We re-arranged our plans to be with Ethan for his big NH3k finish. Keith and Julie were also finishing the NH 300 highest, but was unfortunately in the other direction, and with a long day ahead it wasn't in the cards. Keith was just fine with this, and was more rooting for us than himself I think. :)
We ran into the group in Lancaster and told them due to a car spot, we'd catch up. We found our road, surprised to actually see it had a name. This boded well. We drove up about a mile or so, and found our turn to be bermed. Ah well, not as far as we hoped, but definitely cut some walking out.
We drove up Blakely Rd., which was actually signed Kelsea Notch Road. Oops. That should be Kelsey Notch. We came to the gate and found the others had indeed gone ahead. Too bad about the gate, the road was great. Shades of Cleveland Notch Road.
In good time, we caught up to the group and said our hellos to Ethan, his wife, J&J, Keith and Julie, Ed, and one of Ethan's friends. We all had some good laughs as always, heavily at the expense of the tea connoisseur, Brian. The grades got nice and easy, and the woods went from nice hardwoods to nice softwoods.
Nice thing about a large group is time flies. We quickly made the Cohos Trail at Kelsey Notch, and made the turn. It was muddy for a great portion of the way, but I liked the wild feel of it. I decided quickly I would love to through hike this trail.
We came to a nice little clearing, and I stepped out and saw our target after S. Baldhead, Muise in the clouds. Innocent looking enough, ha ha.
Many bumps later, we came to the South Baldhead Shelter, past the summit a touch. The view was disappointing with grown up trees, but we could make out the wind turbines going up around Kelsey. Yay. At least the outhouse was a treat.
After a break, we made the short whack to the summit, where Ethan was all smiles. Beer, Jaeger and a patch were presented. Pictures were taken, congrats given out, and after a time, my feet were getting cold, and we still had a long day ahead of us, so the three of us wished Keith and Julie the best and carried forth on the Cohos. The trail dried up nicely, and there were many interesting blazes.
The trail flattened and it followed the Nash Stream boundary. It turns out the trail is clearly routed to avoid Kennebec West land. Sadly, this brought us below the col some ways, so we had some extra climbing to do. Getting near Gadwah Notch, I was scoping out the woods, and noted a old road heading in our desired exit direction. As we got into the notch itself, the woods closed right in, and then went to young fir and blowdown fields. We went on for a while on slick bog bridges, but saw no relief. OK, let's go back. We went some ways to another old faint road, and figured that was as good as it'd get.
The woods were decent, and all was well. We stayed below the ridge, as the woods always looked crappy up higher. We hit pockets of junk here and there higher up, but then they opened up near the summit.
The summit was a interesting, a very peaked point with barely room for 3.
A moose skull made it all the more interesting. Greg's knee was bugging him, I was beat, and we wanted to avoid the crap we encountered on the way up, so we set a beeline course to the car. This turned out to be dumb in so many ways. We pushed off SW avoiding bad woods before quickly making the turn NW. We hit crap. Lots and lots of crap. It was now 4:00, sunset was less than two hours away and we still had over two miles as the crow flies to the car. I did not want to be whacking in the dark. It was unfair of me, however, to do that. The steeps were really hurting Greg. Finally at around 3000' we emerged into open woods. Hallelujah, let's get the hell out of here. My mood improved immensely and immediately. I turned with an impatient look and said “well, we're doing Gore, aren't we?!” to some laughs. Onward.
We picked up the Cohos, and realized our next conundrum. Between us and the car lie a rather significant peak. A somewhat circuitous through Moran Notch was the only decent way to it. Crap. I had spotted the car on the wrong road. Thank God I had the presence of mind to waypoint the car (the only time I've ever done that). I don't know what I was thinking when I laid out the plans, but I had clearly goofed. Sigh. Well, with careful walking, we could slab off the Cohos into the notch with very little climbing. That didn't quite work out. A wall of thick woods just before the notch required another 100 feet of gain. At this point, it was a lot. We hit the notch at 5:15 to fading light with the heavy cloud cover.
We aimed for the ravine that would lead to the upper part of the bermed road. It was mucky, but open, although a bit too hobblebushy for my taste. We came to an old road, and spotted the road we wanted across the brook. Yay! A steep climb down and up, big smiles and we followed it for a hundred feet to a brook crossing. Dammit! Had we followed the old road we would've avoided this. What a day. A quick walk down (GPS showed our speed steadily increasing), and we were done at 6:10, missing out on a headlamp finish yet again. We went to pick up the car on Kelsey Notch road, and found “Marshy” written into the dust, provided a welcome laugh. We also noticed hunters coming out of the gate. Must be good to know people. :D