July 2, 2005.
Baldface Circle Tr > Eagle Link (oops) > back to Bicknell Ridge
13 (?) mi | 4000′ ele. gain | 8:15 hr
It was day 2 of my summer camping escape and I was thrilled to wake up to blue skies. I hopped in the car at about 7 am and drove to the Baldface Loop Trailhead.
The hike began in a lovely, fairytale forest with short spurs to such attractions as Emerald Pool and Chandler Gorge. But once the trail reached the exposed, steep slabs that give the Baldfaces their names, the character of the hike changed dramatically. I scrambled up the slabs, being mindful of the slippery, mossy bits, and trying really hard not to fall. My boots felt like they had no traction and I slipped several times. I wondered if I’d even make it up there.
Before the summit I paused to have some lunch. Pressing on after that, I reached the alpine zone and had some flashbacks to a hike I did with my dad 2 years prior. It was a barren landscape, scattered with boulders and the occasional lichen or flowering plant clinging to the mountain. The wind whipped by me and I had to stop and put on a long-sleeved shirt to cut the chill.
It was spooky up here but stunningly beautiful. The Appalachian Mountains lazily stretched out in all directions. I stopped just to gawk at the scene every 5 minutes. And I was all alone. It was all mine. I can’t describe what an awesome feeling it was to seem to be at the pinnacle of the universe with no distractions, no nonsense, just the chilling wind, incomparable beauty and complete monopoly of the view.
When I reached the top of South Baldface I asked another hiker to take my picture before he set off in the opposite direction. And so began my sad welcome back to civilization. Several solo hikers and cute couples passed me by. Yuck.
On the way back down I decided to take a little detour to Eagle Cascade before returning to Rte 113. Little did I realize that the “Eagle Cascade Link” and “Eagle Link” trail are two different trails heading in very different directions. And so, I traipsed down the Eagle Link trail quite oblivious to where I was headed. Conservatively I estimate that I walked 1.5 miles down the trail before crossing paths with an old man who was doing some trail work. We said some short hellos, he asked me where I was headed and he kindly pointed me in the right direction, straight back where I came from. UGH. At least I’m lucky I ran into him when I did.
Disheartened, I slowly hiked back. It wasn’t a very interesting trail to begin with and now I had to see it twice. About 10 or 15 minutes later I stopped right in my track. There was an enormous toad in front of me. With a funny-looking back leg…oh wait, that’s a garter snake! Trying to eat this toad!
The frightened toad was puffed up like a balloon and the poor snake had only managed to grab one of the toad’s hind legs so they were set in a hopeless deadlock. And I appeared to be making things worse because every time I took a step, the toad got agitated and wriggled around to square off with me.
Prior to this unexpected event I realized I only had 4 pictures left on my camera. With one eye on the toad/snake battle I frantically deleted old pictures: Blue Hills, Boston skyline, crabbing, Horseneck Beach, gone, gone, GONE. I took so many pictures, from all angles, of the little toad and its captor in hopes that something will come out good!
By the end of the hike I was delirious. I was beginning to see and hear things that weren’t there. I started really freaking myself out. I didn’t realize that nearly 8 hours had passed! And after the snake scene I was hauling ass. Although my thighs were shaking and my knees were screaming I was pushing my body as fast as I could go. My body was done before my hike was done.
As I exited the woods my eyes fixed on the ugly sight of cars everywhere, overflowing the lot. There were hikers packing up their gear, loitering, chatting. I need a hiking partner!