Hey! It’s DD. We hiked the LONGEST 2.6 miles (up) of our LIVES on this mountain up Mount Waumbek to Starr King – but it was worth it. (Isn’t it always?) Our friend Jess S. joined us for this hike. She recently geared up and bought some gaiters and microspikes, so this was her first BIG winter hike where any winter gear was necessary. Fortunately, Willow lends us her extra Tubbs Snowshoes, so we were fully equipped for the fresh snow we would encounter. We left Hampden, Maine, at the crack of dawn – 5:15 a.m. – with Willow at the helm. She’s our morning person and gets a thrill out of driving. Jess gets a thrill out of dragging me out of my bed at 4:30 a.m. I am not a morning person…but they deal with me because they are my tribe. (Pro tip – pack your bags the night before. It’s ALWAYS worth it.)
Fortunately, I had thought to bring my Yankee Swap gift from Christmas –Travel Set complete with an eye mask, ear plugs, super soft blanket, and a pillow. I thought I’d never use it when I got it, however, it’s proven itself to be quite a prized possession for our White Mountain road trips! Anyways – I always conk out in the back and the girls direct our trusty steed to the trailhead. I wake up in perfect time to hit up the Dunkin Donuts in Dixfield for some iced coffee and an egg sandwich to get me rolling. (Our flavor of choice, in case you were wondering, dark roasted iced coffee with a coconut flavor shot). There was a blizzard coming on the radar, but it wasn’t supposed to hit us until Monday morning – we are always sure to keep an eye on the conditions, knowing how quickly things can change, and made sure summit conditions were safe and not too cold. Check Trail Conditions here. (+ bookmark it!) and you can also use the National Weather Service. Nothing was going to keep us from our summit of Mount Waumbek to Starr King!
Conditions stayed good, so we geared up and got going. We parked in the little area across the street from the trailhead (NOT the area where it says “Snowmobiles Only” next to the gas station.) In the summer, you can park closer but the lot is not plowed in the winter. Lo and behold – as soon as we were getting ready to leave the car, some familiar faces pulled up next to us – it was our friends that we had buddied up with on Tecumseh! Seriously, what are the chances? (HIIII RHONDA + TANYA! So awesome we connected. Looking forward to many more trail adventures with you babes!)
We had to head up a private road to the trailhead and I was already getting out of breath. I thought to myself “Man, this is going to be one HELL of a day.” I was sort of right – haha. It was a bit of an adventure and definitely a challenge. The trailhead is over to the right. You’ll walk down a relatively long path, next to people’s summer homes and be sure to be on the lookout for the sign. It’s all uphill from there!
We geared up with our Tubbs snowshoes, and set off to explore!
The trail winds through the woods for a slow initial ascent. There were a few other groups on the trail that day and they were all super friendly.We ran into our friends Rhonda and Tonya again on the trail, and one of the other groups took a photo for us. (P.S. they were a Meetup group and definitely were having a great time! If you live in an area where this is available, check it out.)
We love making new friends on the trail. It’s also super encouraging to see people having a similar experience, especially if you’re struggling to put one foot in front of the other! (Definitely, that was Jess and me on this day.) Willow and her gazelle legs carry her gracefully and quickly up the mountain. Willow hikes a lot faster than Jess and me, so we made her break trail. Then we let her leave us in the dust, as we were one-two stepping our way up the mountain. She was out of sight in no time (#hikinggoals!). I am in training but nature squished me (I’m short), so I’m genetically dispositioned to be slower. But it’s all good – that’s why you hike in groups! Another pro tip – when you’re hiking in the winter, you get a bit anxious and it’s sometimes hard to eat. I love baby food for this reason. It’s a great nutrient rich squeeze that will keep you going and will give you energy. I
Another pro tip – when you’re hiking in the winter, you may get a bit anxious and it’s sometimes hard to eat. I love baby food for this reason. It’s a great nutrient rich squeeze that will keep you going and will give you energy. I had a nice Plum Organics squeeze – with kale, strawberry, amaranth and greek yogurt – Mighty 4. Deeeeligtful. And don’t forget your trusty Camelbak bottle, not a bladder. We prefer the .75 Chute bottle, shown below. If you use the bladder, the tube will freeze in the winter and that’s no good.
After heading through the slow incline in the forest, we reached the steeper incline heading up, where we had to push through. As always, it’s magical. And brutal. If you step off the trail you’ll sink right in! 🙂 I hope you enjoy my series of exasperated looks.
This mountain has a lot of “you’re almost there!” moments. It’s quite a hobbit-land once you get up above the tree line. You’ll have a lot of time above tree line and it makes for great photos ops! We’d recommend Mount Waumbek to Starr King for a challenging winter hike!
Willow was on her way back down, so Jess and I decided to head up to Starr King and then turn around. Starr King is an interesting summit. There’s nothing to determine that this is a summit – except a very strange stone fireplace. Apparently, it’s from a former shelter. Who knows? But I wanted to have a fire in it! The group that was hiking behind us let us know that we were in fact at the summit of Mount Starr King – so we did our selfies, took our celebratory shot of Fireball, and then began heading back down the mountain to meet our friend.
Starr King is a very excellent summit. It feels like it takes FOREVER – even though it’s only 2.6 miles from the trail head. Probably because it’s 3,907 feet and Waumbek is 4,006. After you reach this peak, you travel another mile to gain 100 feet of elevation. I’d say our summit of Starr King was a success.
It was rather cold at the top, so we broke out the hand warmers and booked it down. We have a fear of frostbite and our hand warmers were key. I actually used a body warmer, and just kept passing it from hand-to-hand outside my glove, so I could still take photos and hold my poles. (The hand warmer is featured in the second video down below. ha!) We got to play a bit on the way down, and take some videos with the GoPro!
We made it down in epic time. I only fell an approximately 4 times but we were on powder, so it was relatively fun. I remember making it down to the forest where the winding path was and it was much better looking going down. Looking back, I realized how angry it made me on the way up! We had a great time on the descent and made it back to the car around 2:30 p.m. Willow was taking a quick nap using the travel set, she’d been waiting for us for a few hours. Thanks for not leaving us, Willow! She’s our fearless (sometimes impatient) leader.
After the hike, we were all craving bloody marys, so we headed over to Sunday River Brewing. They had some live music and the vibe was great. We ordered some appetizers and hydrated with water while we waited for our delicious bloodies!
This was a great hike and we recommend it for experienced hikers (when the snow is fresh and deep). It could be a good trail for moderately experienced hikers when snowshoes are not required. This is definitely not a trek for beginners.
Elevation: 4,006 feet – Waumbek – 3,907 – Starr King
Prominence :1,289 feet – Waumbek – 1,188 ft. Starr King
Lists: AMC 4,000 footers
Distance: 5.2 miles RT
Approximate Time: 5.5 hours – Start at 9:30 am – Summit at 1 pm – down at 3 pm.
Stay tuned for many more adventures as DD attempts to hike 35 mountains this year in honor of her 35th trip around the sun. This was 3/35.
Follow #DDs35for35 for all of her peaks!
Questions about winter hiking? Shoot us an email at LoveMaineAdventures@gmail.com. Have you done this peak? Show us some love in the comments below!
DD + Jess S. + Willow