Well, the day finally arrived. The 3000 foot peaks on the NH/Quebec border swath. We had been looking forward to this hike for a long time, especially for the views, and so we were greeted with heavy rain and lightening in Lancaster. Sigh. Well, at least this ended by the time we hit Pittsburg, and we began our drive up East Inlet Road, spotting a car below Salmon Mountain. We started at the end of Boundary Pond Rd. around 9:00, and I chuckled at the “notice to anglers” sign knowing the dam had been dismantled last spring, and it was probably nothing more than a puddle. A quick walk up a well worn path showed this to not be the case. The pond was big and deep. Good news for a future fishing trip!
We backtracked to a path we saw heading north, and followed that up to the much anticipated swath. Joe, who forgot his passcard, immediately escaped into Canada. We had to tell him Vietnam was long over and it was ok to come back.
Ugh. This wasn't what I expected. Hip-high thick brush and a steep slope awaited us. There was a herd path on the Canadian side and it was clear there was no way to avoid going into Canada, and that people were wandering back and forth across the border here, so why not us too. We also saw the first of what was to be countless hunting stands.
So we pushed our way up Mt. D'Urban, and we started seeing red triangle signs with a tent picture and “SF” underneath. It took me a while to realize this is the Sentiliers Frontiliers trail, a system of trails in Quebec along the border and between Monts Megantic and Gosford.
It went in and out of the woods (apparently around hunter stands), and looked real nice. Something to do someday.
More signs pointed out witness posts and nearby boundary markers. At one point I was torn between two countries.
Steep climbs alternating with flattish spots, we came to the summit of D'Urban. All the while I kept looking back at the fog and imagining the views. Ah well, I'm seeing lots of interesting things, and I already knew I would be back up here some sunny day. We had been hearing voices and a dog from time to time, and then we saw people heading up. Sure enough, it was Keith and Julie D'Allesandro and John Gutowski. We knew they'd be up this way, so it wasn't much of a surprise, but it was great to see them again. Unfortunately, I had mistaken Julie for June, since I had met them both only once. Idiot.
We chatted a while, but it was already 11:00 and we a number miles and two more peaks ahead of us, so we headed back the way we came, and continued on the swath. At the spot we came in, the brush disappeared as a jeep trail came in from Quebec, and cleared the way for good walking. We came to one of the stone monuments, which I described earlier as one of those “pyramid thingies sitting on a rectangle, like the Washington Monument.” “You mean an obelisk? Har har har.” “Errr, yeah, that.”
I churned ahead, feeling good and I just felt like hiking steadily. More steeps, including some insane ledges that the jeep tracks went right over. They got some insane toys over the border. There were also lots and lots of bumps to go up and down. The last stretch up to Snag Pond Peak was super steep. Phew. It was warmish and humid, and I was covered in sweat, but a nice breeze was blowing up there. At the summit was the finest hunting stand I've ever seen. A pre-fab building complete with bunk beds, and table and cabinets. Dude's stylin'.
John came up, with Julie and Keith relaxing at the pond. He was turning around here, and would be off to do Kent afterwards. Crap, I now noticed I lost my water bottle. The full one of course, and I only had about 200 ml left in the other. No one had seen it, and John said he'd keep an eye out for it. The other guys came up, and we continued chatting for a while before pushing forward, wishing John our best. It was a nice walk heading down to the Salmon-Snag col, with one short steep spot. Then we came to what I'd heard bad, bad things about. The col. I didn't see the swath at first, but it was steep going down and steep going up.
I didn't realize just how steep until we got on it. Yoiks. The brush was horribly thick and there were boulders and holes all over the place.
I got sick of this and went into the woods where I was met with boulders that I had to hoist myself over, but at least I could see my feet and I had trees to hang onto. I found some good lines and after a time, I then looked left with horror as I saw the ridge (and thus the swath) wayyyyyy above me. Crap. I had wandered too far off. Sigh, more steep climbing and I caught up to the guys.
Now Joe had pushed onward, and we kept with the bumps, steeps and flats. The climb out of the col had drained most of us, and I came up to Greg sitting in a plastic chair right on the swath near the rare US side blind. We took turns enjoying the seat. Thank you hunter dude. We finally topped out, and hit the summit of Salmon which was actually in the woods on the US side. The border is apparently based on drainage, so it naturally follows the height of land for the most part, but there's a dip between the border and Salmon, so I guess that's why it's not actually on the border.
It was now 3:15, and I started calculating what time I'd be home. Crap, really late. I had figured we'd be out around 1 or 2, but the steeps and bumps had slowed us way down. Ah well. We followed the southeast ridge down to a small col in order to avoid a very steep face all along the east side, and had great woods and lots of herd paths to whole way.
We then turned east down a slope that wasn't supposed to be so steep, and indeed, it wasn't bad at all. Down bottom, it got brushy but not bad, but we were wandering northeast instead of southeast towards the car, but now there was a bump in front of us, so we just said screw it and skirted the bump. Brian found himself a nice moose antler. Of course, now it was clearing up, and we could see Mt. Kent in the clear ahead of us. Argh!
We had been hearing voices again, and as we came out to the road, we saw Keith and gang just ahead of us, relaxing. OK, that was a surprise for all of us. Greg and I headed off for the car about 600 feet down the road. We came back, there was more chatting, an awesome treat of an ice cold beer, as well as dry clothes. Again, though it was late, as we had come out of the woods at 4:45, so we went up to retrieve Joe's car, with me of course taking 2 wrong turns along the way. It was there I found my water bottle. It had been sitting in the trunk the entire time. Argh. The guys loved this. “It's just not your day!” Yep. Add that to the pre-flight checklist from now on. Duhhhh.
Joe went back to his room in Gorham, and I was getting near frantic to call home to say I was fine as the sun was getting low, but there's no cell service in Pittsburg, and I had to wait until Colebrook. Ah, all is well. I then delivered the bad news that I wouldn't be back until 10:00, as we had to stop at Scorpio's and load up on food. It was busy there though, as it was 7:30 and the fair was going on, so the food couldn't come fast enough, but once it did, watch your fingers. Three satisfied tummies later, we made the long and boring drive in the dark back to Bow, and I finally got home at a very sleepy 10:30, where I had my long-awaited 2nd beer of the day.
A tough day, but one of the most interesting trips I've been on, and I can't wait to return to these peaks (perhaps one at a time instead), to take in the views. One of the best things about pursuing the list is not only finding great places to return to, but seeing other places to visit, and the SF trail fell quickly into that category. My list of things to see will apparently never end.