|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Sugarloaf Mountain, Spaulding Mountain, Mt. Abraham, ME|
||Caribou Valley Road, Appalachian Trail, Sugarloaf Side Trail, Spaulding Side Trail, Spaulding Mtn Lean-To Spur, Mt. Abraham Trail, herd path, Fire Warden’s Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, August 5, 2023|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||I drove in Caribou Valley Rd behind a big truck that was going even slower than I was in my little SUV, lol. It was in rougher shape than I’d expected. With washout, rocks sticking out, puddles, etc. My Buick Encore with 6in of clearance did okay with care. A 2002 Ford Focus which, to my surprise, has 5in of clearance, also made it with care. Anything less than that and I’d be very weary though. Although the last 0.6mi after the bridges is described as very tough in the guidebook, it was in fine shape. Slightly raised/rocky centerline but even low clearance cars would probably be okay. That being said, the section of road before this had some washout and very rough spots. Again, 5in of clearance in a Ford Focus managed and only got scraped maybe once but it was definitely a bit hairy. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||As others have noted, a wooden plank has been placed down to aid in crossing the South Branch of the Carrabassett River near the start of the hike. Without that, crossing the river would’ve absolutely been a wade in this spot. Getting to the spot where the plank was was still rock hopable. The plank was wet but not crazy slick. Just use care. There are several stream crossings on the way down Abram. They aren’t quite as large as the South Branch of the Carrabassett but were still running high and may not have been rock hopable if they were much higher. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||The AT is blazed in white. Sometimes very faded blazes, other times newer. Overall, blazing seemed more consistent than other sections of the AT. Very well trodden, eroded, and easy to follow. Sugaloaf Mtn Trail is blazed in blue. I don’t recall how frequent it was but was not hard to follow. I’m not so sure Spaulding Spur and others were blazed. Mt Abram Spur and Fire Wardens Trail were both blazed in blue. I don’t recall the frequency but didn’t find either hard to follow so long as you’re paying close attention above tree line to cairns and blaze. There is no sign for the Fire Warden’s Trail on the summit of Abram which is unfortunate. Just a summit sign. There’s a sign at the jct of the AT and Sugarloaf Trail for thru hikers that directs them to take the ski trails down Sugarloaf as a high water route. A group of three men were working on Sugarloaf Trail which was much appreciated although it didn’t seem in rough shape. It was nice to chat with them a little. As far as blowdowns elsewhere, things were in decent shape. There were a handful along the ridge, mostly between Sugarloaf and Spaulding but most were trivial stepovers, leaners, etc that didn’t pose much of an issue. |
||I saw one small dog at the Spaulding Lean-To. Beyond that, I’m not sure if I saw any. I probably wouldn’t recommend the traverse for most hiking dogs anyway with some of the scrambling up the AT toward Sugarloaf and the roughness of the boulders on Abram. Would definitely recommend that stuff for their paws or booties to protect their feet. |
||Much to my surprise, they weren’t a nuisance! |
|Lost and Found:
||I traversed north to south as it’s about 1200ft less gain assuming you drive all the way up to the gate on Caribou Valley Rd. A huge thanks to the CCC for picking me up at the end of the day. |
The climb to attain the western ridge of Sugarloaf was very steep at times as the guidebook indicates. It also features a bit of scrambling. Some may not wish to go down such scrambles. Some cool views down into the ravine and a bit of respite too though. After following the western ridge for a ways at a gentler grade, the trail, rather than continue along it to the summit, falls off of it, actually loses some elevation, then more or less contours into the saddle south of Sugarloaf to reach the trail to the summit where the AT turns right (south). Not terribly efficient. I wonder if a trail might ever be built that heads more directly toward the summit. Seems unlikely. I more or less had the summit to myself which was a nice surprise. Cool and windy too. There’s a small pile of boulders at the summit hit there’s really no scrambling needed.
The trail to Sugarloaf is a bit rough and rocky but not crazy steep. Not as bad as I thought it would be. From here to Spaulding the guidebook describes as “rugged” but I didn’t find it bad. I’ll note while there was obviously mud throughout the trails, the section just south of Sugarloaf Trail was particularly wet and muddy. The spur to Spaulding was very steep and rocky but short and not scrambly. The viewpoint to the north is pretty much limited to Sugarloaf Mtn and the Bigelows beyond but was nonetheless appreciated to see how far you’d come. The sign at the summit indicates Spauldinfnis only 3988ft high.
Between Spaulding and Mt Abram Trail was mostly downhill so was pretty enjoyable. There was an interesting section of washout along the trail here about 15-20min south of Spaulding and just a few mins before reaching the Spaulding Mtn Lean-To. The “spur” to the lean-to isn’t really a spur but an alternate section of trail as it connects with the AT at both ends. So redliners can make a loop and a half or do an OAB on one section. It is well signed. 20-25min later I reached the jct with Mt Abram Trail in nice woods and enjoyed a mostly gradual climb to near the first talus field where things got rougher. The section of woods between the first talus field and where you STAY above treeline was again beautiful. The climb from here to the summit was of course rough but nothing excessively steep or scrambly. Lots of cool structures and some places to get out of the wind around the summit.
Rather foolishly, I continued to the false summit just south of the true summit and then looked for the trail. I thought the trail turned here but all in saw were cairns continuing SE so I followed them. I was surprised there was no blaze and it was not very well defined. I looked for a left turn off of it but didn’t see one so soon suspected I was following the (herd?) path thy leads SE off the summit. I pulled out Gaia and sure enough I was. I climb back up to the true summit and find the Fire Warden’s Trail down. Rookie mistake. There is NOT a trail sign here, just a summit sign. The trail was rather steep and rough above treeline and for a ways below treeline. Then it’s a loooong walk out with some PUDS and water crossings thrown in. Make sure you get the last 0.6mi that *can* be driven by some cars but for redlining is needed!
Gaia had me at 15-15.25mi, 3800-3900ft of gain, 7.5hrs. Again, a huge thanks to the CCC for picking me up at the end of the day :)
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.