Bald Rock Mountain and Frohock Mountain in Camden Hills State Park by Greg Westrich

Hike  19 in Best Easy Day Hikes Camden is Bald Rock Mountain. This description is an extension of that hike that also includes Derry and Frohock Mountains.

Bald Rock Mountain has a spectacular view of the coast from the Penobscot River to Owl's Head. Islands dot the ocean like the clouds drifting overhead--Vinalhaven, North Haven, Isleboro, Isle au Haut, MDI. The best part is that you often have to summit to yourself even while Mounts Battie and Megunticook at the other end of the Camden Hills are mobbed with people.

The view from the summit, looking across Isleboro toward MDI

The view from the summit, looking across Isleboro toward MDI

To get to the trailhead from the junction of US1 and ME173 in Lincolnville, drive 2.2 away from the coast on ME173. Turn left on Youngstown Road and immediately turn left again into the parking area.

0.0 miles. The trail follows the Ski Lodge Trail--really a gravel road--uphill.

0.5 miles. Pass the Frohock Mountain Trail. You'll come out there at the end of the hike.

1.3 miles. Turn left onto the Bald Rock Trail.

2.1 miles. Climb steadily through towering pines to the summit.

Spend enough time on the summit to identify all the islands and features in the panorama. On the summit look for blueberries, hilltopping butterflies, and patrolling of dragonflies.

Looking up the coast to Camden harbor with Owl's Head in the distance

Looking up the coast to Camden harbor with Owl's Head in the distance

2.3 miles. Continue across Bald Rock Mountain, descending past two old lean-tos, a privy, and a small cave.

The cave

The cave

2.7 miles. Descend more steeply to the end of the Bald Rock Trail. Turn right onto the Frohock Mountain Trail.

3.5 miles. From the junction, the trail descends slightly then climbs switchbacks to the wooded summit of Derry Mountain.

The view from Derry Mountain is of beautiful mature trees all around

The view from Derry Mountain is of beautiful mature trees all around

4.6 miles. Descend off Derry Mountain, then climb Frohock Mountain. The trail ends at the summit. Again, the view is of the forest.

6.5 miles. Head back to the junction with Bald Rock Trail. Turn right, staying on Frohock Mountain Trail.

6.8 miles. Descend to Ski Lodge Trail. Turn right to return to the trailhead.

7.3 miles. Arrive back at the trailhead.

The hike has 1841 feet of total ascent. About half of that is getting to Bald Rock Mountain. The other half is along Frohock Mountain Trail.

Downeast coastal "mountains" by Greg Westrich

Washington county isn't known for its mountains. East of the mountains around Tunk Lake and Donnell Pond, the land flattens.  There are nice views from Pigeon Hill (Hike 17 in Hiking Maine) and Schoodlic Head (see my blog post on Buck Cove Mountain), but those are both in eastern Hancock county.

Looking east from Pigeon Hill

Looking east from Pigeon Hill

There are four small "mountains" in Washington county with views of the coast worth hiking.

First are Bell's and Crane Mountains along the west shore of Cobscook Bay, near the state park.

The rocky shoulder of Bell's Mountain

The rocky shoulder of Bell's Mountain

To get the trailheads, drive north on US1 from the junction with ME189 in Whiting. Drive 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Bell's Mountain Road. The trailhead is on the left in a wide, flat area 0.2 miles from US1. Follow the loop trail clockwise. The trail climbs gently to a semi-open area on the shoulder of the mountain with partial views of Cobscook Bay, especially Tide Mill Farm. The trail continues over the mountain and loop back around to the trailhead. Be warned: beyond the summit, the trail is indistinct and hard to follow. Less adventurous hikers might want to do and out and back.

Bell's Mountain's wooded summit

Bell's Mountain's wooded summit

The whole loop is 0.7 miles. An out and back to the summit is about the same distance.

To get to Crane Mountain from Bell's Mountain. Continue northwest on Bell's Mountain Road. Drive 0.6 miles to a fork. Bear right, climbing the unmarked road. In 0.1 miles reach the end of the road. There is a large, weathered sign at the trailhead. 

Approaching the overlook on Crane Mountain

Approaching the overlook on Crane Mountain

The Crane Mountain trail is a 0.7 miles loop. Like Bell's Mountain trail, it is little used and hard to follow in places beyond the overlook. From the trailhead to the overlook is 0.2 miles. From the overlook, you have a fine view of the rolling hills and bogs inland from Cobscook Bay.

Crane Mountain looks and feels very different from Bell's Mountain. The forest is less overgrown-instead of lush moss, everything is covered with scratchy lichen.

In Hamilton Cove Preserve, along the coast west of Quoddy Head, is Benny's Mountain (Porcupine Hill on some maps). This 2.4 miles out and back hike offers fine views of the marshy Hamilton Brook and the coastline. To get to the trailhead, follow ME189 east from Whiting. Drive 5.8 miles. Turn right onto Dixie Road at the sign for the Bold Coast. Drive 2.7 miles. Turn left onto Boot Cove Road. Drive 3.5 miles. The Hamilton Cove Preserve parking is on the right. 

From the trailhead, walk 250 feet to a fourway intersection. If you turn left, you can follow the 1.4 mile Hamilton Cove Trail. If you go straight, in 250 feet you arrive at a cobbled beach. For this hike turn right. In another 250 feet, turn right again. (If you bear left here, you can follow the Meadow Trail 0.2 miles to a different cobbled beach. This trail crosses a large meadow and is worth exploring.)

The beach at the end of the Meadow Trail, looking east across Hamilton Cove

The beach at the end of the Meadow Trail, looking east across Hamilton Cove

0.1 miles past the second intersection, you'll cross Boot Cove Road. Across the road, the trail goes through an overgrown meadow before entering the woods. In the woods are numerous large trees, including one of the biggest birches I've ever seen.

The trail begins to climb gently. On the rocky shoulder of Porcupine Hill, the trail forks. Turn right. In a short distance, there's an overlook. Unlike Bell's and Crane Mountains, Porcupine Hill is covered with hardwoods.

