This was so far our longest hike with 37 miles and became know as the “Up and Down Hike” – you go up and down all the time, everyday! We took advantage of Labor Day Weekend and made it a 4 day hike that brought us to Northern Maine and allowed us to cross 7 of Maine’s 14 4000 foot mountains!
The weather was awesome and since it’s all part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) we got to meet really cool people along the way.
The hike, as we did it, requires 2 vehicles (there are shuttle services that can be arranged ahead of time, but from what we heard that’s a pricey service) – we parked our car at the AT parking on Highway 14 and headed further north to the AT parking on Highway 27 to let the fun start! (we chose doing it this way so we could finish the hike with nice views, as the first peaks we hit have wooded summits).
Day 1 – from the car to Crocker Cirque Campsite
We took our time on the first day, headed to North and South Crocker (wooded summits) and ended the day at the Crocker Cirque Campsite. There are 3 wood platforms, a few tent sites and a good water source.
Day 2 – Crocker Cirque Campsite to Spaulding Lean-To
On our way there we took the spur trail up and down to Sugarloaf (nice and open summit) and Spaulding (wooded and no views. The sign on the summit read 3998F, however in more recent measurements, Spaulding made the cut to the 14 4000F with 4010).
The Spaulding Lean-To has also a few tent sites and a good source of water.
Day 3 – Spaulding Lean-To to Poplar Lean-To
This was a brutal one – the longest and hardest day with 2 miles of straight ascent to the Poplar Ridge.
As we did when going up Sugarloaf, we left our big packs well tucked away off the trail and made the climb lightweight (the top pocket of our packs is removable and turns into a “lumbar pack” with a built-in hipbelt, which is pretty handy and made the climb easier and faster). At the summit you can find the remains of an old tower and something that looks like it served as a shelter at some point.
On our way to Poplar Ridge, we walked by Lone Mountain and Orbeton Stream (huge source of water!), and here is where the “fun” begins.
We overheard a big college group (there were a few college groups on trail doing their orientation out there) mentioning that they were heading the same way for the night so we picked up the pace and walk those 2 miles up to the ridge faster than we should have… but we wanted to make sure that there would be a spot for our tent that night. We did get a spot [the best one] and good thing because there are not that many tent sites around the lean-to. There is water running right through.
Day 4 – Poplar Lean-To to the car on Highway 14!
On the last day we had another 10/11 miles to go, but all the time we wanted to enjoy the best views. Saddleback Junior, The Horn and Saddleback are sure worth a trip. We had a great time talking to a couple of the through hikers, enjoying the sun and taking all of those views in!
As always, whatever hike you choose, make sure you stay on the trail, you respect other hikers, you carry in and carry out and stay off the vegetation, especially on the alpine zone!