Maine Appalachian Trail: Crocker Cirque to Carabasset Valley

I would like to dedicate this post to FDNY Chaplain, Fr Mychal Judge, who died praying over rescuers, injured, and the dead in the North Tower on September 11th, 2001. May we all take a lesson from his act of selfless sacrifice in service to his fellow man and to our almighty God.

Take me where you want me to go,

Let me meet who you want me to meet,

Tell me what you want me to say,

And Keep me out of your way.

Father Mychal Judge, FDNY

My fifth day of hiking was one of the longer ones. From my camp at Crocker Cirque, I climbed up South Crocker’s steep scree fields to that summit. I then left the trail for a 2 mile out-and-back “bushwhack” to Mt Reddington, one of Maine’s 4000 foot peaks. Returning to the trail, I crossed Crocker Col to North Crocker, and then descended the long and winding ridge line into the Carrabasett Valley to Maine 27. I ended the night with a real meal, shower, laundry, and comfortable bed at Hostel of Maine.

Crocker Cirque
The Bigelow Range from South Crocker, overlooking the Carrabasset Valley.

On my way up South Crocker, I get a view north to the Bigelows, dark in front of the morning sky. Mist settling into the cool valleys below adds to the contrast. The climb up South Crocker crosses several steep scree fields and scrambles, each providing excellent open views of the valley to the north and east. Every morning is a little colder.

Frost on a tentsite

As I cross 3500 feet in elevation, I find this frosty patch of open ground about the size of a one-man tent.

I like thru-hikers, but they do seem to get an attitude that they own the woods and can do whatever they want. Maybe that’s the source of much animosity between them and the AMC (who aren’t without blame.) In the north bound thru-hikers increasingly greedy quest to reach Katahdin, they begin to hike every daylight hour and just camp wherever they are when the sun sets. The results are countless dead patches immediately next to the trail. Stealth camping is just fine, but please follow the guidelines and set up 150 feet off trail.

fir wave
Fir Waves on North Crocker

If you follow my posts regularly, you may be aware with my obsession with Fir Waves. This is a unique phenomenon in the American Northeast and Japan that results in striped mountains.

These lines are roughly perpendicular to the prevailing wind and usually follow the contour of the mountain. The bright lines are rows of trees that have died but not yet fallen. When they fall, they will expose the row of trees behind them to the wind, which will start to weaken and die. This pattern moves slowing up the mountain at a pace of just a few feet per year, each line about 200 feet in elevation above the next.

reddington canister
The summit canister at Reddington Mountain

Redington is the only Maine 4000 footer without a marked trail, but it does have a well established herd path from South Crocker. While listed as a 4000 footer, it actually falls a little short with each summit marker bearing a different elevation. A lot of 4000 footers around the northeast don’t actually deserve their designation. This is due to inaccurate survey techniques used by past generations.

jason and the argonauts
CampingJay at South Crocker

Here I am, back at South Crocker. The mountain in the center is Spaulding and slightly to the right is Abraham. During our 2018 hike through the 100 Mile Wilderness, the group from Hudson Valley Hikers that I lead started calling themselves “The Argonauts.” When we returned, one of them bought us all little Argonaut patches. I later purchased this flag, which I remember to bring with me on about half of our hikes.

appalachian trail mile 2000
The 2000th Mile for Northbound hikers

This spot is 2000 trail miles from Spring Mountain in Georgia. From here to Katahdin (the end) is just under 200 more miles. Due to constant shifts in the trail, its actual length changes every year. I passed several of these rock designators, but lets just say this one is correct.

A lot of people dislike rock art along the trail. Some of you even break up rock art when you see it. Well, we can all have our own opinions of things like this 2000 Mile Marker, but please realize that some rock piles are built as navigational markers. Trail Maintainers place rock piles called “cairns” at intersections and along exposed routes where there are few trees for regular markers. These help hikers stay on course. Please leave them alone!

rangley lakes
A view of Ragley Lake from Maine 17

When I reached Maine 27, I caught a hitch to the Hostel of Maine. This is the 2nd time in my life I’ve ever hitch hiked. The driver, named Sam, seemed to be a regular good Samaritan who picked up hikers and found food for them. Justin, owner of Hostel of Maine, drove me back to Maine 17 to retrieve my car. Here’s the view from Height of Land on 17. So much nicer than when I started the hike!

The Hostel of Maine

I spent a night at Hostel of Maine, where I did my laundry, took a shower, and resupplied my food. This was one of the nicest, cleanest hostels I’ve visited along the length of the trail. You should definitely check it out if you’re hiking or skiing in the area. There are some private rooms, but most of the beds are in 8-person bunk rooms, each with its own bathroom. The bathrooms are great, with large showers and Jacuzzi tubs. You can really tell this place was built for skiers.

And now I’m almost done with my trip! I’ll have just 2 more days to hike, in the Bigelow Range. I realize that writing this trip report in a day-by-day series won’t make it very helpful if you want to repeat my hike. I’ll make one more post as a consolidated trip report with just the essential details.

Rangeley (Maine 17) to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to

Sabbath Day Pond Lean-To to Piazza Rocks Lean-To

Piazza Rocks Lean-To to Sluice Brook Logging Road

Sluice Brook Logging Road to Spaulding Mountain Lean-To

Spaulding Mountain Lean-To to Crocker Cirque Tent Site

Crocker Cirque Tent Site to Stratton / Carrabassett Valley (Maine 16/27)

Flagstaff Lake to Bigelow Col Campsite

Bigelow Col Campsite to Stratton / Carrabassett Valley (Maine 16/27)

Rangeley to Maine Summary / Trip Planning