Hamilton Cove from the overlook

Hamilton Cove from the overlook

The trail continues in a loop around the hilltop before arriving back at the fork. On your return to the coast, take time to explore the Meadow Trail and the Hamilton Cove Trail.

The view of Quoddy Head from the end of the Hamilton Cove Trail

The view of Quoddy Head from the end of the Hamilton Cove Trail

The fourth "mountain" hike along the Downeast coast is Klondike Mountain. To get to the trailhead, drive east on ME189 from US1 in Whiting. Drive 9.0 miles. Turn left onto North Lubec Road. Drive 1.0 miles. The Klondike Mountain Preserve parking is on the hilltop on the left.

The trail descends through a meadow and orchard to a junction. Turn right. The climb up Klondike Mountain is short and rocky.

The 360 degree view from the top takes in several arms of Cobscook Bay.

Looking west to South Bay at low tide

Looking west to South Bay at low tide

Looking north beyond South Bay to the main body of Cobscook Bay

Looking north beyond South Bay to the main body of Cobscook Bay

From the summit, the trail zig zags south, descending toward Fowler Mill Pond--an arm of South Bay. At low tide the old mill dam is visible reaching across the mud flat. 0.2 miles beyond the summit, pass a trail on the left and continue along the shore of Fowler Mill Pond. There is access to the shore in two places.

The mill dam seen from the shoulder of Klondike Mountain

The mill dam seen from the shoulder of Klondike Mountain

From the end of the trail, it's 0.5 miles back to the trailhead. On the return hike, turn right at both intersections. The whole hike is 1.2 miles.

The Downeast coast between Machias and Lubec offers lots of great hiking. In addition to these four "mountains" are numerous hikes to the Bold Coast and its coves and cliffs. Maybe someday my publisher will contract me to write a guide to the forty best. It'll involve some tough choices. In the meantime, everyone should head east and explore.

Henderson Brook by Greg Westrich

This is a bonus hike for my Best Easy Day Hikes Greenville. It's one of the few hikes that is actually easy.

This easy hike follows Henderson Brook from where it drops out of a boggy valley and races through a narrow canyon. The trail criss-crosses the stream as it flows against one then the other side of the canyon. You can follow the trail all the way out to the KI Road or hike as far as the last stream crossing and return the way you came.

Start: From the Henderson Brook Trailhead, between the parking area and the bridge over Henderson Brook.

Distance: 1.8 miles out and back or 1.1 miles shuttle.

Approximate hiking time: 1 to 2 hours.

Difficulty: Easy.

Seasons: May to October are best.

Trail surface: Woodland Path.

Land Status: AMC Recreation and Conservation Area and Appalachian Trail.

Nearest Town: Greenville.

Other users: Hunting is permitted in season.

Water availability: Henderson Brook.

Canine compatibility: Dogs must be under control at all times.

Fees and permits: Fee paid at the Hedgehog Gate on the KI Road.

Maps: Delorme's The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 41; USGS Barren Mountain East.

Trail Contact: Appalachian Mountain Club, Greenville office, 695-3085, http://www.outdoors.org.

Finding the trailhead: From the blinking light in Greenville. Drive north on Lily Bay Road. Almost immediately turn right onto Pleasant Street. Drive 12.3 miles to the Hedgehog Gate. After paying your fee continue another 1.7 miles to a T-intersection. Turn right, staying on the KI Road toward AMC Gorman Lodge. Drive 3.4 miles. Turn right onto Third Mountain Road at the sign for Gorman Lodge. Drive 0.8 miles. The trailhead parking is on the left just before the trail and 0.1 miles before the bridge over Henderson Brook. Trailhead GPS: N45° 28.052' W69° 18.644'.

The Hike

Henderson Brook flows under Third Mountain Road just beyond the trailhead. Upstream from bridge, the stream meanders through a boggy meadow between dark walls of spruce. Below the bridge the stream turns back on itself, looking more like a weedy pond than moving water. But as you discover once on the trail, it is moving. Henderson Brook looks like a pond because it's backed up behind a ridge of bedrock. It tumbles over the rock in a small waterfall just into the trees.

The trail follows Henderson Brook as it descends through a narrow canyon. You cross and recross the trail. The steep sides are mossy cliffs in places and broken slopes too steep for trees in others. The floor of the canyon is littered with boulders of every size.

Geologically, Henderson Brook's little canyon is related to nearby Gulf Hagas. The difference is mostly in scale. Where Gulf Hagas is awe-inspiring, something one can only speak of in superlatives, this hike traverses a landscape that is accessible. The eye picks out a moss-draped cliff that seems to droop into the stream, a house-sized boulder perched beside the water that looks like you could push it over, a patch of ferns huddled against the slope where water seeps from the rock.

After the second stream crossing, the trail climbs away from Henderson Brook to an old roadbed. If you're doing an out and back hike, this is a good place to turn around. If you're continuing on to the KI Road, follow the roadbed back down to Henderson Brook. You have to find a place to cross—which can be a challenge, especially during high water. Across the stream, it's a short hike to the AT and out to the road.

Miles and Directions:

0.0 Start from the Henderson Brook Trailhead on the east side of Third Mountain Road between the parking area and the bridge over Henderson Brook.

0.9 The trail follows the stream, crossing twice, to an unaided crossing that may be impossible during high water. If you are hiking the trail as an out and back. Return the way you came to the trailhead, arriving back at the trailhead in 1.8 miles.

1.0 The Henderson Brook Trail ends at the AT. Turn left onto the AT.

1.1 Arrive at the KI Road.

Bonyun Preserve, Westport Island by Greg Westrich

This is a bonus hike for my guide Best Easy Day Hikes Portland.

Start: From the trailhead at the back of the parking area

Distance: 2.8 miles lollipop

Approximate hiking time: 1-2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Seasons: Beautiful in every season

Trail surface: Woodland path

Land Status: Bonyun Preserve of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust

Nearest Town:Westport Island. Services in Wiscasset

Other users: None

Water availability: None

Canine compatibility: Dogs are not allowed in Bonyun Preserve.

