Rain: Our 4th Teammate. Donuts: Our Savior: Hitch 3 Report

White Mountain TrACS

Hitch 3 Report
Androscoggin District – Shelburne Trail, Buttress Trail & Imp trail
6/25/2012 – 7/2/2012
Total miles TrAC-ed: 13.7
Total miles hiked: 52.8
Total service hours: 220
Prepared by David Stahl & Eben Spalding

Monday, June 25, 2012:

Today was the second day we TrACed the 7.0 mile Shelburne Trail. We first hiked 1.5 rainy and mosquito-ey miles down the initial logging road stretch of trail in order to reach where we had ended TrACing the previous hitch. At mile 1.5 we began TrACing, and throughout the day TrACed a total of 2.5 miles up to the top of the Moriah Range. From mile 1.5 to mile 2.0, the trail was mostly a featureless logging road and went by quickly. From mile 2.0 to mile 4.0 the pace slowed due to several drainage issues along the trail, where we installed numerous drain dips, individual steps, and rock waterbars. At mile 4.0 we reached the junction with the Kenduskeag Trail (which runs along the top of the Moriah Range) and turned around for the day, hiking a total of 8 miles throughout the day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012:

Today was the third (and final) day we TrAC-ed Shelburne Trail. Since we ended at mile 4.0 the day before, we first hiked the 4.0 rainy (some might say “very very rainy”) miles to the junction with Kenduskeag Trail. We then TrACed steadily downwards on the opposite side of the Moriah Range for 3.0 miles towards Wild River Road, reaching the junction with the Highwater Trail (mile 7.0) around 4:00 in the afternoon. The TrACing went surprisingly quickly, due to the great condition of the trail and the fact that the trail was in a wilderness area and the standards were guided by the notion of “keep the wilderness wild.” The only major problems along the trail were some treadwork issues, where some of the trail had washed away (probably from Hurricane Irene). After we finished TrACing, the only thing remaining for the day was the 7.0 mile hike back to the truck! The hike was long but very enjoyable, knowing that we had finally tackled Shelburne Trail once and for all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012:

After the 14.0 mile hike the day before, we spent all of rainy Wednesday finishing up the Shelburne Trail paperwork and data, as well as preparing for the Buttress backpacking trip. That morning we worked in the Androscoggin Ranger District Office doing the finishing touches on the Shelburne Trail papers, and began looking at the maps and White Mountain Guide to complete the logistics of TrACing the isolated Buttress Trail. We decided on camping at the junction of the Six Husbands and Buttress trails for two nights instead of one, coupling a Buttress TrACing session with the Sphinx Trail. That afternoon we went to Hannaford’s in North Conway for the next four days of food shopping and Eastern Mountain Sports for a few extra camping supplies. After returning to Camp Dodge, we divided all of the group gear and food for the backcountry trip the next morning.

Thursday, June 28, 2012:

We drove the 200 feet from Camp Dodge to the Great Gulf Wilderness Parking Lot to start off our backpacking trip. However, after hiking for 2.7 miles we came to a river crossing, which, although quite simple to cross in normal weather, proved to be impassable with heavy packs after four days of constant rainfall. Since our original camping spot was located 2 miles further down the trail and there was no other way to access the campsite (with our Plan B, accessing the trail via the Mt. Washington Auto Road, closed for the day due to damage from the rain) we decided to turn back 300 feet and camp at the Osgood Tentsite (located on the beautiful Bluff with a view of Mount Washington). We set up camp and hiked back out of the Great Gulf to catch up on office work and to write this very own hitch report. Then, at around 4:00 we hiked the 2.7 miles back into the Great Gulf to reach our campsite, where we cooked dinner and stayed the night.

