As I stared up Sugarloaf Mountain yesterday afternoon I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted to climb to the top. At 4,237 feet the mountain is one of 14 Maine peaks that stretches above 4,000 feet and as such I wanted to add it to my hiking resume. As I scanned the various routes to the summit my anticipation began to rise and I decided that I would hike the 2,820 vertical feet from the base lodge to the top after the days conference events were completed.
As I rushed out of the last session, I could feel my heartbeat quickening. I rummaged through my limited gear shoved a few items in my backpack and ran out the door. While certainly not a difficult climb when considering my prior experiences with high places it was still exciting to be able to dig my hiking boots into a snowfield. I had not climbed a mountain of any significance since Aconcagua three years ago and thinking of myself on the summit drove my excited feet forward.
I soon settled into that rhythmic pick em up put em down cycle that for me makes hiking an almost meditative experience. The sun was brightly shining and I made good time as I trudged through the ankle deep snow. I was happy that I had dressed lightly and was very comfortable in my baseball hat and light fleece shirt. I stopped briefly at Peavey cut to have a drink of water and turned to look back over the Carrabassett River Valley. It was beautiful with the snow capped mountains glistening in the distance and the clear aqua blue sky. I sighed deeply feeling my stress draining away and my body felt invigorated.
As I reached Upper Narrow Gauge the snow deepened considerably and I found myself slogging through drifts that reached above my knee. The wind kicked up and started biting into my layers and I reached into my pocket to grab my winter hat. Putting my head down, I leaned into the mountain and continued forward at a slow but steady speed.
An hour and 35 minutes from the Base Lodge and I was standing on the summit. It had been a great hike up and after so much time away from the mountains I could feel my lust for exploring high cold places welling up inside of me.
Well, hiking UP is only half of a trip and most accidents take place on descents so after taking a few photos and making a phone call to the wife so she knew I was on the top I shouldered my pack and prepared for the trip back down. As I descended I moved toward a large abandoned building just below the summit and was thrilled to find that it was unlocked. Inside were picnic tables and a glorious view all to be enjoyed in a wind free environment. I sat at one of the tables and sipped a little bit of water and ate a Nutrigrain bar and took a couple more photos.
Scribbled in magic marker on the walls of the abandoned building where the following:
“He makes me want to relax near the meadow to watch the long grass blowing in the wind. He leads me to still waters to reflect my life to me. He makes me want to climb in the mountains so my mind can spread out at the top. To see the stars, to love the girls, to swim the seas restores my soul in the Summer BUT in the winter He makes me want to SKI!”
“A walk in the mountains to settle my mind, not to quiet a place, just quiet enough to hear. In Summer, a look brings memories of winter laughter . . . in Spring colors, in Fall its brighter still; I LOVE YOU ALL, When you ski remember me.“
Both quotes really struck something in my psyche and I wanted to share them with others who are also attracted to natures beauty.
Down the mountain I went and on the Spill Way X Cut was treated to a view of an enormous bull moose. As I spooked him he turned and ran and I was unsuccessful in getting to my camera in time. As I continued down the slope I encountered him again and this time he spooked me as he ran by me and directly down Tote Road.
I took my time on the descent but in the end it had only take me 2.5 total hours to complete the entire circuit. As I strode into the parking lot I was pleased by my performance but looking forward to hitting the hotels hot tub. As I soaked and sipped on a blackberry wheat beer I started to day dream about my next trip about 4,000 feet!