Thursday, December 12, 2013
By WENDY ALMEIDA
WHAT: The Eyebrow and Old Speck trails
WHERE: Old Speck Mountain at Grafton Notch State Park
LENGTH: Loop of about 2.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: About 1,200 feet
BATHROOM: Outhouse at trailhead
TERRAIN: Dirt with an open rock-face crossing that has iron rungs and a small ladder; there is also a cable handrail in one particularly steep area as well.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate to advanced (depending on your fitness level). Parents of kids under 12 should use caution due to open rock face.
TRAILHEAD: On Route 26 just north of Newry. For those with a GPS, the trailhead is located at: 44.59; -70.9471
14-YEAR-OLD'S REVIEW: "The Eyebrow Trail was a steep, challenging hike but the views were really pretty. The iron steps to cross the cliff face were a little scary but OK. The cable handrail was helpful when we were going up the very steep trail. This trail was different than most I've hiked, and that made it interesting."
16-YEAR-OLD'S REVIEW: "I thought the steep hills were fun because you had a handrail to help you. The cables helped so I didn't feel like I was going to fall down. When we got to the top the view was nice. The waterfalls on the way down were really nice, too."
Assistant News Editor, Features
The Eyebrow at Grafton Notch State Park is a trail on Old Speck Mountain that offers a lot of variety for hikers -- from the cable handrails to the iron rungs and metal ladder to aid hikers across a small open rock face. Although it's a steep climb, it's only 1.2 miles long and rewards hikers with a nice view of the notch.
My family first tackled the Eyebrow five years ago in hopes of getting a new perspective of Grafton Notch State Park. We had previously hiked to Table Rock, an outcropping on the Bald Pate Mountain side of the notch, and wanted a view from the Old Speck Mountain side.
The girls were young, 9 and 11 years old at the time, and it was a tough climb for them. It was also their first foray into crossing an open rock face. They were hesitant about this, so we took a snack break on the trail to talk before we hiked across it.
After the uneventful crossing, the girls felt like they'd graduated into the hiking big leagues. My then 9-year-old referred to Appalachian Trail thru-hikers (the AT crosses through Grafton Notch) as "professional hikers," so she was pleased to have traversed some challenging terrain (although I should note the Eyebrow Trail is not on the AT, but does intersect with it).
Now at 14 and 16 years old, the girls have a different perspective of the Eyebrow's 1,200-foot elevation gain because they've hiked steeper mountain trails. This climb is short mileage-wise for the elevation gain, so it's not easy. But I had to laugh at my now 16-year-old's reaction when we arrived at the open rock face this time.
"That's what we were so worried about last time? It's not even that steep."
And she's right. The open rock really isn't all that scary to a more experienced hiker. But I'd caution parents to talk to their young hikers ahead of time to explain the terrain and their child's comfort level in crossing it.
The Eyebrow Trail intersects with the Old Speck Trail (part of the AT), and we took that trail to loop back down to the trailhead for a total of 2.4 miles hiked. We enjoyed the Old Speck Trail because it features some pretty waterfalls, and it's an easy descent.
My family has yet to hike all the way to the summit of Old Speck. The top of the Eyebrow offers nice views, so we feel like we've accomplished our goal -- to see the notch from a different perspective. We can see the Table Rock outcropping from the Eyebrow, and that's what I really enjoy about Grafton Notch State Park. It offers multiple observation points to give kids an opportunity to view a vista point they've hiked to previously.
I think it's quite an accomplishment to hike the mountain trails at Grafton Notch when you're a kid. And it's a nice confidence boost for the whole family, no matter which side of the hiking experience (child or parent) you're on.
Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at: