|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Bald Mountain, Stowe Mountain, ME|
||Grafton Loop Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Tuesday, February 4, 2020|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Designated parking is in signed lot off ME 26 near Grafton Notch State Park. Sign says “Mahoosuc Public Lands, Grafton Loop Trail.” This is 0.6 miles from the trailhead. Do not park at the trailhead, it is private land. The continuance of this access point for this trail is dependent on the generosity of these private landowners. Be respectful. |
||Snow - Unpacked Powder, Snow/Ice - Frozen Granular |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||There are several stream crossings. Two of the larger ones are ice bridged. None of the water crossings are treacherous in normal water levels. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||One large branch is directly across the trail down in the open woods towards the start of the trail (after the trail deviates from the snowmobile trail). I was able to break smaller stuff off and squeeze under it. Several other smaller blowdowns, but they did not completely block the trail. Blue blazing is too far spaced in the open woods. It’s really hard to make out the trail corridor in this open (but beautiful) part. More blazes would help. Blazes in higher elevations starting to fade, but are still discernible against the snow. Very good height placement of blazes. They would be visible even with a higher snowpack. Only one turn is double blazed, the rest are not marked. Wooden stairs/ladders in excellent condition on Stowe. |
||No issues for dogs. You MUST leash them through the private lands. This means the first 7 miles of the Western Loop from the southern access point. That’s how much private land this trail is on in this section. |
|Lost and Found:
||Well, I really had no idea what I was in for today. After yesterday’s hike up packed out Puzzle Mountain I thought that maybe, just maybe, people had traversed the Grafton Loop Trail (GLT) via the Western Loop. Alas, no. By the looks of it, NO ONE has been on this trail since the heavier snows started falling back in November.|
The Maine Mountain Guide states that the GLT “...provides access to spectacular views from Sunday River Whitecap (views from the rest of this section are somewhat limited).” True, unless it’s hiked in winter!! I had all kinds of fabulous views of Puzzle, Sunday River Ski Resort, the back side of Bald, and Stowe. Gorgeous looks into the woods of the GLT. None of this can be seen in summer. Also, the plethora of animal tracks in the snow cannot be matched.
Due to the complete absence of human tracks, I broke trail over both these peaks. Even though it was 5-6 inches of snow (drifts were up to my shins), it was exhausting. There was about an inch of crusted snow on top of the soft powder making for super noisy walking. Stomp, crack, gush. Stomp, crack, gush. I also spent a tremendous amount of time route finding in the open woods at both the foot of Bald and in the col between Bald and Stowe. The blazes were just too far apart to make faster forward momentum. I had mentally noted this on my expedition through this section last September, so at least I was somewhat mentally prepared. Once up in the tighter trees the trail corridor was blatantly obvious and I made quick transition though these parts despite the spacing of the blazes.
So this hike was part one of three. I had hoped to get to Whitecap but I completely ran out of time. My plan is to get this trail broken out as much as I can before the spring equinox so that I can do a winter traverse of the Western Loop. We shall see what the end of winter brings...
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.