Fees and permits: No fees or permits are required.

Maps: Delorme's The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 7

Trail Contact: Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, www.kennebecestuary.org, 442-8400

Finding the trailhead: From the junction of US1 and ME 144 between Wiscasset and Woolrich, drive south on ME 144 onto Westport Island. Ten miles from US 1 turn left onto West Shore Road. (You will have passed the other end of West Shore Road at about mile 6.) The trailhead is a quarter of a mile down West Shore Road on the left. Trailhead GPS: N43° 52.602' W69° 43.123'.

The Bonyun Preserve trails follow the west shore of Mill Cove Creek to Thomas Point. There are fine views of Knubble Bay and the jumble of islands in it. The hike passes an old mill dam across Mill Cove (thus its name). There's a great information sign about the history of the area there. 

Miles and Directions:

0.0 Trailhead at the back of the parking area, next to the information sign.

0.3 Reach Mill Cove Creek

0.5 Follow the east shore of the creek to its head.

1.2 Follow the west shore of the creek/cove through piney woods to the old mill dam.

1.4 Reach Thomas Point, a rocky knubble covered with twisted pines. Great views of the surrounding waters, including the mouth of Robinhood Cove on Georgetown Island.

1.9 Leave the shore.

2.8 Arrive back at the trailhead.

Along the hike, you're likely to see various gulls and waterbirds--and maybe even an eagle or osprey.

Spring River Lake by Greg Westrich

Paddling is just hiking in a boat.

For the Fourth, we headed down to Spring River Lake--one of numerous ponds and lakes in the Donnell Pond Reserved Land. There's a boat launch and a small beach about a mile east of the Tunk Mountain Trailhead on ME 182. There's a small sandy beach next to the boat launch. Mostly, the shore of the lake is camp-free. We only saw a few motor boats during the half day we were on the water. But we did see lots of other things.

From the water, you get great views of Catherine and Tunk Mountains.

Tunk Mountain from an island in the lake's southern arm.

Tunk Mountain from an island in the lake's southern arm.

The shore of the lake is mostly rocky with sand banks and beaches here and there. On the west side of the lake about a mile from the boat launch, a small stream tumbles in. The stream connects Spring River Lake with Tunk Lake. The stream's clear water and sandy bottom is popular with sun fish. The fish--some at least eight inches long--come up and nibble on you as you stand in the water.

We pulled our boats up on the rocks at the mouth of the stream and had lunch. Ebony Jewelwing damselflies flitted about and the stream burbled over rocks, as towering clouds drifted overhead. During lunch a bald eagle sat across the cove atop a white pine. Later, it drifted over us to a different pine up the shore from us, where bluejays harried it. A mother common merganser with her four chicks swam by. The female would dip her head into the water, then each chick would do the same.

Henry and Emma watch the mergansers

Henry and Emma watch the mergansers

While Ann relaxed on a rock, Henry, Emma, and I explored up the stream. Bright green and scarlet vegetation swung in the current, clinging to the rocky streambed. Around a bouldery bend, the stream opened up into a small pond with a huge granite monolith jutting out of it. Sun fish protected their small territories of sandy bottom in the pond. Beyond that was a shallow deadwater with a beaver dam on the far side. We had great views of both Catherine and Tunk Mountains. 

Catherine Mountain across the deadwater

Catherine Mountain across the deadwater

After lunch, we paddled north to where the lake forms a T. The steady breeze was pushing waves at us. We stopped at a boulder sticking out of the water before heading back. We never really explored either arm of the T. The eastern one was narrow--more like a languid stream; the western wide and dotted with camps on the south shore.

On the way back we stopped at a low island so Emma could swim a little more.

On the island I discovered a patch of beautiful orchids growing in the spongy ground amid the sedges.

Close up of one of the rose pogonias

Close up of one of the rose pogonias

We still weren't quite ready to leave the water, so we explored a shallow inlet near the boat launch. It ended in a low beaver dam. Across the swampy ground, towering above the alders, we could see a large beaver lodge.

A successful day of hiking for sure.

Dragonflies by Greg Westrich

Sunday I saw my first Elegant Spreadwing. A male with a metallic green head and a black rectangle on each wing. At least that's what I think it was. Dragonflies can be hard. It's usually easy to decide what group an individual is from, but many species in a given group are almost indistinguishable. In fact, the only sure way is to look at the sexual organs at the tip of the thorax under magnification. The guide I have (Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson) has pages of drawings to compare.

To make identification even harder, males and females generally look different and young adults are often less or even differently colored. For example, there were several newly emerged spreadwings on the side of the dock that were pale green. 

Dragonflies have been active on Borestone Mountain since the beginning of June. Each week a new species emerges. Dragonflies are like butterflies. Each species has a specific window that the adults are around. Which makes sense if you think about it. An adult that emerges too early or too late will miss out on breeding--the point of the adult stage. 

Common Pondhawk

Common Pondhawk

Birds do the same thing, timing migrations and breeding. With birds, the idea is to have hungry babies when food is abundant. Since dragonflies don't care for their young, other considerations determine each species cycle.

Our world is an interlocking set of these cycles. Birds migrate to time the emergence of insects. Trees of a given species bloom to maximize cross pollination and beat the competition  in reseeding the forest floor.  Moose move around and breed in rhythm with the seasons and its various bounties. We humans mostly live in a world outside these rhythms--or at least an understanding of them. The closest most of us come is enjoying the ever-changing world around us.

Chalk-Fronted Corporal

Chalk-Fronted Corporal

So, this summer I'll track the rolling emergence of various dragonflies: Common Pondhawks, then Chalk-Fronted Corporals and Familiar Bluets, and now Elegant Spreadwings. I can't wait to see what's next.

