Priorities play a huge role in everyone’s lives. We all have them. My two biggest priorities are my career and making Anton happy. He’s been dying to hike the Baldface Circle Loop, but I told him I didn’t want to because those mountains aren’t 4,000 footers. My 4,000 footer priorities have changed thanks to my entire life changing over the course of the summer.
So I decided to surprise him with a hike on the Baldface Circle Trail. To add to the surprise I also invited Anton’s best friend Sharon to come along. Anton knew we were doing something, but he wasn’t entirely sure what I had planned. I only told him that we were going on a surprise adventure so that I could get him out of bed early. When Sharon arrived Anton found out that we were hiking the Baldface Loop all together. He was so happy, but we were also running behind on time so I hastily threw together our things in preparation for the two and a half hour ride to the Maine border. I put a lot of effort into hiding the surprise so I didn’t pack the night before as I normally do.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the drive was beautiful through the Lakes Region and Eastern White Mountains. We arrived in good time and couldn’t wait to start our day. When we opened up the trunk, they weren’t there…My hiking boots were at home. All I had were the sandals on my feet. My first thought was to hike barefoot and punish myself for not checking to make sure I had everything. Sharon quickly talked me out of it, and thanks to her we were able to find a pair of used sketcher sneakers at a thrift store and some new socks in a pharmacy. Unfortunately, the Baldface trail head is quite possibly one of the most remote places in the White Mountains. We had to drive 30 minutes to Fryeburg, Maine in order to find a store. By the time we started hiking it was already noon. With absolutely no ankle support I started up the extremely steep South Baldface side with Anton and Sharon. Rule of thumb for summer hikes: Always take the steepest side up. Your knees and ankles will thank you for it later.
The surrounding old growth forest led us to a roaring mountain brook. Several people populated the lower part of the trail in order to swim in the Emerald Pools just 0.7 of a mile in. Without time to spare we rushed past the side trail leading to the pools. Before we knew it, the trail started getting steep until we reached the Baldface Shelter. It leveled out for some time and all of the sudden the huge rock slabs began. Taking on slab in used walking shoes is not for the faint of heart. With my hiking boots most of this would have been easy, but these shoes had almost no grip on the smooth granite slab. Making matters worse, I had to avoid wet patches or face certain slipping and falling hazards. The only thing driving me forward were the delicious patches of wild blueberries!
Eventually we were completely above trees. I was unable to walk up certain sections so I kept having to go off trail to find something which worked better for me.
At one point I completely broke down in frustration. I couldn’t find a safe spot to place my feet. Anton was right behind me and Sharon so far ahead I couldn’t see her. Last year Sharon hiked the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) so she is fast to say the least. Anton gently encouraged me, convincing me that the summit was in eye shot. Of course it wasn’t, it’s never that easy. Even though these mountains are 3,800 and 3,900 feet they are truly honorary 4,000 footers in my book. Once we were past the incredibly scary part, the rest of the trail was smooth sailing. I lost track of where we were and completely spaced out to the beauty around us…I mean, that view…
Then there we were, the summit of South Baldface! I can see why this is rated as one of the most beautiful hikes in New England. While a picture tells a thousand words, it still cannot do justice to the 360 degrees of gorgeous, unspoiled wilderness views around us. I’ve never felt so remote in New England before, I am both grateful and in awe of this experience.
At the summit I realized how hungry I was. It was 3pm and I haven’t touched food since 6:30am. While we had some food with us, Anton and I completely forgot to pack the burritos that were our main protein supply and energy for this hike. We were both completely dependent on a couple granola bars, some cheese, and a few sugary snacks. I was ravenous, but nothing could be done at this point. We ate and continued down the 1 mile traverse to North Baldface. This was easy and scenic. The clouds dramatically splayed across the bluebird skies, a perfect contrast to the evergreen spotted mountains. Wild, rugged countryside as far as the eye could see. We were in heaven.
When we reached North Baldface 45 minutes later we celebrated our accomplishments of the day. We overcame my scatterbrained ways, started at noon, and did 6 miles of a 10 mile loop within 4.5 hours with breaks. Not half bad. We were far from over and the real struggle for me was about to begin.
My ankles were screaming in pain. I wanted to sit down on the mountain and sleep there. I wanted to do anything except for move, never will I ever forget my hiking boots again. Once and a while a late afternoon view gave me something to hope for.
I looked back over at the insanely steep trail we went up and felt a feeling of accomplishment. I just climbed that, in sneakers. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is. Still so far to go and the clock to darkness was ticking. I don’t mind a winter night hike because the bears are hibernating, but this time of year bears are active. My greatest fear is spooking a bear, they will attack. I didn’t have my bear bell or bear spray for safety because I wasn’t anticipating starting so late. At this point I planned on being in the car on the way home. I felt lightheaded from the lack of calories in my body, and quite simply exhausted. This hike was getting to me in a big way. Regardless I sucked it up and hiked down the trail as quickly as possible. I couldn’t think about the pain, I had to think about getting back home and in bed.
When we finally arrived back at the car Anton drove and I fell asleep. My head was pounding and I had no energy left. When I woke up we were on I-93 almost in Concord, almost home. These mountains chewed me up and spit me out again. This was partially due to my own stupidity, but mostly from the stress of the day combined with an extremely difficult hike. Oh well, at least it didn’t rain.
Trail Tips: Do what I usually do, pack the night before. Never leave such a vital part of a hike till the last minute.
Exciting Announcement: Anton and I are going on yet another National Park adventure in October. This time we are headed to Yosemite for leaf peeping (hopefully the wildfires won’t get into the valley), amazing scenic hikes, and rock climbing! El Cap, here we come!
Kidding…I’ve only been rock climbing since January so that’s not happening. In addition we will spend a couple days exploring Napa. Although this isn’t quite adventurous I hope to share some scenic wine country views with you. Plus I love wine, I’m not going to Northern California for the first time and skipping the wine tastings!