After 2 interesting days in the Carrabassett Valley Andrew and I got up and ready to head to Mt Abraham. After throwing out a lot of ideas for the day we figured this would be the best plan as our other options down the Caribou Pond Road were crushed (literally) in the form of a bridge demolition. We made the small trek to Kingfield where we looked for our right turn onto West Kingfield Road. Much to my relief this was the first paved road in Maine I had seen thus far that was not a major route. This did not last for too long as just over three miles we were back on dirt. Per some vague directions we found online we went straight at a 4 way intersection shortly after the road turned to gravel and continued down this road known as the Rapid Stream Road. To say the Rapid Stream Road sucked would be a compliment as I spent most of my time white-knuckling the steering wheel dodging large rocks and muddy dips in the road while trying not to bottom out or skid off this “road” into the raging stream we were paralleling. After about 2 miles and what seemed like an hour drive we came to a fork in the road. The diretions online indicated we were supposed to make a left at this fork so we did. Big mistake…the road here turned into soft dirt and mud and your suspension needed to be 2 feet high to avoid bottoming out. We continued down here for a few minutes before I just could not do this piece of crap road in my little Ford Fusion anymore.
It was at this moment where we established an ongoing theme for the day, and that was to completely stop caring. We turned around in what looked like the only place that was possible and headed back down the road where we came from. We spent some time lamenting the fact that yet again the roadways kicked our ass before coming to the decision to drive to the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Area. We were a little bit disappointed with how the day was going so far, but that didn’t last for too long. We knew that it was not the ideal hike but given how nice the day was and our desire to get a climb in we decided to make the most of it.
We arrived at the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Area just after 11:00 a.m. We walked around a little bit near the base lodge, not that we wanted to waste any time we just really didn’t know where we should park or start. After going into the lodge we ran into someone who directed us where to park and for us to check in at the reception area at the hotel. Checking in at the desk just seemed pointless to me but nonetheless we went over at the attendants request and informed them we would be hiking. They wanted to know where we were for “search and rescue” purposes (eyeroll). The attendant at the desk advised us to take the “Tote Road” ski trail to the top which given our lack of any sort of plan we figured we would give it a try.
We walked past the parking lot and found ourselves a trail map. We made our best guess at that point as to where “Tote Road” and got going. The incline started almost instantly as we kind of expected since this was a ski area. We found out pretty quickly that hiking 3 days in a row was going to be brutal on the legs. I cant say that we were feeling pain but the lack of bounce in our step was definitely noticeable as our legs were more or less lifeless. This lack of power in the legs made this first portion more daunting than it needed to be so we ended up taking frequent breaks right off the bat. Fortunately we figured out we were on the right trail as we came across a sign for Tote Road.
Tote road was definitely good to us for a little bit. What started out as a grassy steep hill turned into a gravel road that was relatively flat for a short period of time. The quick break from the ascent did not last too long as Andrew and I started to make our way back up the mountain again. We found ourselves paralleling a little bit before we decided it was time to just start winging it. We took a moment to devise some sort of strategy which ended up being “screw it lets go straight up”. This in theory seems like a great idea, but we found out quickly why some trails have a lot of switchbacks worked into it. It was f—ing steep. I found myself struggling mightily to make my way up the soft grassy trail choosing to ascend it by doing a diagonal route across the trail numerous times. Andrew did not seem to have any better plan so he followed suit. We must of stopped on this thing at least six times before the top was within a realistically attainable distance. Finally we made it to the top before my suspicions that we just ascended a double black diamond trail was confirmed by the following trail sign.
Good ol’ Skidder was quite the bitch I must say as I think descending this on foot would be equally if not more horrifying than it would be on skis. Anyway from that point we managed to get back onto another gravel road who really knows what it was called. Regardless it gave us a chance to catch our breath again and look for our next path up the mountain. Sadly for my legs we still had some ascending left to do before we reached what looked like the top of the ski lift we seemed to be paralleling. Thankfully the climb to the next trail map took a lot less out of us…not that there was much left at this point. Once Andrew got a look at the map he noticed that there were only a few more trails to get to the summit so we opted to just take the first one we came across, again just winging it.
At this point of the day our legs were spent but strangely working well enough to carry us through this last little bit. After 5 minutes going up this last ski trail we finally broke tree line for good and made our way up to the rocky summit of Sugarloaf. On the way I could help but notice an abundance of trash and other crap, and oh yeah cell towers which for me didn’t ruin the experience but it did make it feel weird. It didn’t take us all that long from when we started but I was happy to be at the summit and get in a peak despite Maine throwing us infinite curveballs. We must have spent over a half hour at the summit, and despite the horrible bugs we managed to enjoy ourselves.
After touring the strange yet still impressive summit of Sugarloaf we decided it was time to head back down. We decided we were just going to wing it for the entire descent so with that in mind we made our way to the comically named Cinder Hoe. We decided the name made us laugh hard enough (yeah I’m immature I guess…whatever) that we would grace the trail with our presence. That lasted a short bit because before long the trail became overgrown with vegetation that I could not really identify so we cut through some trees and walked directly under the ski lift until we were back on a gravel road. We followed this for some time and it was pretty easy going until we decided to get back on the grassy ski trails. We came to a sign for Tote Road again as well as a few other trails which meant it was time to make another decision.
Well you can probably guess that we did not take the suggested route down because to us it seemed less direct and less fun. So we decided to literally run down the Double Bitter trail which was rated a black diamond for skiers. To be honest the running was sort of fun as we don’t typically have conditions available to condone such methods of descent. I honestly wouldn’t recommend running down a mountain although I guess all of you psychotic trail runners do so who am I to suggest its not the safest. Anyway this did help to cut more time off our descent. We kept jogging off and on down random trails until we finally saw the base lodge again. After all that transpired earlier in the day we were happy to get one closer to the Northeast 111 and successfully complete our third straight day for hiking. We decided to make our way back into “town” and relax for the night.
Recommendation for Hikers: Sugarloaf Mountain can be hiked pretty easily from the ski area but many may try to hike this from the Caribou Pond Road for a more conventional hiking experience (this option was not available to us since they were constructing new bridges on the way to the trailhead). For peak baggers it may be wise to combine this climb with Spaulding Mountain and Mt Abraham especially if you need to make a long trek to get here. All in all the hike is not crazy difficult at just over 4 miles but the views are slightly soured by the presence of the summit cell towers.
Sugarloaf: Difficulty – 3 Views – 7