Ebony Jewelwing (in Baxter State Park)

Ebony Jewelwing (in Baxter State Park)

Number Four Mountain and the trail to Baker Mountain by Greg Westrich

Today I hiked up Number Four Mountain. It's the only of the Lily Bay Mountains that is trailed. The AMC is working on changing that. They are in the process of cutting a trail from the top of Number Four over Baker Mountain and on to the trail network centered around the Lyford Ponds area.

Before I describe the hike, I want to update the driving directions to the Number Four Mountain trailhead. You can follow the directions in Best Easy Day HIkes Greenville, Maine or drive north of the Lily Bay Road from the blinking light in Greenville. After 13.4 miles turn right onto a well-used logging road. Drive 1.8 miles. Turn left onto Meadow Brook Road (there's no sign). Drive 2.2 miles with views of Number Four Mountain along the way. The trailhead is on the right (several signs); parking is across a bridge 0.1 miles farther. This route is quicker than the one I put in the guide. The road is pretty good, although there are a few places that are badly rutted. I made it easily in my Honda C-RV.

The hike up Number Four Mountain is easier than it used to be. Two years ago a whole bunch of switchbacks were added to the old fire warden's trail, which went straight up the side of the mountain. There are lots of wildflowers along the trail, including a large patch of jack-in-the-pulpits next to the long board walk a half mile into the hike. The summit ridge sports lots of blue bead lilies and bunchberries. Trillium are common. Along the summit ridge, an unmarked trail on the left (north) leads to a great view of Katahdin. 

Just past the summit, there's an overlook with a bench. There are great views of the Lily Bay Mountains, Moosehead Lake, and the mountains across the lake. It's the view that's on the cover of BEDH Greenville.

From the overlook, the trail descends and crosses the ridge that connects Number Four and Baker Mountains. The first 1.5 miles are blazed, finished trail. After that, the next mile is cut, but not yet blazed. There are lots of blow downs to navigate, but the hike is relatively easy. The trail crosses a snowmobile trail and begins to climb. Pretty soon the trail ends. Today the AMC trail crew of four was cutting the trail up the slope. The encouraged me to be the first to follow the new trail route. It's flagged another half mile over a knob on the shoulder of Baker Mountain with some semi-views to the AMC property line.

The crew told me that the AMC is waiting for the permit to continue the trail over Baker Mountain and on to Little Lyford Pond camps. I can't wait. The route is remote, passing through beautiful mixed forest with lots of ferns and wildflowers. I'm told there are ledges near baker's summit with spectacular views. I hope this trail is the beginning of the realization of Chris Keene's dream of a trail that circles Moosehead Lake. Now that would be a hike!

Common Pondhawks by Greg Westrich

I sat in a lawn chair inside the screen door. Outside a swarm of black flies did their best to get into the visitors center and suck my blood. It was a warm morning, but still cool where I sat. I felt guilty for being inside rather than outside gazing up at Borestone's west summit or looking for newts in Sunrise Pond.

An insect slowly crawled under the screen door toward me. It was dirty brown and about the size of a quarter. It moved unnaturally slowly, like it was unfamiliar with the world. Like it was a zombie bug. On its back were two bumps where its wings should have been. I carefully picked it up on a piece of paper and set it on the grass outside the door.

An hour later, I found it halfway up the side of the building. Its back had split and a huge head with green eyes had emerged. It was a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to imago. Over the next several hours it worked its way out of larval exoskeleton, curling back on itself. It was an extremely slow process and looked painful.

Along the edge of the pond, other dragonfly larvae waited. They seemed unsure about leaving the water. Occasionally, one would poke its head out of the water only to slip back beneath the surface. More and more larvae collected on the rippled shale next to the dock in an inch of water.

By mid-afternoon, the original larva's wings had opened. It hung on the wall, drying them in the sun. The wings sparkled like mica. It flew clumsily from the wall and crash-landed in the grass. Other fresh dragonflies hung on bushes or lay in the grass. Soon they would be darting back and forth catching mosquitoes and black flies.

The next morning the dock was covered with empty shells. Hundreds of them. Somehow, all the dragonfly larvae got the message to molt at the same time. Several newly emerged dragonflies hung on the dock. Their wings were closed like those of a damsel fly. Once fully inflated, they would open--never to close again.

The dragonflies were Common Pondhawks. I wish them luck feeding on the black flies and mosquitoes, so there'll be fewer around to feed on me.

Green is a category, not a color by Greg Westrich

I was standing on the dock at Sunrise Pond on Borestone Mountain yesterday. It's my office for the summer. The morning air was cool, but the sun was strong. Black flies and mosquitoes swarmed around my head.

Across the pond, on the shoulder of the mountain, the hardwoods mixed in with the spruce and pine were glowing in the morning light. Leaves are like butterflies: early in the season their colors are vibrant and fresh, but as the season heats up and wears on they fade and lose their luster. In May and June, every kind of hardwood leaf has its own particular shade of green. The beech are almost yellow and seem to glow. The maples start how with a reddish hue. It's like the fall in reverse. The fact of the matter is that English simply doesn't have enough words to capture all the greens.

It was a slow day on the mountain, so I spent some time looking for greens. Okay, so I got distracted by the beaver swimming across the pond. And the frog croaking from the mossy shore near the dock.

Even the frog is several different greens. The visitors' center sits among a series of shale ledges. In the low spots between ledges, moss thrives. Other plants such as irises and painted trilliums grow up through the moss. Sometimes I think green was invented for moss.

I realized that even the water was green.

So before the heat of summer squeezes all the color out of Maine head into the woods and see how many greens you can find.

Lily Pad Pond by Greg Westrich

Some hikes are end-driven. You toil to a mountain top or waterfall. Other hikes are process-driven. It's the hiking that's captivating. I prefer the latter. I was thinking about this as I rehiked one of my new favorites in Baxter State Park. The hike from Kidney Pond to Windy Pitch Pond is all about the process. You hike through some of Baxter's most scenic country--or at least have great views of it.

The hike starts at Kidney Pond; you follow the Sentinel Connector Trail along the pond's south shore with great views of Katahdin.

