According to the Dictionary of Maine Place Names, Old Speck gets its name from the diverse species of trees that grow there and give a speckled appearance to the mountain, especially in the autumn. Old Speck Mountain is one of Maine's 14 mountains with an elevation exceeding 4,000 ft. It's the fifth-highest peak in the State, and is the highest peak of the Mahoosuc Range. The summit of Old Speck is accessed via a short (0.3 mile) spur trail off the Appalachian Trail. The mountaintop is wooded with limited views, but there's an observation tower which offers a 360 degree vista.
One advantage to hiking in Maine is that the trails are generally less crowded than those in New Hampshire. When you consider that the parking lot for Old Speck services several trails leading to a variety of destinations (Table Rock, the Baldpates, plus Old Speck), it was somewhat amazing that there was still ample parking available when we arrived during the late morning hours on a gorgeous Saturday (30-June-2012).
Marty and I had already decided that we would ascend via the Eyebrow Trail, and then for the remainder of our ascent, we would join up with the Old Speck Trail (a part of the Appalachian Trail system). Then, for our descent, we'd follow the Old Speck Trail all the way back to the trailhead. The total round-trip distance for this route would be 7.7 miles.
The cliff that is traversed by the Eyebrow Trail is shown in the next photo which was taken from the trailhead parking lot as we began our hike.
(As always, any image in this report can be enhanced by clicking on it.)
The cliffs that comprise "The Eyebrow"
I suppose one way to put it is that the Eyebrow Trail offers a lot of variety! There are cable handrails, and iron rungs embedded in steep rocky sections, plus a metal ladder at one point along the trail.
Metal ladderAlthough it's a steep climb, the Eyebrow Trail is only 1.2 miles long and rewards you with a nice view of the Grafton Notch.
Grafton Notch overview (trailhead parking lot is seen at bottom of photo)
Grafton Notch (slightly different perspective)Also from the Eyebrow Trail we could see our target, i.e. Old Speck way off in the distance. It 's the pointed mountain in the center of the next photo.
Old Speck in center of photo
Once you complete the Eyebrow Trail, you meet up with the Old Speck Trail. At this junction, I found it curious that bearing to your left feels like the way to go, especially since it points you in the direction Old Speck! However, in actuality, you need to take the branch that bears to the right. Although this does in fact lead away from the summit of Old Speck for awhile, it soon makes some turns and heads in the right direction.
From the junction described above, we found the Old Speck trail to be a beautiful hike in the woods. The next two photos are just a few of the gorgeous section of trail that we encountered.
Many trail segments look like this
Would the green-coloration here be considered as "emerald"?Along the way to Old Speck, we followed a faint side-path which led to a nice view of Baldpate Mountain.
Baldpate Mountain (right of center, on the horizon)
Upon arriving at the top of Old Speck, the first thing you see is the observation tower.
Observation Tower on summit of Old Speck
We were both famished from our climb, and so our first priority was to eat lunch and to enjoy the views that are available from the base of the tower. One of these views included the Record Hill Wind Farm on Flathead Mountain in Roxbury. Ellis Pond is in foreground. On the right of the photo, the cone-shaped mountain is named Mt. Blue.
Record Hill Wind Farm
One of the other vistas from the base of the tower was looking northward. The view included what I presume to be either Lake Umbagog or lakes to the north of it.
Presumably Lake Umbagog (or lakes to the north of it)
I'll be very frank in saying that I was not looking forward to the prospect of climbing the observation tower! I don't have what I consider to be an extreme fear of heights, but rather just a healthy respect for climbing to high places on a ladder!
The photo below shows the view from the bottom of the ladder looking up at the observation deck on top of the tower.
View from bottom of ladder looking upward at observation deck
I'd pretty much decided to skip the views from the observation tower and just be contented with what could be seen from ground-level. But, thanks to the encouragement of my friend Marty, I eventually did make the climb. However, once I was on the deck, no time was taken to futz with camera settings, or with photo composition. I was more concerned with how I was going to get back down! So, I quickly took just a few photos, and then made the nerve-wracking descent back to terra firma!
Shown in the photos below are a few of my fuzzy, and poorly composed snapshots taken from the top of the tower. In two of these photos you can sort of make out the blurry image of the Mahoosuc Notch. Many folks agree that the most difficult mile of the entire AT occurs at Mahoosuc Notch! This mile-long segment of trail winds through huge piles of boulders shed from the steep-sided mountains that form the Notch.
Presidential Range and Mahoosuc Notch
Closer View of Presidential Range and Mahoosuc Notch
Shown below is one more image captured from my brief stay on the tower's observation deck.
Success Pond (lower right) and the Pilot Range (on the horizon)
On our descent from Old Speck and took the segment of Old Speck Trail that we had bypassed on our ascent by taking the Eyebrow Trail instead. There are some picturesque cascades on this lower section of the Old Speck Trail. Shown in the photos below are two of the cascades.
Cascade along lower end of Old Speck Trail
Another cascade along lower end of Old Speck Trail
To sum it up, I suppose it is a bit juvenile to say something such as this hike was "speck-tacular"! Nonetheless, it was fun and rewarding to do a hike that was new to both of us. There were nice views to enjoy, and it was great fun to scamper up the Eyebrow Trail. And, I must say that it was personally gratifying to meet the challenge of climbing the ladder to the top of the observation tower.