Monday, August 11, 2014

Hike – Cadillac Mountain Summit to Summit Loop Hike Using the South Ridge Trail, Canon Brook Trail, A. Murray Young Trail, and Gorge Path

Looking southwest from Cadillac Mountain
There are four major ways to summit Cadillac Mountain on foot.  I have done all of them and you can find my posts for them here: North Ridge Trail, South Ridge Trail, West Face Trail, Gorge Path (east approach).  They all have one thing in common: they start at a lower elevation, summit Cadillac, then eventually return to their start.  Cadillac Mountain has an auto road to the top of it, so I decided to take advantage of that to do a different kind of hike.  For this one I would start at the summit of Cadillac, descend on the South Ridge Trail, loop back up between Cadillac and Dorr Mountain on the Canon Brook and A. Murray Young Trails, then return to the summit of Cadillac on the Gorge Path.

Directions – Drive to the tourist area at the top of Cadillac Mountain and park. 

The true summit of Cadillac is not really pointed out to people.  Start on the South Ridge Trail, heading to the left of the store up a wide dirt road.  A few hundred feet along it will level off.  On the right look for two short mounds of ledge sticking up a few feet above the surrounding ground.  They will have metal discs set in them.  The further of the two mounds is the true summit and has the elevation listed on its disc.

From here you have two choices: you can continue on the South Ridge Trail, or you can bypass a couple small challenges right at the beginning.  I’ve been up and down this stretch of trail several times, so there was nothing special to me about seeing it again.  I chose to walk down the auto road about a tenth of a mile to where the last sharp curve in the road is (opposite the entrance to the Blue Hill Overlook.)  On the left you will see a worn path leading off the road.  In just a few feet you will pick up the South Ridge Trail’s blazes and cairns.   

View towards Cranberry Islands from Cadillac.  This is where I started the hike.
Since this is a loop it could be hiked in either direction.  I chose to start on the South Ridge Trail since it gives great views to the ocean all the way down, plus it was a sunny August day and I didn’t know how hot it might be towards the end of the hike.  I didn’t want to be going up the South Ridge Trail with the sun beating down on me.  Even at the start of this hike (a little before 9:00 AM) I could feel the heat from the ledge as the sun was warming it up.

Looking down the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain
The South Ridge Trail descends easily.  Keep an eye out for cairns since it is wide open hiking and you want to stay on the trail.  The West Face Trail will come in on the right.  Continue on the South Ridge Trail.  Just before reaching The Featherbed (a small pond) the trail will have the only moderate descent of this section.  Just before reaching the pond the Canon Brook Trail crosses from east to west.  Heading west will take you down to a carriage road and eventually to Jordan Pond.  You can read about it in my post on the Cadillac West Face Trail.  For this hike you want to turn east (left).

At the beginning the Canon Brook Trail was very narrow, with bushes grown to about a foot from each other on the sides of the trail.  For the first stretch your legs will be brushing the vegetation.  There was also a little bit of mud at the beginning, but it is easy enough to avoid, if it would bother you.

This trail descends easily for about half its length; I was beginning to wonder if the steepness of it had been exaggerated.  Just about then the trail turned into some small open ledge walking.  I had trouble finding blazes on the ledge.  Just then a man came up the trail and this pinpointed it for me.  We talked and it turns out he had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.  He said he was enjoying this day because hiking without a pack (he just had a small cloth bag hanging from his belt) felt so easy. He was on his way to Jordan Pond.

Right after this the trail starts to descend steeply and I soon reached the small canyon than gives the trail its name.  (Once upon a time this was “Canyon” Brook Trail, but at some point the “y” was dropped and the name stuck.)  The trail descends beside the canyon.  With a little bit of effort you could probably try descending in the canyon itself, but I would not recommend it.  The brook, which the trail has been following, runs right through this small canyon.

The canyon
After this one steep section the trail flattens out as it comes to an intersection of two streams and two hiking trails.  Continuing straight on the Canon Brook Trail would take you under the south end of Dorr Mountain, then up the east side to connect to the Kane Path and The Tarn.