After 1.3 miles, you turn away from Kidney Pond onto Lily Pad Pond. This trail leads a half mile to Beaver Brook. From here you have to paddle. (You get the key, PFDs, and paddles from the ranger at Kidney Pond. There's a small rental fee.)

Beaver Brook flows slowly through a large meadow of low bushes and alders. You can see Katahdin in the distance. This is a great place to see moose. A ten minute paddle brings you you to Lily Pad Pond.

Lily Pad Pond offers fine views of the mountains from Moose in the west the Katahdin in the northeast. The rounded hump of The Sentinel rises just to the west. You paddle across the pond to its east end. Near where the outlet stream disappears into an alder thicket on its short tumble to Nesowadnehunk Stream, you beach the canoe next to a large boulder.

The blue blazed Windy Pitch Pond Trail leads into the woods over a piney knoll. As you hike the sound of Niagara Falls gets louder and louder. A short, unmarked side trail leads to Little Niagara Falls.

Three tenths of a mile past the base of Little Niagara Falls, a side trail leads through mossy boulders to the top of Big Niagara Falls. Several unmarked trails give access to the top and base of the falls. Take time to explore the falls and the boulders in the woods. Look for blueberries in late summer.

The view of both falls from this hike are better than the views from the AT on the other side of Nesowadnehunk Stream.

From Big Niagara Falls, the trail drifts west away from the stream through a very mossy spruce forest. In spring look for wildflowers tucked in among the boulders and roots.

The trail ends on the north shore of Windy Pitch Pond. It's a small, nondescript body of water surrounded by dense forest. On the south shore a low cliff presides. The point of the hike isn't getting to this pond; it's the journey.

Out and back--hiking and paddling--it's just over six miles.

Northern Headwaters Trail by Greg Westrich

I have a confession to make. I tend to hold people who are only interested in hike that climb mountains with disdain. Peak baggers, New England 3000 footers, AMC's Maine Mountain Guide (as if the only hikes worth mentioning are up mountains), anyone with an altitude obsession: they're missing the point. The prejudice against rambling in the quiet woods makes me crazy.

 

These thoughts occupied my mind as I stepped around swampy ground and crumbling patches of snow along Goose Ridge Trail. Two weeks ago I hiked and mapped the Northern Headwaters Trail in Montville. Today, I returned to the preserve to map all the trails that lead in—Goose Ridge, Hemlock Hollow, and Whitten Field.

 

The woods are just waking from their winter slumber. Energetic rills rush down slopes into thawing bogs and beaver flowages. The maples are beginning to bloom, their twig tips turning deep red. Frogs are singing in the half-thawed vernal pools. Overhead, bright blue sunlight streamed down. I hiked in short sleeves for the first time.

 

I hiked over rocky outcrops and beneath old growth white pines. I never had to climb more than a hundred feet. As I was chugging up Whitten Hill, I realized that I had overlooked these trails when putting together Best Easy Day Hikes Camden. I included nearby Hogback and Frye Mountains, though. I had dismissed the Northern Headwaters Preserve because it has no mountains. I was one of those people who annoy me.

 

Don't make the same mistake. For your next outing, check out the Sheepscot Headwaters Trail Network and the nearby Bog Brook Trails.

Canned Beer by Greg Westrich

I won't drink beer out of a can. I came to that conclusion one chill, rainy night sitting around a campfire in West Virginia. I had driven from Maryland to hang out, hike, and cave with some friends from Ohio. I got to the National Forest campground before dark and made camp in the middle of a field. I made a fire in a light drizzle and sat, waiting for my friends to arrive. A person gets thirsty waiting in the rain, watching cloud tatters drift around Seneca Rocks. But Boonie was bringing the beer.

 

Well after dark, Boonie and the beer arrive. He brought Milwaukee's Best in cans. I drank about half a beer and swore I'd never drink beer out of a can again. I kept my promise for almost twenty years.

 

Recently, several Maine craft breweries began selling their beer in cans. I avoided them. Sorry, Baxter Brewing, but unless it's draft or in a bottle, I'll pass. But more and more craft brews were showing up in cans at the store. It was getting annoying, but I stayed strong. I'll sit in Mason's with a pint and a plate of dirty fries, but pass on their canned ale. And that porter from New Hampshire with the cool painting of birch trees on the can, it remained a mystery.

 

Last year I had a pint of Funky Bow's So Folkin' Hoppy IPA at a bar in Freeport. It tasted fresh and green with just the right amount of bitter aftertaste to make me wash it away with another drink. I'm a sucker for really hoppy ales.

 

Back home, I wanted more, but Funky Bow only sell their beer in cans. I took a chance and bought a six pack. I poured a Funky Bow into my favorite pint glass—the one from 50/50 Brewery in Truckee, California. It tasted just fine. In fact, it was cold and crisp like a freshly picked apple. The dam was breached. Now I regularly buy canned beer.

 

According to the experts, beer poured from a can is indistinguishable from beer poured from a bottle. That's been my experience. The problem all those years ago was that I drank the beer straight from the can. That and the fact that Milwaukee's Best sucks.

Peregrine Trail on Borestone Mountain by Greg Westrich

I intended to climb Number Four mountain and see if the trail continued all the way to Baker Mountain. Earlier this year the AMC bought a block of land that included the Lily Bay Mountains east of Moosehead Lake. They have plans to build of number of trails. The last time I climbed Number Four I noticed the trail kept going beyond the overlook near the summit. (The view from the overlook is on the cover of Best Easy Day Hikes Greenville.)

As I drove north, I noticed that all the mountains visible from Charleston Hill were draped with thick white clouds. I told myself they'd burn off by the time I got to Greenville. They didn't. When I got to Greenville, the clouds hung over the town like a heavy comforter. None of the mountains were visible. The air was chill, almost gray. It smelled like snow. 

When I got to Lily Bay, I realized that I didn't really want to hike in a cloud. So I turned around and headed back to Monson. The clouds had pushed far enough north to expose Borestone, so I headed there.

