Winter can be tough in Maine. It’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s dark and all of it together can make life hard if you let it get to you. But there’s also something wonderful about winters on the A.T. lands of Maine where just making it through can be much more meaningful than doing the same thing in the summer.
This has been the pattern so far our the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s winter hikes so far in 2019. Unbroken trail, super cold conditions, illness, fatigue, freezing extremities – they’ve all played a role in our trips. West Baldpate via the Appalachian Trail was similar – half the group made it to the summit, half the group did not. Once again, the temperature was 1 degree above zero when we set out. The wind chill was relatively low, however, the trail was broken out so conditions were pretty good. The group as a whole made pretty good time, but was spread out along the trail. It’s pretty steep in the upper sections of the A.T. and the conditions took their tool. Cold toes. Bad knees. Fatigue. Four made it to the top and collected the others on the way down. No regrets.
And just look at the scenery!
Our next hike will be Sunday, January 27th to Eddy Pond and Piazza Rock. Sign up here!
Little Bigelow is such a nice hike – great terrain, awesome views, deep woods – that this latest Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hike was full months ago. Then, early last week, the forecast started taking shape. A few people decided early on to drop out and seek alternate plans. A few days later, the forecast seemed rock solid: it would be cold, but the big issue would be the bone-chilling winds. A few more people dropped out. A core group of five decided to proceed with the hike and pay it by ear, knowing that the conditions would be chilly.
And they were right. The coldest spot was probably the parking area on East Flagstaff Road when everybody was gearing up. It was about 0 degrees and would remain there for the rest of the day. The group was adequately covered and layered so everything went pretty smoothly in the sunny woods. There was a fresh foot and a half of snow to be broken through, on top of a few feet that was already there, so it was not a speed hike.
At higher elevations past the junction with the A.T. shelter side trail, conditions were much colder and the winds had yet to diminish. Despite adequate footwear and even toe warmers, feet started getting cold and not warming up. Everybody knew at that point that we’d at least reach the open ledge below the summit of Little Bigelow, but not the peak itself.
Which was fine! It was a great day out on the A.T. and we all had fun. Our next hike will be on Saturday 1/19 up West Baldpate in Grafton Notch. Still a few spots left!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that the organization is the recipient of a Maine Community Foundation Fund for Maine Land Conservation grant for 2019! The SCALE UP program aims to engage MATLT’s corporate members by directly connecting these companies and their employees, officers and partners to the A.T. landscape in Maine. We’ve had great success with the program so far, in its first year, and we’re hoping to continue it beyond 2019!
The Maine Community Foundation, now in its 35th year, works with donors and other partners to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. The community foundation is committed to serve all of Maine; demonstrate respect for people and places; achieve quality and integrity in everything we do; and remain nonpartisan. MaineCF is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion, and ensuring Maine is a safe, welcoming, and accepting place for everyone. The Fund for Maine Land Conservation supports projects that advance land conservation.
The latest Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hike was up Caribou Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest. We had a nearly-full hike of nine and everybody was ready to hit the trail. It’s been a cold fall/early winter and conditions have been snowy in the mountains since mid November, but our hikes were scheduled before that so we’ve been wanting to get out too!
Unfortunately, conditions were not ideal for this hike and the group did not reach the summit. The snow was soft and the trail was unbroken so the group was slowed down considerably. One hiker started feeling under the weather about halfway up and she was accompanied back to the cars with a trip leader. The rest of the group kept going but spent too much time trying to find the trail since, as per Forest Service policy, the trails in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness Area are not blazed very well.
It was still a nice day to get out with some great people. We met the owner of Pooh Corner Farm, Richard Duplessis – it is through their generosity that hikers are able to park on their driveway in winter! AND, thanks to our community partners for this hike (Rosemont Market & Bakery and REDD) we had some awesome munchies to fuel up with. Stayed tuned for our next hike up Little Bigelow Mountain!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $14,000 from the Fields Pond Foundation for our work on the Bald Mountain Pond project! The project is on track to be completed in the spring of 2019; the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is working with The Trust for Public Land and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife on finalizing the details.
