*Read to the end to see my GoPro edit of this hike!*
New Hampshire 4,000 footers? Check. Maine 4,000 footers? Officially in progress.
I just hiked my very first Maine 4,000 footer, Old Speck, and felt elated to be on top of a new peak again. I had a beautiful bluebird sunny day for the Saturday hike and the temperature was in the 50s. But, don’t be fooled by the nice weather. There’s still a 4 foot snow pack in the high elevations! And, thank god for microspikes!
Note: The Maine state parks are open to the public at this time and we were extremely cautious to keep a great distance from others. We also made sure that we were prepared and waited for perfect weather to hike. I had been quarantined at my house in Maine and while it is not advised to go out of state to New Hampshire mountains, I was lucky to have a mountain very close to my house so I could hike local.
The snow was visible on the ground right away at the trail head, but as I began to hike I quickly warmed and had to lose my hat and gloves. The trail began gradual, but soon grew much steeper. Not far into the hike, I was pulling myself up a steep and icy pitch, grabbing a wire drilled into the rock beside me. With each step, I had to jam my foot into the ice so that my microspikes would grip the terrain and I wouldn’t slide down the face of what I had just climbed up. On the way up the mountain, we took the loop out to the eyebrow overlook, which I had done once before many years prior (I had never climbed all the way to the top of Old Speck, though).
The view from the eyebrow was lovely and there was not a cloud in the sky. I would note, however, that the eyebrow is not very pronounced and it is easy to not see exactly where it is. From the eyebrow, we could could see the snowy peak of Old Speck.
Although this hike never broke the treeline, often at the higher elevations, the trees thinned or disappeared all together for short clearings. The bright sun beat down on us and glimmered on the snow. It was hot in the direct sun because I had warmed so much from the exercise. I was pushing my sleeves up to my elbows and enjoying short spurts of breeze. I think we had the perfect temperature for a hike though. It was warm, but as my dad was saying, the snow acted as an air conditioner of sorts, keeping us cooler than we would have been without it. We guessed that there was four feet of snow at the higher elevations by looking at how low the trail blazes were to the ground. Usually, they are just above eye level, but as you can see in the picture below, they were much, much lower in the snow!
Every time the trees thinned and we were on a bit of a ridge, I was stunned by the view. Although my surroundings weren’t quite as mountainous as they would be in New Hampshire, the view was still gorgeous and there were plenty of peaks in the distance. I could even look down upon my home mountain below me, Sunday River! Not being far from the ski mountain at all, I could see that the trails were still blanketed in snow and wished that I could have finished out my ski season.
There was a significant downhill portion of the trail after the eyebrow, and though it was a physical break from the strenuous uphill, I was upset I was losing all of the elevation I had worked so hard to gain. Over the years, I’ve sometimes wished I had the magical power to re-route a trail. But, as I’ve learned through years of my dad telling me not to ask other hikers how far until the top, it’s better to enjoy the ride and discover on my own where the trail will take me. So, as we descended, I kept those lessons in mind and soaked up the relief of momentum carrying me downward.
On the final push up to Old Speck’s peak, the terrain once again steepened. From horizontal lines in the snow, I could tell that skiers had slid down the steep and narrow trail sideways, taking down with them all of the boot-mark texture. With no preexisting dents in the icy pitch, we struggled for footing and once again were grateful for our spikes. My trekking poles were useless to me as the the pitch was steeper than the angle between the snow basket and tip of the pole. So, I couldn’t plant my poles and instead they slid on the ice as well. My calves were burning and a blister was forming as I climbed on my toes.
Breathing heavily, I finally pulled myself to the top and looked backwards at the trail I had climbed. A smile spread on my face. A few strides later, I broke through to a clearing at the peak of Old Speck. I could almost feel the summit endorphins flooding through me. Once again, the familiar peak feeling uplifted me and I took in the view. There is a view from the summit of Old Speck, although it is technically a wooded peak. But, there is a tower and if you climb it, the view is much more profound and is 360 degrees.
After a lunch of a bagel, bar, and oranges (best hiking snack ever, by the way), I climbed the tower. It’s a very tall vertical ladder up to a metal platform. I’m not afraid of heights, but it is a long climb for a rung ladder. At the top, though, a view of snowy Mount Washington and other surrounding mountains awaited. Just by taking a break at the peak, I cooled down significantly, and had to pull on all my layers, hat, and gloves. My back was soaked in sweat and being wet made me cold. It was time to get hiking again.
My hike down was actually quite fun and exhilarating. I pretended I was skiing, and my momentum had me running down steep slopes to keep from falling. I tried to keep my balance as my feet slid down the pitches I had worked so hard to ascend. Once, my feet came out from under me in one fluid motion, and before I knew it, I had slid on my butt down a steep path and somehow managed to turn around a curve in the trail. All in all, I had a lot of fun and knocked off my first of Maine’s 4,000 footers. I’m excited about my new list and for my next Maine peak.
Here’s the video I made with my GoPro Hero 7 Black for this hike. For more of my adventure videos, check out my GoPro Instagram @katiebernard.edits where I post edits from my adventures skiing, biking, and more! The video is below on Instagram and on my Youtube.