Mine was the only car in the parking area. I headed up the trail. A stiff wind shook the tree tops and rattled the dead beech leaves that hung on for dear life. By the time I reached the summit, Barren Mountain was mostly cloud-free. The White Cap Range was playing peek-a-boo. The Lily Bay Mountains were hidden completely beneath their fluffy blanket.

On the way down, I hiked the Fox Pen Loop. A great lollipop trail that passes through the area where the family that one owned Borestone raised foxes for fur. The trail crosses a small wetland popular with moose and beaver, skirts the base of high cliffs with a cool overhang, and Big Greenwood Overlook. Well, worth the extra mile.

I decided to hike out the "secret" trail to the lodge as well. The unmarked trail leaves from the rocks across from the visitor center and heads northwest along the shore of Sunrise Pond. (Right now there's a blue-tarp-covered stack of firewood at the trailhead.) The trail climbs gently away from the pond, passing over a rocky spine. A few tenths of a mile from the visitor center, there's a fork. The right hand trail is the employee only trail that follows the shore of Midday Pond to the lodge. The left hand trail is the Peregrine Ridge Trail. It climbs up to the top of the cliffs behind the lodge.

From the trail's end, there's a spectacular view of the surrounding country. The three pond are lined up beneath you with Borestone's naked summit in the distance.

 

Harriman Point by Greg Westrich

Harriman Point juts out into Blue Hill Bay in Brooklin. Most of the small peninsula is a Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve. A new trail winds from the parking lot on Harriman Point Road through tall evergreens to Tinker's Lane. After walking through a gate, the hike follows the lane along Allen Cove. On the sunny day I was there, wintering mergansers floated in the shallow water.

 

At the end of the lane, trails lead left and right to rocky beaches on each side of the point. To the west, the trail ends where a series of tiny islands float in the clear water. Across Blue Hill Bay are the town and mountain the bay's named for. This is a great swimming spot—when it's warmer—especially when the tide is in.

 

The trail to the east leads to an arc of gravelly beach with a swampy pond behind it. Across the water, you have a fine view of Mount Desert Island. This too is a good swimming spot.

 

Where the lane ends, there's a semi-open area with several aged apple trees. On the day I was there, a small porcupine was in the brown grass near one of the trees. I thought it was dead. Flies buzzed around the small prickly ball, alighting on it spiny fur. I was about to poke it with my toe when I noticed it was breathing. I squatted down and looked more closely. It stirred but didn't wake. It probably passed out after gorging on fallen apples.

 

Some fall days are like a crisp apple hanging on a drooping branch. Others are more like that same apple lying in the brown grass two weeks later. Those ground apple days hint of the winter to come. The leaves abandon their perch and collect in crunching drifts. Rusty needles blanket the forest floor. Mushrooms burst from fallen logs and moist soil, spreading their spores before the season chills.

 

Spring is a noisy season of rushing transition. Fall moves much more quietly. Stone and broken shells grumbling beneath the pushing tide. Chickadees and nuthatches quietly calling as they feed. Shriveled oak leaves clattering against one another. Nothing shrill. No loud celebrations of new life. Just resignation that the wheel has turned again and life goes on.

Hills to Sea Trail by Greg Westrich

The Hills to Sea Trail wanders about 46 miles from Unity to Belfast. The Waldo County Trails Coalition—a group of nine local organizations—built and maintains the trail. At present, some of the route is roadwalking to connect woodland sections. It is designed to be a year round day hiking attraction bringing together the communities it passes through and those who come to hike.

 

Two sections of the trail—Hogback and Frye Mountains—are in one of my guides (Best Easy Day Hikes Camden).

 

The last weekend in October I dragged my son Henry on a hike to explore the section south of Freedom village. It was the first day of deer season, so we had on our orange. The trail enters the woods in someone's backyard across ME137 from the general store. Like many store's in rural Maine, it's also the local tagging station. As I organized my pack, someone drove in with a big buck to tag. A half dozen folks came out to watch it get weighed and tagged.

 

The trail climbed gently away from the village. For several minutes we could hear the swish of cars on the wet road. The woods were quiet. The wet leaves muffled our steps. Soon we were lost in the rythmn of walking. Here and there crumbling chunks of bedrock thrust from the ground. We crossed a spine of rock that was almost entirely white quartz. Hemlocks drooped in the fall chill.

 

The trail crossed a lichen-covered stone wall onto a pasture. Across the wide meadow, a white, clapboard church sat against the backdrop of an orange and green hill. We crossed another stone wall and re-entered the woods.

 

We turned back where the trail crossed Freedom Pond Road—the next section up and over Goose Ridge—was closed for hunting season. There hadn't been any mountain vistas, but it was a nice walk through a varied forest. On the way back I flushed a woodcock that fluttered noisily away. Later, we passed through a flock of nuthatches honking merrily to each other as they flitted from branch to branch.

 

For more information on the Hills to Sea Trail, check out their website at http://www.waldotrails.org/.

Katahdin Woods & Waters by Greg Westrich

Saturday I hiked in the new Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. I drove the four miles from Matagamon south to the end of the road. Okay, so the road actually keeps going all the way to the south entrance, but it's blocked because all the bridges are gone. The area is criss-crossed with old logging roads that are open to hiking and mountain biking. In winter, you can ski in from Matagamon or Bowlin Camps.

 

I hiked more than 12 miles in a loop with jaunts out to ponds and waterfalls. Along the East Branch I followed the International Appalachian Trail. The IAT begins in the monument near Katahdin Lake and winds all the way through New Brunswick and Quebec to the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. It then jumps to Newfoundland and Iceland and Scotland. Which seems like a stretch until you realize that the coast of Maine and Atlantic Canada are geologically part of Europe. Like Iceland, they were ripped off Europe when North America and Europe separated several hundred million years ago.

 

From the trailhead, I followed the overgrown road south. There were lots of moose scat and spoor as well as coyote sign. I didn't see any evidence of other hikers. I had planned to follow the road to the new trail to The Lookout—a rocky knoll that straddled the monument's boundary with Baxter State Park. Even though its only about 1800 feet high, The Lookout offers fine views of Wasataquoik Valley and the mountains of Baxter. It turns out it was farther than I reckoned, so I turned east on a cross trail and headed for the East Branch.

