On Sunday, Dec. 22, the first full day of winter, Frosty and I headed over to the Sugarloaf area to hike to Crockers. This was a BOC (Bangor Outdoor Club) hike that we were hosting and our first attempt at bagging the part of the Triple Twinter Challenge.
There ended up being four of us on this trip, Christine, Mike, Frosty, and I. We met at the parking lot for the Sugarloaf golf course at 6:30. After greetings and gear up, it was 7:00 when we started our adventure.
We walked along a road until we came to the spot where we would begin our bushwhack through the woods. The bushwhack was about half a mile one way. Frosty chose a path following some hardwoods, so it wasn’t bad traveling. A few fling backs to watch out for and a couple logs to step over.
Then, we popped out onto the Caribou Valley Road, a logging road that we needed to travel to get to the trailhead. We walked for about a mile and a half, one way, on the Caribou Valley Road. Not long after we emerged onto the road, there was a log yard. After the log yard, there was some slash scattered on the road. Further down the road, the snow covered up a section of uneven, bumpy ice.
We found the trailhead and started our hike proper. The trail was open ground and wet in a couple places. It was also a very gradual uphill, until we came to the sign for the Crocker Cirque Campsite. Christine and Mike had bare booted it to this point. While Frosty and I had our microspikes on.
Everyone changed into snowshoes at this point, except me. I was stubborn and didn’t want to take the time to change. Those of you with winter experience and general life experience, have already predicted how this decision went. I had to stop about ten minutes later and put on my snowshoes. The added traction and especially the heel lifts helped immensely with this steep terrain.
After the campsite sign, the trail got steep fast and stayed pretty steep. There were some brief respites of almost level trail, I think I heard angels singing on one of these sections. This allowed me to almost catch up to everyone else. This was my first snowshoe of the season, and I was feeling it!
We also encountered one wind blown ice covered rock section. It took some work to get up this section (digging those snowshoes in, engaging those core muscles, and powering those thighs to lift up). Luckily, it was a very short section.
Eventually, we made it to the South Crocker summit sign. We took the short spur trail to the summit viewpoint. The day was a gray, overcast one, but the view was still beautiful.
Then we headed over to North Crocker. The trail headed down to the col. While going down was a nice break, I knew later that I would have to go back up this section. Alternatively, when I started heading up to North Crocker, I looked forward to later descending this section.
North and South Crocker are both wooded summits, but they have open viewpoints nearby to enjoy the vistas. We stopped for snacks and water at the North Crocker summit. This meant putting on layers. Winter hiking is a layers game.
Then we headed back to South Crocker. I was totally beat on the uphill back to South Crocker. I felt like a dishrag. Nothing shows you how out of shape you are like a winter mountain hike! I nearly cried tears of joy when we made it back to South Crocker, but I didn’t want frozen tears on my cheeks!
I was so happy to be going down. It was much less work. I did butt slide on some of the steep parts. I have a crippling fear of falling that is usually a bit better in the winter, but there wasn’t the huge pillow of powder to cushion a fall in this area, at least not yet.
Frosty had scouted an alternative go around to the one extreme icy section that we encountered on the way up. We easily bypassed the ice on the way down.
When we got to the Crocker Cirque Campsite sign this time, we all removed our snowshoes and bare booted it. My tired legs slipped a bit on the bumpy ice, but managed to stay upright.
The bushwhack back to the parking lot though was much more annoying to me being tired. I also stumbled quite a bit. To end the day, I fell on ice in the parking lot twenty-five yards from our vehicle! We got back just before four o’clock. This hike kicked my butt.
Our milage for the day was just over eleven miles according to Frosty’s GPS watch with a total time of almost nine hours.