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Spaulding Lake, Great Gulf
July 11, 2009

Route: Great Gulf Trail
Map:
 

Elevation:

4228 ft

Vertical Climb:

3347 ft

Distance:

13 miles

Who Went:

Paul (solo)

This was another hike where I didn't have to drive all the way from home. Instead, my wife and I were at a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) camping event near Hebron, Maine, which is only about an hour's drive from Gorham. Seeing as I am not really into SCA events and my wife is not much of a climber, I decided to take advantage of the relatively short drive to go on a day hike in the Pinkham Notch area. (It takes me 3-1/2 hours to drive from home to Pinkham Notch.) I had been wanting to climb Mt Washington via the Great Gulf Trail for some time. This would be my attempt, although I knew from the start that recent rains had helped make the trail up the headwall somewhat slippery and supposedly difficult to follow.

I certainly got a good early start to the day. I was out on the trail by 6:00 AM, and soon crossed the large suspension bridge over the Peabody River. The lower part of the Great Gulf Trail is pleasant hiking; the path is wide, flat, and fairly smooth, and I was making good time. After passing the junction with the Osgood Trail, I was in new territory. The only other time I had hiked into the Great Gulf, I was with Muffin, and we had turned off onto the Osgood Trail to climb Mt Madison from the south.

I continued to follow the Great Gulf Trail as it hugged the West Branch of the Peabody River, mostly at a gentle grade, until getting close to the Osgood Cutoff, where it climbed away from the river and up a high gravelly bank known as the Bluff. From here, there were good views up to Mt Adams and Mt Madison, and down to Parapet Brook, which joins the West Branch of the Peabody River a short distance downstream.

From the Bluff, the trail descended steeply down a rough bank to Parapet Brook, crossed it over stones, and from there climbed a low ridge that divided the brook from the West Branch of the Peabody River. Here the Madison Gulf Trail comes down from Mt Madison to merge with the Great Gulf Trail for a short distance. After dropping down to the river, the two trails crossed the river on a narrow aging suspension bridge that swayed back and forth as I crossed it. It was definitely a one-way bridge; most hikers would have had a tough time passing each other while meeting in the middle. At the time, I didn't know it, but this bridge was due to be replaced in September, just two months away.

On the other side of the river, the Madison Gulf Trail turned left to climb up to the Mt Washington Auto Rd, while I followed the Great Gulf Trail to the right to continue upstream. At this point, the river is somewhat narrower, but it is still in a ravine and can dangerous in times of flooding. This is one reason why the suspension bridge exists here. Without it, heavy rains could strand people in the gulf. The other reason is that the bridge is part of the Appalachian Trail, which follows the Madison Gulf Trail at that point.

About a half mile upstream, I arrived at the huge boulder called Clam Rock. This glacial erratic is supposed to look like a giant clam, but I had trouble seeing a resemblance. I took a short rest here and had a snack, and looked around at the tentsites in the large flat area a little further from the river.

The first suspension bridge over the Peabody River. This bridge is only a short distance down the trail from the parking area.

Great Gulf Wilderness boundary sign.

Osgood Trail Junction. The only other time I had been in the Great Gulf, I had climbed Mt Madison via Osgood Trail, so I had never been further up the Gulf than this point.

A typical view of the Great Gulf Trail lower down, before reaching the Madison Gulf Trail.

Another spot on the Great Gulf Trail, through an open grove of fir and spruce.

Mt Adams from the Bluff. The Bluff is a high point on the north side of the Peabody River, where the Osgood Cutoff, Madison Gulf Trail, and Great Gulf Trail meet.

The second suspension bridge over the West Branch of the Peabody River, which the Great Gulf Trail shares with the Madison Gulf Trail. This bridge was rebuilt in September 2009.

The West Branch of the Peabody River just before Clam Rock. At this point, the river is somehat narrower, but it is still in a ravine and can dangerous in times of flooding.

Closeup of the water running over and amongst the rocks in the West Branch of the Peabody River.

Clam Rock. This huge glacial erratic is supposed to look like a giant clam, but I had trouble seeing a resemblance. Never-the-less, it's an unmistakable landmark.

Map

  Spaulding Lake: 

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