Ahhhh, Sable and Chandler, up by the Baldfaces. A legendary whack of open hardwoods. Too bad I failed several months earlier trying to do this. My calves were killing me. Sigh, another repeat. And it was now I realized everything left on the NH3k list was indeed, a repeat. Failed on the Captain a few weeks ago, and I did Wildcat “E” decades ago, back when that was the 4k peak. Sigh...
Greg was nice enough to re-do these with me, and I chose the route I had hoped to originally, via the old Bradley Brook Trail, leaving from near Barnes Road, off of Rt. 113. I had found out, however, that this was now a snowmobile trail. This made me a bid nervous, as snowmo trails, in my experience, tend to be muddy. But the thought of cutting out 3 miles and a bunch of elevation gain was too tempting.
I woke up to it raining out, with the radar showing the “20%” chance of rain was 100% across the state, but it was a thin front. For once, I made it down 113 without incident, and made the turn on Barnes Road, which was just fine. Seven tenths of a mile later we came to the intersection, and a sign “not maintained for vehicles.” Hmmm. The road looked do-able, but we just parked at a clearing and moved out. I donned rain pants to guard against the wet foliage.
There's a lot of logging activity around here, and I wasn't sure exactly where the trail began. We ended up crossing Bradley Brook, and we realized we went to far. But which branching road to use? We guessed, and ended up on something that looked promising, but petered into brush, and another that just ended. Greg kept spying potentials uphill, but from the Forest Service map, I thought it was close to the brook. Trusting the Greg, I followed uphill, and eventually we found a wide road that had to be it. The moral of this story will be Trust the Greg. Always Trust the Greg.
Now we were tooling along and came to a cabin right at the Forest boundary. Bit of a surprise, but gotta love the lack of neighbors. To my pleasure, the trail/road was blessedly dry.
There was one steep stretch which we made it through fine enough, but it felt warm and humid still, with the sun not helping, the front not quite drying things up yet. Along the way Greg spotted a porcupine, and given Greg's excellent eyes, he had to point it out several times before I spotted it. It then lazily clunkered up a tree.
We moved along and 1:20 later came to the Slippery Brook Trail and started going south. Oops. The road bent off in that direction, and with no signage (even for the snowmobilers) we got confused. Back up, and we tossed ideas about where to go. I wanted to head straight to the ridge to grab Sable, Greg wanted to take a road that diverted a bit to the north, so we took the latter. At the road junction, there was bike parked there, another surprise. We crossed the brook and thought we heard someone, but wasn't sure, so we moved onward. The road petered out, and we moved through hobblebush to gain the ridge. Yep, road was a good choice. This ended soon enough and we were in nice open woods, which had dried out, there was a breeze kicking up, and the humidity dropped. The colors of fall were starting to show.
We came across remnants of logging even we moved higher, little clearings and roads, and the woods were spectacular.
The slope picked up and then we were on a little flat area around 2700', where we could see the goal ahead.
Views started appeared here and there, including this one to Kezar Pond. Unfortunately, my camera was acting up, and the exposure and zoom were intermittently working.
Then the slope really picked up, but I was feeling pretty good today despite my calves complaining a bit, and had little problems chugging on up, counting down the remaining elevation. At 3300' as the woods closed in a bit, we picked up a very well defined herd path, and given the steeps were done, tooled right along to the summit.
Ahh, time to give the legs a rest. A nice break, and I had evil thoughts of how nice it would be to head back to the car now. Just a nice easy day. I knew Greg would have no part of this, and it was silly to even think it being this close to one of the three remaining peaks I had. I showed about 1.2 miles to Chandler. It was just before noon, so I figured 1.5 hours to get there, suck it up. Besides, supposed to be just open woods, although Greg warned of steep down and then steep up. Onward.
There was supposedly traces of the old Sable Mountain Trail up here, but given it was abandoned maybe 50 years ago, I'm skeptical that any routes are the old trail. I know someone who found cairns to the north, and I think blazes, but the path itself has likely been obliterated over the years. That being said, there was a great herd path heading down. And it was steep. It was a mix of ferns, puckerbrush and no growth. Here Greg does the Put Yer Hands In the Air to avoid bleeding to death.