Open area at Canon Brook Trail and A. Murray Young Trail intersection
For this hike the trail I wanted was the A. Murray Young Trail, which was a left turn at this intersection.  I started to take it, then paused.  I asked myself what I was doing.  If this were a normal hike starting with an ascent I would stop at the summit, have a snack, and rest a little.  For this hike I had reached the lowest point – about 1,300 feet down from where I started.

I actually was feeling that descent in my legs already, so I took a break.  I should explain something.  To look at me would not make people think I am a hiker.  I’m not the stereotype of the rail thin guy munching on a granola bar.  I’m carrying extra weight with me and more than once while on the summit of a mountain I’ve received sideways glances from folks and you could tell they were thinking something along the lines of “How the hell did that guy get up here?”  The answer is simple: I have strong legs. 

Even carrying my extra body weight, when I hike it’s not my legs that cause me to stop periodically; it’s my breathing.  On descents I simply don’t need to stop because my breathing is fine and so my legs just take me along.  The big difference on this hike is that the descent was at the beginning.  Once again I just went right along without stopping, but I had not warmed up my legs by first ascending.  It was a surprise to me to realize that I could feel some tiredness in my legs as I stopped at this intersection.  The 1,300 feet I now had to regain, including the final stretch on the Gorge Path where 500 feet are gained in four tenths of a mile, was all of a sudden a little daunting.  I also considered that since this was my first hike in more than a year that maybe I should have started with something a little simpler.  There was no help for that now; I would have to complete the loop.

After a few minutes I started up the A. Murray Young Trail.  Like the Canon Brook Trail this one also parallels a stream and sometimes crosses it.  The first section rises quite easily and has a lot of flat rocks laid down so that it was almost like walking on a garden path that inclined.  This was followed by a section that rose moderately, then another that was quite easy again. 

As I neared the end of this trail, though, all of a sudden it turned into a talus slope of large boulders and the trail went over and around them.  I encountered a young couple who had made a wrong turn coming down off Dorr.  They had wanted to ascend Cadillac and only later loop around the south and east of Dorr back to where they started at Sieur de Monts.  They told me there was about another quarter mile of this kind of path.  Just before reaching the next trail intersection the path levels out.

Looking up at the east face of Cadillac from near the top of the A. Murray Young Trail
At the time of this writing there was a sign warning people that the stretch of the Gorge Path from this intersection to the Park Loop Road was closed Monday-Friday during the day because it was undergoing reconstruction.  It is open Saturdays and Sundays, though.  I do not know how long this work is scheduled to continue.

Thankfully, the upper end of the Gorge Path that summits Cadillac Mountain was still open.  While I stopped here for a drink of water a man came up the A. Murray Young Trail just after I did.  He and I got to talking and it turns out both of us were hiking it for the same reason: it was the last trail in the area that we had not done yet. 

We compared notes, offering advice to each other on the trails only one of us had done.  He asked about Cadillac’s West Face Trail and I started to describe it, but then realized that my post here could do a better job than whatever I was trying to say.  I suggested he google “Tips from Chip” and “hikes” and he would soon be at the post.  His reaction was unexpected; he asked “You’re Chip?”  He had found my site already when looking into another trail.  This is the first time I’ve happened to run into someone on a hiking trail who had used my posts for reference.

About this time a whole group of folks came down off Dorr Mountain and started up Cadillac.  Apparently this was a popular day to park at Sieur de Monts, traverse Dorr, summit Cadillac, come down off Cadillac the same way I had, then loop south and east of Dorr to get back to where they started.

I decided I should bite the bullet and finish this last, very steep section.  As it turns out, the need to stop every few seconds to make sure of a proper foothold or handhold sort of gave me built in pauses to have “micro-rests”.  Ascending this last piece wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be.

Frenchman Bay as seen from near the top of the Gorge Path
There were a couple dozen people who had descended a little ways on the east side of Cadillac from the scenic loop path at the top.  I worked my way through them, did the scenic loop for the umpteenth time, went back to the real summit, then finished back at my car.  It took me about 3 hours and 45 minutes, but I spent at least a half hour talking with the folks I met, and if I had been hiking regularly I would have done the A. Murray Young Trail in less time.

Cumulative distance:            3.7 miles for hike; 4.0 including the scenic tourist loop
Cumulative elevation gain:  1,300 feet
Cumulative duration:            2.5 – 3 hours (including time for photos)

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