The fourth day of my journey started off chilly at the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to. Like most mornings, I had coffee in bed, read for a while, and then went and got my food bag so I could have breakfast. I didn’t have far at all to go this day, so I wanted to kill a lot of time with long breaks. I took these at the summit of Spaulding Mtn, somewhere on the path to Sugarloaf, again at Sugarloaf, along the ridge descending Sugarloaf, and at the Carabasset River. Long breaks. Like 30-45 minutes each. I think this is the first day I got comfortable not really going anywhere. I even took a nap!
Most mornings start like this: making coffee in my vestibule. The Tarptent Stratospire has enormous vestibules, so I’m confident that I can cook here without burning my tent down. If you ever do decide to cook in your vestibule, be very careful about carbon monoxide. This odorless gas is a byproduct of combustion and forms permanent bonds with your hemoglobin, rendering red blood cells useless. Be sure you have enough ventilation and cross breeze to prevent the build up of exhaust from the stove.
On this trip I was using my Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack. This pack was a real champ. I was able to use its generous side pockets to avoid unpacking and repacking the main compartment during the day. That big pocket on the top right is where i kept my snacks. There’s an even bigger pocket on the left that runs the height of the pack. That’s where I keep my various items I don’t want bouncing out and can also reach around to store or retrieve my hat. The zippered pocket on top has no real volume to it, but makes a nice place to keep my maps and journal.
You should be careful about loose items in side pockets while hiking. Things like water bottles, filters, and sunscreen can easily bounce out of your pockets during scrambles and rock climbs. It isn’t just inconvenient to lose these items, it makes a permanent mess of the woods.
From the peak of Spaulding, accessible on a 150 yard side trail from the AT, I get my first clear glimpse of Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is Maine’s second highest peak. From hear I could hear a distinct banging noise, like metal on rock. It turned out to be a machine doing work on one of the ski trails. Those two peaks to the left are the Bigelows, my destination 2 days from now.
Here’s some brilliantly coloured ground cover from the top of Spaulding. Though nearly 4000 feet, Spaulding isn’t bald. I’m still surprised at the amount of maple found this high up on Maine mountains. The soil near the tops of mountains is usually poor. Trees like maple, which lose their leaves every year, require nutritious soil to fuel leaf production. Needled trees like spruce and fir keep each needle for 5-7 years. They can survive in much poorer soils because they don’t need produce leaves every year.
A spring box along the 0.6 mile side trail to Sugarloaf. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club places these boxes over springs to keep them from filling in with debris. Unfortunately, I find a lot of these boxes with their lids open. Close the lids! Keep the leaves out!
This tower and helipad belong to the US Customs and Boarder Patrol. Sugarloaf is only about 30 miles from the Canadian border. Its important to keep those syrup swilling commies out of our country !! I work in the tower industry, so I was happy to talk with a technician from Maine’s communication network who was working at this site. He told me the border patrol builds helipads at most of their towers because access can be so rough.
From Sugarloaf, the Bigelow Range looks kind of short. Hint: it doesn’t seem so low when you’re walking on it. The sharp peak in the middle is South Horn. The two blunter peaks to the right are West Peak and Avery Peak. I’ll end up camping in the col between those two. The mountains in the far distance are in Canada. The town below is Carabasset Valley, a nice resort community with lots of restaurants and B&B’s.
Before crossing the Carabasset, I stop for water and a rest. I had lost a bottle on my way down a steep scramble on Sugarloaf, so I had to wait for my Aqua Mira drops to work (about 20-30 minutes) before drinking. That gave me time for a nice nap. One of my trail names is Mountain Narcolepsy. I got this name for my ability to fall suddenly to sleep just about anywhere.
Another shot of my Tarptent Stratospire at Crocker Cirque Campsite. I guess not too many people do this, but I got into the habit of stringing a clothes line every night for my hiking clothes and underwear. I think it helps reduce stink.
That little pad in the foreground is the removable sitpad that forms the back of my pack. If you don’t have a sitpad, I would get one. Having a small pad is really nice if you have to kneel or sit on the ground, especially when the ground is wet or cold.
My sleeping pad on this trip was my brand new Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Uberlight. The full length version of this pad weighs the same as the torso-length version of the X-Light pad (the yellow one.) It is nice to have such a light full-length pad, but there are some downsides. This pad doesn’t have the same non-slip surface as the other versions, so it slides all over the tent. I’ve heard some complaints about durability as well. Indeed, mine usually needs 1-2 refill breaths sometime in the night.
This is Crocker Cirque, a glacial pond formed at the base of the Crockers. It is supposed to be a great place for spotting moose and I was very excited to do so… until one ran though my campsite and scared the @#$% out of me. A moose is a huge animal, weighing 1500 to 2000 lbs. Although they only eat plants, they are still very aggressive and territorial. More people are killed by moose every year than by bears. If you see a moose, back away quietly. If it charges, find cover!