|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Grand Falls Hut, ME|
||Long Falls Dam Road, Dead River Road, Maine Hut Trail, Falls Trail, Fisherman Path|
|Date of Hike:
||Friday, April 28, 2023|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Looking at Gaia, one could be attempted to access Long Falls Dam Rd via Carriage Rd in Carrabassett but I believe this is a private, gated road here round. You’ve got to drive in Long Falls Dam Rd from its start in New Portland instead. The road is paved but I don’t know if it’s plowed the whole way in during winter. Parking is not allowed on Dead River Rd (private) so you’ve got to park at the Big Eddy about 1/3mi west of the start of Dead River Rd. I didn’t see any specific signed MHT parking but I parked in a bump out beyond the campsite on the opposite side of the road (by the river) where it explicitly told you not to camp since it was a parking area. No one else was there. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||While I don’t think there’s technically any water crossings that aren’t bridged, 1) the more minor bridges “along the way” as the guidebook puts it are not in good shape, and 2) due to flooding and such you’ll be crossing through a lot of standing water which isn’t fun…bring the waders! |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||Where to begin… more signage/trail markers overall are definitely needed. I’d also say that reroutes are needed due to the flooding and water in many places. My two cents would be to take down the white markers that mark the true MHT and have the trail follow the Dead River more closely that the blue markers mark…whatever the path is called that usually follows more closely to the river (more on that below). In any case, that could also use more blazes and markers in many places in addition to a lot more foot traffic to make the path clear. In either case, they should replace the rotting bridges and make some new ones namely in the flooded area roughly 5.5mi in. Bog bridges in other muddy areas could be helpful as well. The blowdown situation palled in comparison to these other more major issues. |
||The woods and terrain the MHT goes through here is definitely tick territory. I was surprised to only find one on me afterward (thus far…). Long pants definitely recommended. There may have been some bugs flying around but nothing biting yet. |
|Lost and Found:
||2nd hike of the day after hiking the loop over Flagstaff Hut. This hike was not what I expected. Way less travelled than I imagined. Overall, I loved it but it did get old by the end where I followed the true MHT and I would certainly caution against this hike for inexperienced or maybe even moderately experienced hikers. |
The road walk, section of trail between where the MHT rejoins Dead River Rd, and for awhile after that is all “normal”. Then the MHT splits and the right fork, the true MHT, is marked with white diamonds and follows old roads that are flooded and other waterlogged areas, and the left fork, marked with blue diamonds, follows a narrow and lightly trodden path along the river. I think this is informally called river access or the fisherman’s path or something. These blue diamonds often diverged from the MHT to follow the water more closely and, at times like near Grand Falls Hut, was actually named Fisherman’s Path. In any case, on my way to Grand Falls Hut, I didn’t even notice the point at which the trail forked and just followed the blue diamonds, enjoying the scenic but lightly trodden path along the river. Eventually I noticed the white markers in the woods parallel to me and not far off at all. I decided I’d follow the blue markers on my way to the hut, and the white on the way back.
The two trails would converge again, to split again later. At these points, it could be easy to lose the trail, continuing alongside the river. The blue path also occasionally had blue blaze along it. In any case, it was very lightly trodden at times and could unnerve hikers not used to such things. Then again, it generally follows right along the water so how closed can it be? Note that I hiked this in spring and I can only imagine it in summer when everything is all grown in.
The first real tricky spot was 3.5mi from where the MHT leaves Dead River Rd for good. The trail (both blue and white combined I believe) turns sharply right and doesn’t follow a bend in the river. This turn is not marked and very obscure. The MHT follows and old, wide road but it’s very overgrown and lightly trafficked. I believe it was another 3/4-1mi after this that the trail becomes flooded. Another one of those delighting rotten bridges is in sight but you can’t get to it without getting your feet wet. The beginnings of a beaver lodge was right next to the bridge. Indeed, the beaver work on or nearby this trail throughout much of its length is amazing. I wondered if whacking around this would be doable on my return trip, but it wouldn’t be as then one would be wading through the stream the bridge crosses instead.
After this is a reprieve where the trail enters some nice woods and is not on the open near the river for a ways. I eventually came to the impressive bridge across the Dead River (the big bridges are in fine shape, just the ones in the first several miles until the crossing of the Dead River that are rotting away; some new boards have been placed nearby many of them and have even been placed across them in some places) and crossed it. I took the Falls Trail and throughly enjoyed it. One obscure section due to the blowdowns. The trail was blazed in blue. Exercise caution, especially with animals and children, near the falls. Absolutely gorgeous though. The rest of the hike to the hut was uneventful. Just follow signs for the MHT as it intersects with other roads and such. I got a kick out of the gated bridge that said cross at your own risk but looked very safe (for foot traffic) compared to all the other bridges I’d crossed earlier that were dilapidated.
Reaching the hut seems like hit a vague memory on a separate hike and palled in comparison to everything else that happened on this hike. There were some fisherman hy Spencer Stream that came in from Enchanted Rd along with some hikers I’d met. I followed the MHT rather than the Falls Trail back out for redlining. I was also careful to follow
The white diamonds on the MHT on my return trip rather than the blue ones. This proved painful. One, on roughly what might be called halfway, the trail was flooded in several spots. I didn’t wade through (it was quite deep, basically large puddles in the woods) but walked to either side of it for redlining purposes. This happened several times in this area. Once this finally stopped, I was then treated to a very, very wet (flooded?) old road walk. Where my feet got absolutely soaked constantly and I even had the joy of falling in once. I was relieved to reach the easier sections of trail as I began to near the road.
Funny how the flattest of trails can be the hardest. I imagine that this is what parts of long trails like the PCT and CDT are like. Obscure, flooded, make your own path (but here I was trying to redline a trail so wet feet was a necessity). While this trail absolutely needs some maintenance, I don’t mean to rag on it. I had a blast. It was incredibly scenic and had a little bit of everything. Also, the peepers and the great variety of “marsh sounds” I heard on my return trip was incredible. One sound in particularly sounded like a massive monster repeatedly gulping water…anyway, the cacophony was appreciated and I’m quite certain that if you placed an alligator in these swamps it would probably fit right in and survive just fine!
Part of the wetness of the roads and huge puddles may have been spring snow melt and vernal pools but there’s also some genuine flooding going on. I might suggest redlining this in summer when things are driest but I’d also be even more worried about ticks in the overgrowth and finding the hardly distinguishable foot bed even more. Maybe a dry time in the fall when everything’s dead? Maybe you should wait to hike this trail until it sees some love? Or maybe it’ll only get worse and you should hike it now! Who knows but have fun with it. Gaia had me at over 18mi with 500ft of gain. Took me almost 7.5hrs.
||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.