 

A short side trail lead to Messer Pond. I sat on the shore beneath a white pine and ate my lunch while a pair of loons fished in the pond. Between dives they occasionally called to one another. Their plaintive wails drifting across the water and into the surrounding evergreen forest.

 

I continued east to the K Comp Road—a short cut to the Bowlin Camps. I followed it to Pond Pitch Trail. I turned right and followed new blazes (there really wasn't a trail) to Little Messer Pond. From its south shore, I had a fine view of The Traveler.

 

I turned around and followed the trail across K Comp Road and all the way to the IAT along the East Branch. The trail ended at Pond Pitch. On Maine rivers, a pitch is a waterfall that's too large to navigate in a canoe or batteau. A falls, counter-intuitively, is whitewater that is navigable. The East Branch between Grand Lake Matagamon and the south entrance to KW&WNM is a series of pitches and falls separated by pond-like deadwaters. It's a beautiful and remote stretch of river.

 

I followed the river north to Haskell Pond Pitch. The pitch is actually an S-shaped section of river with two distinct waterfalls—the upper being the higher. Between the falls, a fifteen feet tall mass of conglomerate sits right in the middle of the river. Upstream, across the deadwater, I could see Bald Mountain and The Traveler.

From Haskell Rock Pitch, I followed the IAT past a shelter, a hut (a beautiful cabin along the river that's open to the public), and a side trail to Stair Falls. I'd canoed the falls twice, so I skipped that trail and hiked my tired feet back to the trailhead.

Abol Trail by Greg Westrich

The Abol Trail was always the fastest, most direct route up Katahdin—less than four miles from trailhead to Baxter Peak. It had the added cache of being approximately the route followed by Thoreau in 1846 when he climbed to the Table Land.

 

The trail followed Abol Stream to a slide. The trail ascended the slide, and then the boulder field above it. The slide was unstable and repeatedly shifted. A couple of years ago, the trail was closed—deemed too unsafe for hiking.

 

Last week the new Abol Trail opened. The first mile and a half are the same. From that point a new trail was cut, switchbacking up to and across the ridge between the slide and Hunt Spur (that the Appalachian Trail follows up Katahdin).

 

The new trail winds through dense stands of skinny spruce over a footbed of broken granite and soft duff. Much easier walking than the loose rock of the slide.

Above the slide, the new trail rejoins the old trail. The boulder field is the steepest section. Two tenths of a mile that climbs six hundred feet. I did the math: that's nearly a 45 degree grade. As I climbed, fingers of clouds swirled around above, reaching down to tickle me.

 

Visibility on the Table Land was about twenty feet.

 

Just before I reached Baxter Peak, a hole opened in the cloud and the summit appeared. That window closed again before I reached the top. I took a few pictures of the cairn, the sign marking the northern end of the AT.

 

Rather than head straight down, I hiked north on the Saddle Trail, dropping elevation quickly. All around me spectacular scenery hid behind clotted cloud. I turned left onto the Baxter Peak Cut-off Trail. Alone, I walked across the Table Land. Had it been clear, I would have had great views of the Northwest Plateau, The Owl, the whole of Katahdin. Instead, my eyes were drawn down to the carpet of green and the lounging boulders. Small flowers nodded as I passed. Pipits trilled. Here and there, stands of stunted spruce and birch grew in twisted knots. The trail passed the head of Witherle Ravine, even through the fog I could feel its yawning drop.

 

And then I was back at Thoreau Spring—just a muddy hole this year. An hour later, I was well down the mountain. Back out of the cloud. Under humid, blue sky. All the day hikes for Best Hikes in Baxter State Park are done.

 

 

Katahdin Lake backpacking trip by Greg Westrich

Ann and I took Henry (14) and Emma (9) on a three day backpacking trip. We hiked in to North Katahdin Lake from Avalanche Field in Baxter State Park. The second day we day-hiked to Twin Ponds at the end of the trail. One of the most remote places in Baxter. The third day we hiked out. In all, we hiked nearly 20 miles. (A full description of this route will be in my new guide Best Hikes in Baxter State Park next spring.)

 

A few observations about backpacking with kids:

 

At the end of Henry's first backpacking trip, when he was 8 ½, he stood by the trailhead with a grim expression on his face. At the end of this trip, Emma flung off her pack and shouted with joy. She was justifiably proud of herself.

 

Emma had been excited about the trip for some time. The morning we began, she put her pack on as soon as she got out of the car. When I wanted to take a picture of the four packs together, she wouldn't take hers off. So, she's in the picture, squatting down with the other packs.

 

Henry likes to hike fast, but he doesn't like to hike alone. Emma hikes slowly. Ann and I tag-teamed being with each child. I find it hard to walk at Emma's pace. After all, her legs are half the length of mine. When Henry was younger, I always made him hike in front of me so he could set the pace and not have run to keep up with me. Emma often follows in my wake. It helps her keep a more consistent pace. She tends to get distracted by fungus, toads, flowers, sun fish in their gravel nests, whatever. On the one hand, her interest in nature is heartening. But it's kind of annoying when we've got miles to go before I can put my pack down. I've never been very good at taking breaks or stopping for distractions. Maybe, I need to hike with Emma more. (Later this summer, she and I are doing the same trip Henry and I did when he was eight. I'll let you know how I feel about it after three days with just the two of us.)

 

I have some of my best conversations with Henry and Emma when we're hiking. There's something about the shared experience and lack of everyday distractions that puts us at ease. They both like to hear me talk while we walk. Henry has traditionally wanted me to talk about and ask him questions about science. Emma likes to hear about my experiences before she was born, especially if they involve people and pets she knows or knows of. They both demand “Uncle Andy stories.”

 

At night, Ann lays down in the lean-to and conks out. The kids and I toss and turn. When Henry was eight, he liked me to hold his hand (he denies it now). This trip Emma held my hand and slept right up against me.

