Old Speck Mountain

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Aug 30 , 1983 Tuesday (274.9 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

This morning the surroundings were kind of misty, remnants produced as a result of the rain last night. I departed the shelter and began the two miles of gradual uphill to the summit of Old Speck Mountain, but the firetower located there yielded no views because of the clouds. Three miles of downhill on a trail that was wet and slippery took me past several day-hikers on their way up to the summit. We greeted each other and continued on our separate ways, for me - down to the road crossing at Maine route 26 through Grafton Notch. There was a parking area for the trailhead where I stopped to leave a congratulatory note for John Smart and Smokie, who would complete their thru-hike at this spot. I tucked it under the bark of a nearby White Birch tree. I found Roger Brichner at the parking lot in search of the trail. He and Mike Patch were hiking sections together. Roger would leave Mike off at one road crossing, drive to another crossing and leave the car. When they met each other along the trail, he would then give Mike the keys so he could retrieve the car and drive to pick Roger up. I wondered what they would do if they should happen to pass without seeing each other. I set Roger straight as to where the trail went. Consistency gained from hiking in one direction, in my opinion, is the best way to go, and gives the greatest satisfaction.

I crossed the highway and hiked the short distance of less than a mile to Grafton Notch Lean-to, where I intended to eat lunch and contemplate where to stay this evening. At the shelter, I met a couple of hikers, and a ranger that I had seen at the parking area earlier. Nice setting for a shelter. A nearby stream contained a waterfall that produced a soothing sound, and although the lean-to was very close to the road, the minimal traffic that goes down that road could not be heard. Warnings from "The Maximus" about mighty mouse, who ruled the shelter, convinced me that this was not the place to spend the night. Besides, I had only traveled six miles so far today.

Ever since entering the Whites, and now while I was in the Mahoosucs, I had been observing the presence and behavior of a certain wild bird known as the Spruce Grouse. These birds exemplify the term "bird brain" in their actions when it comes to getting out of the way of hikers. They seemed to pay little attention to the presence of humans, and when they did fly away, it was only for a short distance. I encountered the birds quite often in the Mahoosucs. I began to think about my Upland Game Birds class from college and knew that these birds were considered game birds that some hunters shot for food. My mouth began to water.

The climb up Baldpate Mountain proved to be another triumph of Maine Appalachian Trail Club's (MATC) trail building prowess. The trail went up very steeply straight through a "drainage ditch" that was full of small boulders. Perhaps the ditch had formed from hikers eroding the trail, I don't know. Water from the rain last night was flowing between the rocks as if it were a stream. My feet got soaked and mud deposits caked on the gaiters that covered my calf muscles as my boots picked up the muck and deposited it on the sides of my legs with each passing step. Gaiters are practically essential in this northern climate, they help keep debris from falling down into your boots as well as help shed water off of them.

While climbing the vertical river up West Baldpate, I passed Lan A.T. Hiker, who had not stopped to take a break at the shelter as I had. From the summit of West Baldpate, the trail dipped quickly and then shot up quickly to the summit of East Baldpate. I was impressed with the dome shaped summit that was virtually treeless, and it reminded me of a bald head of sorts. To Hazy for any pictures.

On the way down East Baldpate my curiosity, and dreams of being a mountain man lead me to attempt to catch a grouse for supper. I stopped and selected a few choice rocks for the hunt, and scouted out the prey ahead of me. My first attempt failed as the rock wizzed past the first grouse and caused it to fly to the safety of a tree somewhere off the trail. The second bird remained on the ground as if nothing had happened, until the second projectile slammed into it. The bird fluttered down the side of the mountain with me in hot pursuit as if chasing a chicken down on the farm. I managed to grab the bird and rejoiced that I would be eating a nice supper this evening! The bird was the size of a chicken, enough for two, so I left a note for Lan to meet me at Frye Notch Shelter for a "special" supper, and continued on to the shelter.

Frey Notch Lean-to was a building in progress. When I arrived, I found workers just finishing what they were doing for the day, and then departing. The shelter was just a shell, the log walls were up, but there was no platform, and more importantly, no roof. I set up my tarp utilizing two of the walls as part of my shelter, and began to prepare for the night. I had a feeling that it would rain. The workers had a nice fire going in the fire pit. After they were out of sight, I began to undress the bird in the manner that I had learned to prepare a bird skin for stuffing that I had been taught in my Ornithology class. I removed the feathers and skin all in one piece. Lan arrived soon after and was intrigued by my offer, not knowing what was in store. Even though she had been a vegetarian for six years now, she was eager to sample the bird after we sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and other spices provided by some short term hikers also staying at the site. I grilled it over the open fire just like the mountain men in the movies did - with a stick through the body and suspended over the flames. That was one of the best meals that I had ever prepared on the trail! Very tasty! Lan agreed, and did not even think twice about digging in. She did not seem to be adversely affected by her sudden change away from vegetarianism.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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