Friday, June 29, 2012:

We started the day bright and early at the Osgood Tentsite, refreshed after spending our first night in the backcountry. Although the day began with a slight drizzle, the weather over the past 24 hours had been mostly dry, meaning that the river crossing which foiled our TrACing progress the day before, was finally passable. However, about 0.5 miles later we came upon another river crossing, which, although at first looked quite difficult, could be waded through upstream of the trail in order to avoid several sections of rapids. At around 10:00 we began TrACing the Buttress Trail, which climbed steeply through wilderness until reaching the junction with Star Lake Trail, 1.9 miles later. The trail was in mostly good condition, with just some treadwork issues here and there and a few places where individual steps needed to be installed to create safer hiking conditions. After reaching the end of the trail, instead of retracing our steps and having to wade through the river crossings yet again, we decided to head to 0.3 miles to visit the Madison Hut and then make a loop over Mount Madison and follow the Osgood Trail south, returning to our campsite at around 6:00.

Saturday, June 30, 2012:

We took down camp and hiked the 2.7 miles out of the Great Gulf. We first returned to Camp Dodge in order to set up personal gear, and then went about cleaning the stoves, water filters, dishes, and bear bins from the backcountry trip. We stopped off in Gorham in order to finish the paperwork for the Buttress Trail, and also made the Emergency Response Plan for the next adventure, the Imp Trail. Then, we headed towards the northern terminus of the Imp Trail in order to begin TrACing the 6.3 mile Imp Trail loop. We made it all the way to mile 1.5 for the day, due to the fact that the beginning of the trail was not only flat but also followed the high ground above Imp Brook (making it very dry and in excellent condition). We then hiked the 2.5 miles back to Camp Dodge.

Sunday, July 1, 2012:

Today was the first of two days without Alice, providing David and Eben the opportunity to put to use all that they’d learned about TrACing and leadership. The day started off with sunshine, and we quickly hiked the 2.5 miles to where we stopped TrACing on the Imp Trail the previous day. From mile 1.5 to mile 2.0, the trail became very steep and the TrACing slowed down, as we looked for places to install individual steps and staircases where much erosion had occurred. At mile 2.2 we were treated with the view from the Imp Face, which Wilderness Maps claims is one of the “10 best views in all of the White Mountains.” It certainly was. From the 180 degree panoramic view, previous hikes and hitches flashed before our eyes. To the northwest, we could see to the Osgood Trail and the peak of Mount Madison, where we toiled up just two days previous. We could see the entirety of the Great Gulf, where we labored for hours carrying our heavy backpacking packs through dense forests and across powerful streams. We could see the whole stretch of the Auto Road up Washington, and even the spot where we parked the car for the Wamsutta, the trail which took us straight down gnarly ledges to the base of the Gulf. After taking in the view, we continued TrACing across the cliff face of the Imp. Although the elevation was mostly constant across the 1 mile trail to the junction with North Carter Trail, the rate of TrACing was surprisingly slow, due to the numerous drainage issues and erosion problems from water seeping off the cliff. After reaching the North Carter junction we headed downhill towards the southern terminus, which, except for a few major drainage issues involving some trail rerouting, the trail was mostly well designed and TrACing went fast. A bizarre storm hit us along the way down, which lasted no more than ten minutes and left us in complete warmth and sunshine after it passed through. We ended the day at around mile 5.0, which was convenient since a 500 foot spur path from our endpoint led us to the backyard of Camp Dodge.

Monday, July 2, 2012:

We awoke at Camp Dodge ready to knock out the 6.3 mile Imp Trail once and for all. After taking the spur path back to mile 5.0 of the Imp, we began TrACing. After going for a couple thousand feet though, we realized something quite strange about the trail—there were way too many features on it. Rock waterbars every twenty feet, no deck puncheons in places where no deck puncheons were needed, drain dip after drain dip after drain dip. And to add to that, everything was in perfect condition. We found out later the reason for this anomaly—it turns out that since this part of the trail is in the backyard of Camp Dodge (the trail crew volunteer center), the trail crews use this section of trail as a construction “boot camp” before going out to other trails to build things for real. A little down the trail this trail structure madness ended, and we quickly TrAC-ed the mostly flat 1 mile to the southern terminus. Then, we hiked back up the 1.3 mile section we just TrAC-ed to the spur path and headed into Dodge to finish the Imp paperwork and complete base camp tasks.