Friday, June 13, 2014

Crocker Mountain and Bushwhacking to Mount Redington in Maine

I got up to the Rangely area pretty early in the afternoon this past Tuesday in order to set up at Round Barn tentsite on nearby Flagstaff Lake, with the intention of just doing a long day hike the following day over the Crockers, Redington, and (maybe) all the way to Abraham if I could swing it, but I unfortunately found out at a nearby restaurant that the dirt road to the site was closed for repairs.

Without much of a better option, and nervous that Caribou Valley Road (CVR), another dirt road that crosses the Appalachian Trail (AT) about four miles down, would prove impassable with my Chevy Impala (boat car), I decided I'd drive down the CVR that evening, hike in on the AT about a mile and camp at Crocker Cirque. Some of the culverts under CVR were washed out, but after only bottoming my boat car out twice I managed to make it to the trailhead, hike up the AT and set-up camp. There was only on another tent at the site, and I never heard folks at all.

After a great night sleep, I woke up a bit late at 6:30a, packed up, stashed my pack a little bit off the trail, with the intention of bagging the two peaks of Crocker Mountain, Mount Redington, and then retracing my steps back to get my pack. If I had enough time I figured, I drop my pack at the car and then run up the AT another six miles in the other direction to bag Abraham. It was a bit ambitious, but with a fairly early start and a whole lot of June daylight, it was definitely achievable...

I bagged both peaks of Crocker pretty quickly and then returned to the South Crocker viewpoint to find an unofficial herdpath to Mount Redington (its one of only two 4000 foot peaks in New England to not have an official trail to the summit). There's an alternative unofficial way up to Redington as well, which involves taking a series of old logging roads. While its certainly easier, its longer as well. Being pretty new to having a smartphone, I had never really used a GPS program before, but given that I had read the herdpath is at times difficult to follow, I had pre-programmed in coordinates for the beginning of the herdpath, a point where it crosses an old logging road in the valley between South Crocker and Redington, as well as the coordinate of Redington's summit.

Well, I lost the herdpath pretty darn quick, and decided to just use the GPS program and compass on my phone for a bit until I could find where the path crossed the logging road. Here's where I made my big mistake... I once heard that putting your iPhone in airplane mode turned off the cell signal to conserve battery but didn't turn off the GPS signals... while it turns out they separate signals (and there are some ways to turn off one but not the other), I definitely heard wrong about airplane mode... I kept pushing through really thick pine scrub, trying to stick to game trails, but for whatever reason, I'd didn't seem like my location was changing much on the GPS program.

The iPhone compass does work correctly while in airplane mode, so I used that to pretty easily find the logging road... the problem however was that the GPS was still saying I was halfway up South Crocker, I thought I had hit a different unmapped logging road... dumb. Eventually, after walking a mile downhill, I realized what was going on with the GPS, turned around, hiking an extra mile up the logging road until I found the herdpath not too far away from where I came out of the woods... wow.

The portion of the herdpath heading up to Redington's summit was pretty easy to follow, and I quickly achieved the summit, although I couldn't seem to find its canister. After a bit of lunch, I felt determined I wouldn't lose the herdpath again back to South Crocker, head back down the AT, grab my bag, and hopefully still have time to bag Mount Abraham. Unfortunately this didn't pan out... the trail on the way down looked a bit wider than I remembered it, and once I hit the logging road again, I knew I made a mistake... I somehow made a wrong turn down the alternative route to Redington, the one that involved a bunch of different logging roads.

Pulling out my iPhone (with the battery rapidly depleting), I took a GPS reading and realized I
was once again about a mile away from the herdpath, this time in the opposite direction. At this point, I was pretty darn sick of that herdpath, and decided to try my luck with the logging roads. With my iPhone almost dead however, and without positively knowing what turns to make on the logging roads, I soon realized I'd need to bushwhack to a waypoint again, this time back to a mapped logging road I could eventually follow back to the AT. Boy oh boy, that scrub was thick (I'm still covered in scratches), but I safely made it to the logging road with about 2% battery to spare.

Eventually I walked the road back to where it crossed the AT, hiked a mile back up to retrieve my overnight pack, hiked back down, got in the car, knew I was too warn out to summit Mount Abraham, and immediately proceeded to have a really big hamburger for dinner at the closest restaurant/ bar to trailhead, Tufulio's (it was pretty darn good).

A few lessons learned... have a real compass with you, especially when headed off-trail, not just a smartphone/ GPS. I remember being told that in Boy Scouts, and wish I had listened. Also, it was a huge relief to me that I didn't summit Mount Abraham... those sort of reminders that you don't need to be perfect and can still have a lot of fun are awesome. Finally, when bushwhacking through Maine's dense forests, definitely wear pants... my lower legs are completely carved up.

Well, off to hike the northern Presidentials tomorrow morning, thanks for reading friends!

Bushwhack to Mount Redington

God's peace,

Dustin is a recent graduate from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and approved candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. An evangelist, urban gardener, mountain climber, community organizer, saint and sinner, Dustin spends most of his professional time wrestling with God and proclaiming liberation in Christ. Otherwise, Dustin likes hiking, playing frisbee, hanging out with an amazing woman named Jessie and pretending to know how to sing.

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