Trail Monsters Ian, Stephen, and I joined Bob Poirer and a gang of trail runners from western Maine, NH, and Mass for the Grafton Notch loop. 13 runners total but only 8 or so did the whole 38 miles. My track and elevation profile are here. A detailed description of the west side, which I did, is here.
The top picture is exposed ledge near the top of Stowe Mtn. Below that is the summit of Sunday River Whitecap. The summit is a beautiful bald with lots of exposed ledge and alpine plants. Stringers are used to keep hikers off the foliage. The top of Sunday River Whitecap is worth a day hike because of the bald top, alpine foliage, and spectacular views.
Still atop Sunday River Whitecap, we're looking at (top) Old Speck, the final summit of the west side (and morning half of the loop), and (bottom) the Bald Pates, the first two summits of the east side. From Old Speck to E. Bald Pate requires descending 2600 feet in about 3 miles then ascending 2200 feet. Both ascent and descent are steep and rocky. You can also just see the stringers on top of SRW that keep you off the alpine flora.
The top of Old Speck isn't very special; (top) some of it has been cleared and looks like a blast zone. But if you climb the tower, you get a spectacular 360 degree view of the White mountains, Sunday River, the Rangeley Lakes, Sugarloaf, and (bottom) Puzzle mountain, which was the end of the east half of the loop. I can't recommend hiking Old Speck just to hike it, unless you're peak bagging. It's a very steep, rocky trail, although there is a cool creek that falls on bare ledge for the middle 3rd of the trail. I felt like Natty Bumpo in Last of the Mohecans.
From the top of the tower on Old Speck looking at the Whites.
My run: I gave everyone a 15 minute head start and wanted to catch up so I ran the first two climbs pretty hard and didn't drink any water. By about 8-9 miles, I was slowing considerably and figured that I was probably dehydrated and hungry. I drank lots of water and chowed on my trail mix but I cannot say this helped much. The three miles up Old Speck were a slog, even though it wasn't really steep at all and quite runnable. I just didn't feel like running. Very different from Camden where I really felt motivated to run the whole time.
Anyway, thanks to Bob for pulling together a fun and diverse group of runners. It was good to meet everyone on the trail. Especially Bodie, the (Portuguese?) water dog, who paced me on part of the descent down Old Speck when I couldn't keep up with the lead pack, including Ian and Stephen.