I knew when I hiked Mount Abraham in May I would want to return to explore the alpine area more thoroughly. It boasted the second largest alpine area in Maine by square acreage after Mount Katahdin. What I didn’t was that it would be less than two weeks later when I returned.
A friend and I drove up to Mount Abraham after work on a Friday evening. We got to the trail head clearing at 8:35 pm as daylight was fading. The temperature was mild and the sky mostly clear as we started up the Fire Warden’s Trail by headlamp. We made the mostly easy hike to the Abraham tent site by 10:35 pm. After setting up camp we ate dinner by a campfire and retired for the night at midnight. I remembered drifting to sleep as my hammock slowly swayed below the glittering stars.
We got up at 4:00 am, intending to get to the summit for sunrise and breakfast. By the time we packed up it was 4:30 am and with sunrise being shortly after 5:00 am, it wasn’t looking like we were going to make it. We would be lucky to even get above treeline before sunrise. I packed my overnight gear in my large pack and stashed it nearby, I then threw on my day pack and we were off.
The first red rays broke the horizon while we were still in the trees, but we caught glimpses of it and were clear of the trees shortly thereafter.
We made the summit at 5:30 am, where it was cool and quite windy. After checking out the view we down-climbed to get out of the wind and cooked breakfast and coffee/tea while watching the sun climb the sky.
After eating we followed ridge, making our way toward Middle Abraham peak. The ridge had great views the entire way and was marked consistently with cairns. At the southeast edge of the ridge we followed a path into the trees until it met up with a snowmobile trail.
We were hoping to find some sort of herd path off the trail toward Middle Abraham, but eventually decided we’d lost too much elevation while looking and headed into the woods. As we regained elevation the forest was fairly wide open, but when we returned to the top of the ridge the trees became smaller and more crowded. We basically continued to climb up the ridge while keeping an eye on sky through the trees on both sides to keep us aligned with the ridge. Occasionally we saw bushwhacking tape tied to branches but didn’t attempt to stick to the owner’s route. Eventually the trees became nearly impenetrable, their branches grabbing at our clothes and packs, and then we burst out above the treeline.
We found some cairns close to where we came out of the woods and followed them toward the Middle Abraham summit. Since there was no official path, the cairns seemed numerous and scattered. We used them as rough guidance to the summit without trampling shrubs. We arrived at the boulder and giant cairn that marked the Middle Abraham summit at 8:30 am and enjoyed a snack break.
We continued on to end of ridge to see if we could get a view to the south. We stopped at 9:00 am after going through some short but really thick bushwhacks. It looked like there was another summit above the trees further to the south but we instead made our retreat.
I later learned that both Middle and South Abraham are on the New England 3000 Footer list, which I do plan on completing, so I’ll have to return to get the south peak.
We headed back the way we had come. We hiked down to the treeline by a slightly different route, trying to get as low as possible before entering the trees. I took a bearing to the second high point of the ridge during the bushwhack (350 degrees) and determined that if we turned due west at that point we’d hit the trail with the least amount of elevation loss and gain during the bushwhack. We crashed through the trees and followed my compass. The route worked perfectly.
On the northern side of the bushwhack clouds clobbered us as we made our way back up to the main ridge. We followed the cairns and short trails through dense clouds and returned to the Abraham summit at 11:15 am. We continued down and grabbed my overnight pack from the test site and stopped at the nearby water source to replenish water and have a bite to eat.
We got to the car at 1:40 pm and as we were getting in three ATVs drove by us. They were the first people we had seen in nearly a day. We had had the entire mountain to ourselves, something that is hard to find these days as the popularity of hiking and trail running skyrocket.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul
Video of Mount Abraham bushwhack
Music from Free Music Archive: “Discipline” by Nine Inch Nails
MAPS & STATS
Date Hiked: 01 June 2016
Trail Conditions: dry
Weather: mostly clear, becoming cloudy
Wind: NE 20mph
Highest Elevation: 4050′
Elevation Gain: 3600′
Distance: 11.5 miles
Book Time: 7:35
Actual Time: 11:10