can stop and spend some time exploring the enchanting mossy alpine forests or hit a few of the great little swimming holes.
I camped my last night at the Stewart campsite just below the summit of Puzzle Mountain. Shared a site with a local hiker as most of the others were flooded out from the rains early in the week. Enjoyed the company and spent the evening talking gear and hiking trips. He showed me some pictures of a bull moose that he ran into on the trail earlier that day. I was very jealous.
One lazy step over a log...ouch.
After a quick climb the next morning, I reached the summit of Puzzle Mountain. More beautiful weather and great views. I also saw a huge wild porcupine. Followed him along the trail for a few hundred feet until he waddled off on his own. Very unexpected and very cool. Easy decent down to the parking lot on Route 26 and I was done.
Overall, a very good trip. Great scenery, plentiful wildlife, and mostly great weather. The trail itself was very well built and is mostly in great shape. You can see the difference in erosion between the AT and GLT - there's actually some soil left on many stretches of the GLT. Could probably be completed in 3 days/2 nights, but I was in no rush. Highly recommended for anyone in the northeast.