Kevin and I had a great time backpacking in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness over the weekend. We traveled light since we're both perfectly happy living a few days on instant oatmeal and Ramon Noodles.
The Bickford Brook Trail up to the summit of Speckled Mountain is well maintained with easy footing. It climbs steadily from the parking area at Brickett Place. Originally, we had planned to continue on over the summit and camp somewhere along the Great Brook Trail. But as we hiked Bickford Brook, it became evident that the area was extremely dry. There was not a drop of water anywhere. Just over the summit of Speckled there is a spring. So we decided that if there was any water at the spring, we would camp on Speckled for the night. We dropped our packs at the summit and enjoyed a snack. Then we explored the area, finding a few shallow pools of water at the spring. We made the decision to stay there, not knowing if we would find any more water if we continued. We hiked around a little bit and then set up camp. We found the trails beyond the summit of Speckled extremely rough and difficult to follow. This is a "wilderness area" and by definition, most of the trails are not blazed or maintained.
The views from the rocky top of Speckled are fantastic! For a small mountain (2906 ft) it was very impressive. Looking North we could see Caribou Mountain. To the South and West are Baldface, the Carters, and the Presidentials. It was clear enough on Friday afternoon to get a good view of Mt Washington. We were joined on the top by a group of teenage girls and their male chaperon. They decided to sleep in their bags right on the rocky summit. Kevin made a nice campfire and we enjoyed it's warmth before turning in for the night. The night was cold, but we were very comfortable. Kevin and I had set up our tent in a nice sheltered area close to the summit. We heard the wind howling all night, but our spot was so sheltered that the tent fabric never even rustled. The girls lay in their sleeping bags with jackets, gloves, and hats on, but by the sound of their snoring I think they slept well.
The next day we hiked West over very rugged trails, taking just my small Gregory Backpack with only the essentials for a day hike and leaving our camping gear at our campsite. It's a nice pack and I could cinch it down to the size of a large day pack. This was a good thing, because we had to climb over, under, and around many fallen trees. We met two backpackers heading toward Speckled and learned that we had made the right decision to camp on Speckled. They had been without water because everything was dried up. They also told us that the trails further on were pretty much non-existent. We hiked on and found this to be true.
When we had enough of our weekend wilderness experience, we hiked back down to our vehicle over the Blueberry Ridge Trail. This is wide open ledge for much of the way. It was easy going on flat smooth rocks with sunshine and gorgeous views! I said something like, "I should hike with a 30 pound pack all the time! I'd build so much strength and fitness!" Then we came to a one mile stretch of steep rocky descent before the junction with Bickford Brook Trail that was quite challenging with the backpacks. Trying to keep the descent under control was amazingly hard on the legs. After struggling over this for some time, Kevin reminded me that just a short time earlier I had wanted to lug that thirty pound pack around all the time for training. Okay, maybe I didn't feel that way anymore.
We really enjoyed spending time in the woods together, but the hot tub and our comfortable bed sure felt nice when we got home! We plan to get back out to day hike Caribou Mountain in the future. Also, I think going up Bickford Brook to the top of Speckled and then down Blueberry Ridge would be very runnable and enjoyable other than that one steep loose mile, which I'd have to walk. So that will be a trail run for me sometime soon.