Greg was telling me the ferns were ankle deep when I bailed, which was far preferable. My take was after a string of crappy whacking woods, I was quite content with this. That and I had poles to move the puckers out of the way. We lost and picked up new herd paths as we got further down, and Greg had warned we had to watch from dropping off of the col, so that's what we did, but only by about 60' below it. Who cares, the woods are great!
The breeze was a bit chilly, which was a nice change. Bring on fall! The slope started to pick up as we made the 500' climb to Chandler, but again, it wasn't affecting me much. It was just one of those days to make up for all the days my body's resented this activity. We hit the summit plateau and got a good clear view of North Baldface over Sable's shoulder. The zoom actually worked this time, and I could see a bunch of hikers on top.
We also saw something of extreme ledginess into what I thought was Maine, and couldn't figure it out, but found out later it was Moriah, which made sense after the fact. The plateau was gorgeous. Greg is so exhilarated to be back, he's doing the goose step.
Summit reached, we took another nice break, enjoying the breeze and warming sunshine.
Next up, the route down. Again, I was all in favor of a direct bearing to the Bradley Brook Trail, Greg wanted to head back to the road. We discussed back and forth, and he finally said “Eh, we'll just see what happens.” I could go with that, so I followed and we headed down through more puckerbrush and ferns, where one of Greg's nips got stabbed. Ouch. I again pushed the brush out of the way with the poles, remarking at how this was a bogus bushwhack as blood hadn't been drawn yet.
We hit brush free woods, and I kept noticing Sable was in front of us. I again questioned the direction and Greg explained he figured cutting 0.3 miles off the whack to hit the road we came up would likely be faster than a direct route. I wasn't so sure given the good woods, but I must Trust the Greg, so I just relaxed. I tend to want to do things my way, so I tend to resist anything otherwise, but I like to think I know when to let go and see what happens.
We hit the flat area on the ridge, an oddity, which I knew we'd hit no matter what route we took, and despite a mucky start, it was a pleasant area.
That got old after a while as it seemed to stretch forever, as one gets anxious to get down. Funny thing about going down, distance stretches on forever. I've learned to just use my watch for approximate distances, and I found that helps a lot as far as frustration about how far is left. Can't say why, it's just better than looking at how far in miles is left.
So we carried on back to the road and the hobblebush started picking up again, which is when I realized this was indeed a better route. Yeah, 0.3 miles isn't long, but it was apparent the speed was going to be better if not equal. Trust the Greg. The only annoyance was some small (and I really mean tiny) uphills getting across.
We got back to the road, saw the bike again at the junction, and came to the junction of the Bradley Brook Trail. Just before it I saw something running up the trail, I thought it was a fawn. Greg missed it. Hmm. So we snuck up, saw nothing, and headed up the little uphill section of the trail. Coming to a branch road to a clearing, we saw it again, except Greg got a good look at it. Furry face, no tail, and bobcat came to his mind. I then thought about its size and the gait it had taken when I saw it earlier, and it made sense. We crept up the branch road, but it had disappeared for good this time. Too bad, we had cameras at the ready, and this was a first for both of us.
We tooled our way out, and finally came to the Rollin Ridge Road, where we spotted where we had missed the snowmo trail. Greg was fairly certain that this was the spot it came out, but given the myriad of roads, it was tough to be sure. Back at the car, a blessed soft seat and a wonderful change of clothes.
I had thoughts of just waiting until next year to finish, as I have a ton of stuff going on at work and home, and I had gotten discouraged by the tough slog some of these final peaks have been. Greg and Brian weren't having any of this nonsense, and did all they could to encourage me to keep going. This hike couldn't have been a better one to keep me focused. It was a gorgeous bushwhack, and my remaining peaks went from 4 to 2. All that stands between me and the last peak is one more (nasty) bushwhack, but with only that, I'll have all the drive I need to get that peak no matter what. I just need a couple week of good weather!