This summer has been extremely rainy and muggy in Maine, and the trails have transformed into a slippery, soupy mess. I’ve been hoping to hike more this summer since I find myself with more time on my hands, but the weather and trail conditions have kept me at home. In August, I was finally able to schedule a multi-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail with my friends, Billy and Robert.
We decided to hike the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, deemed by some to be the hardest section of the Appalachian trail. I haven’t yet hiked the whole AT, so I can’t vouch for that nickname, but it certainly kicked our butt, especially since all the rocks were wet and slippery. It’s not my first time through the notch – the last time was about 5 years ago, and I remember it being strenuous, though a much drier experience. In my opinion, the notch isn’t necessarily the hardest part. After the notch, you are immediately greeted with the Mahoosuc Arm – a very steep section of trail that zaps whatever remaining energy.
- Distance: ~15 miles
- Duration: 2 days
Day 1: Success Pond Road to Speck Pond
Though we knew the trail conditions would likely be gross, we hadn’t expected rain the entire hike. The weather forecast was supposed to be sunny and not humid – perfect conditions for hiking. However, by some unfortunate stroke of luck, a raincloud decided to hang out on the mountains and rained off and on all weekend. We were prepared for the rain, but only for a sprinkle here and there.
We decided to take the Notch Trail to the Notch, which was about 1.8 miles from Success Pond Road to where it connected with the AT. We had considered an alternative route over Goose Eye Mountain, but with cloudy weather, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.
The Mahoosuc Notch is a mile section of trail that easily takes 2 hours to go through, crawling through caves and over huge boulders that were carelessly strewn over the trail. There weren’t many other people hiking other than a couple of trail runners and we took our time going through the trail. A few weeks prior I slipped and fell on a different trail, injuring my knee, elbow and chin, so I took it extra slow so I wouldn’t injure myself again. It took about 2.5 hours for us to get through the notch, and were immediately greeted with the steep Mahoosuc Arm which led to Speck Pond and our campsite for the night.
Luckily the Speck Pond campsite still had a tent pad available, so we set up our tents in the rain, changed into some dry clothes and chowed down our delicious freeze-dried meals. I was exhausted and cold and ended up crawling into my sleeping bag around 7:00pm and immediately fell asleep for the night.
Day 2: Speck Pond to Route 26
That night it rained hard all night, and by morning it was reduced to a light mist. The stubborn cloud was still stuck on the mountain, so we started the day hiking in the fog and clouds. All of our belongings were wet at this point, so we were ready to hike the 6 miles to where we left the second car, which was waiting for us on the other side of Old Speck. First we would need to hike Old Speck mountain and then go down the trail. The top of the mountain was still covered in fog and the trails were deep, sticky mud, so we decided to skip the summit.
Hiking down the mountain, we finally were greeted with sunshine as the clouds burned off. We took some time to have lunch on some rocks, enjoyed the views of the Grafton Notch region, and dried our clothes a little. The trails were extremely slippery, so we all took our time coming down the mountain. Once we got to the bottom, it was an hour drive on the Success Pond logging road to get my car and celebrated our achievements with burgers and beer in Bethel.
Sometimes I like to dream about hiking the entire AT, but this rainy hiking trip reminded me that I’m more of a fair weather hiker, especially if I have to deal with wet clothes and a wet tent. This summer in particular must have been especially wet and brutal for AT through hikers, and I am in awe that they were able to push on through the months of rain.