 

The only complaining the kids did was in the morning. They hate getting up and getting going. We had to threaten Emma to get her out of her sleeping bag the second morning. Once on the trail, she was her usual happy, talkative self.

 

I have never had a bad or disappointing hike in Baxter. There are wonders and surprises around every corner, beneath each boulder, at the top of each hill. And it's all better with the Ann and Henry and Emma. Even if I have to do twice as much work.  

The North Brother by Greg Westrich

Henry wasn't crazy about the hike up North Brother. We followed the Marston Trail, which climbs 3200 feet from Nesowadnehunk Stream to North Brother's rocky summit. Most of the hike is in the woods with only occasional views. A fourteen year old needs more stimulation than that. The loudly tumbling stream, the bleached gray snags and dri-ki in the remote pond, the bone white granite draped with moss, the crushed orange granite sand paving the trail on the high plateau, the clear spring water rushing down the trail, the rustling leaves in a stand of birch: No. Henry wanted wide, expansive views. He wanted every climb to be The Traveler. Don't get me wrong. He kept up with me and never complained, but his heart just wasn't in it until we climbed above the trees. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

Other than Katahdin, North Brother is the highest of the mountains that ring The Klondike. It's a near perfect cone with corduroy sides—the slopes of North and South Brother have alternating bands of dark green spruce and brown. It has something to do with the underlying geology.

South and North Brother from Mount Coe

South and North Brother from Mount Coe

 

Marston Trail includes three separate climbs. The first gets your blood flowing and heart pounding. A small stream chatters away, mostly hidden by thick underbrush as you climb out of the Nesowadnehunk Valley.

 

Up on the plateau, the trail climbs gently to a small pond tucked into a cirque. Water runs loudly down the bare granite walls. Even after an almost snow-free winter, there's water everywhere on this hike.

 

After hiking around the pond, the trail switchbacks up to the shoulder of the cirque wall, beginning the second climb. This section of new trail—the original trail had no switchbacks—features white granite steps and waterbars. Damp aromatic air hangs beneath the thick evergreens. Even on a hot day, it was refreshingly cool.

 

The trail climbs near the edge of the cirque wall with occasional views south and west. Here the trail is dusty and dry. The spruce a scraggly. It isn't refreshingly cool. The climb goes and goes. Before the trail turns away from the precipice, there's a small overlook. Really, it's just a pale, irregular boulder perched near the brink.

Henry looking down at the pond with South Brother, Mount Coe, and Mount O-J-I

Henry looking down at the pond with South Brother, Mount Coe, and Mount O-J-I

The second climb is followed by another relatively flat section through tall, straight spruce. The trail is rocks and crushed granite—rough orange sand that crunches with every step. Through the trees you get occasional views of North Brother's crenelated summit.

 

Past the north end of the Mount Coe Trail, the Marston Trail descends slightly into a swale. Spring water runs down the trail. As you begin to climb, the trail gets wetter, a stream really. And deeply eroded—in places the trail is six feet beneath the forest floor. And overgrown. As the trail steepens it becomes dry and less eroded, the rough spruce boughs reaching across the trail from each side. You force your way higher.

 

And then the trees fall away. The ground is large rocks and boulders. A dense evergreen mat covers everything. And the view is spectacular. Just as the Chimney Pond ranger promised Henry and I three years ago, it's the best view in Baxter. Maybe anywhere.

 

Lately, I have come to realize that views of Katahdin are more beautiful, more sublime, than the view from Katahdin. And besides, Henry and I had this view all to ourselves. Henry wasn't ready to admit North Brother was better than The Traveler, but he had no trouble soaking in the view for half an hour.

The Owl by Greg Westrich

Every time I climb Katahdin or one of the mountains around it, I see the round granite hump of The Owl. I tell myself that I need to climb it. But I never have. Saturday, I headed up to Baxter with Ann and the kids. We were planning the hike up to the North Basin and Chimney Pond. We arrived at Togue Pond Gate at 8:00 to discover that the Roaring Brook parking permit I had paid for was only good until 7:15.

 

We opted to climb The Owl. Henry and Emma were still grumpy from getting dragged out of bed before six. They didn't transition very well. None of us did.

 

To hike The Owl, you follow Hunt Trail (the AT) from Katahdin Stream campground. The first mile climbs very little as follows the chattering stream. The forest is open, lots of big boulders and moss. Just before Katahdin Falls, The Owl Trail climbs away from Hunt Trail. From the junction, it's 2.6 miles to the summit, climbing almost 2300 feet.

 

After a short climb, the trail runs fairly level across a mountaintop. Emma struggled, not wanting to be on a hard hike. Eventually, I gave up hiking ahead with Henry and hung back with Emma. We talked and hiked and her mood changed. She ended up rocking the mountain. We named several interesting features we passed: the giant erratic the kids climbed, trillium alley, the rock garden, the balanced rock.

 

The last ¾ of a mile was straight up. Huge expansive views across Witherle Ravine of the Hunt Trail climbing a spine to The Gateway. We could see hikers—just stretched out dots, really—slowly climb upward.

 

We skirted huge cliffs and climbed steep sections of crumbling granite. We felt very exposed, but the kids climbed on undaunted.

 

From the summit, we had a 360 degree view. I turned slowly taking picture after picture: The Northwest Plateau; Katahdin; The Whitecap and Barren-Chairback Ranges on the horizon; Doubletop and Moose Mountains; Barren, Coe, South Brother, North Brother, and Fort Mountains lined up in a row across The Klondike.

 

High fives all around, then a celebratory lunch.

 

On the way back, Emma and I took a detour to Katahdin Falls. There's no place where you can see all the drops and sluices at the same time, but it's fun to try. It's a magnificent waterfall. In fact, it's the highest in Maine. I'd always heard Angel Falls in western Maine was the highest, but evidently that's wrong.

 

We climbed back in the car after seven miles tired, sore, and grateful that we'd had to change out plans.