The primary mission of Fields Pond Foundation is to provide financial assistance to nature and land conservation organizations that are community-based and that serve to increase environmental awareness by involving local residents in conservation issues.
The Foundation’s emphasis stems from its founding Directors’ beliefs that the conservation of special places in our environment, and providing public accessibility to those conservation areas, is a desirable end in itself; but it is also a means of building public support for future land and river conservation by increasing the direct connection between individuals and their environment, and fostering active participation in the work of conservation.
Thank you to the Fields Pond Foundation for this support! Grants like this are vital to conservation organizations and ensure that we can protect special places along the Appalachian Trail in Maine – for public benefit!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that plans are in the works to update and revised the groundbreaking ecological report on Maine’s High Peaks which was first issued in 2007. The report has guided conservation efforts along Maine’s Appalachian Trail for over a decade and with recent and upcoming land protection projects, the time has come to evaluate the status of the Appalachian Trail landscape in Maine. Old threats have waned but new threats have emerged to threaten the integrity of the A.T. Outdoor recreation and the economic impact it can have, along with climate change mitigation, destination development and health/wellness issue have all emerged since the initial publication of the report.
We will have further updates on when the study will be re-released! Stay tuned.
By Mark Cheever
Hiking up any one of Maine’s most prominent mountains during peak foliage is a sight to behold – but especially true on Mt. Abraham! Our group tackled the 9-mile roundtrip hike this past Saturday and were treated to a brilliant display of reds, yellows, oranges and greens.
After carpooling from Portland, our group convened at the Orange Cat in Kingfield for some breakfast snacks and coffee – discussing different aspects of outdoor recreation and the tourism economy while we fueled up. Then it was off to the trailhead down West Kingfield Road to Rapid Stream Road. The roads were in good shape and passable even for cars with less than average ground clearance. At the trailhead, about half the group applied all-natural tick repellent Tick Me Off Maine, a MATLT Community Partner who has generously donated product and proceeds to support our mission and hikes! (little known fact: ticks can thrive well into the fall, using fallen leaves as insulation)
After a quick briefing the group headed off, enjoying the winding trail and basking in the golden colors of the fall. At these lower elevations a prominent of ash, birches and elm produced vivid yellow colors in addition to the brilliant red and scarlet of maples, various oaks and sumac. We hopped across several streams, careful to keep our boots dry. The Mt. Abraham trail was in great condition, thanks in part to MATC trail maintainer Ryan Linn who we ran into on the hike, preparing for the coming spring melt by ensuring water bars were clear and properly functioning.
After two and a half hours we reached treeline to take in the magnificent landscape and its views. The demarcation line of evergreens versus deciduous species was clearly evident. A short while later after rock-hopping across the scree slopes of Abraham we reached the windy summit. Off in the distance the group marveled at various snowbursts across Maine’s High Peaks and recharged with various snacks, including Maine-based Redd bars donated for the group (ed note: the salted caramel really hit the spot, thanks Redd!). MATLT Executive Director Simon Rucker gave a brief history of the area, including pointing out various current and future projects. He noted the old fire warden’s tower, which had been repurposed into a makeshift shelter that had recently been dismantled by Maine Youth Trail Stewardship Coalition (thanks guys!). The remains will have to be airlifted out at some point.
As the chill began to set in we set off down the mountain, enjoying the views all the way down. It was a quick, technical descent by some very capable hikers! On the way there were short bursts of snow & sleet. After reaching the trailhead it was decided that tacos were on the minds of this very hungry hiking crew so we celebrated another successful summit at Uno Mas in Farmington. Another great hike in Maine’s glorious High Peaks!
The Maine A.T. Land Trust will be posting our winter hike schedule soon – be sure to check back in for updates and sign up for our next adventure!
Beautiful fall day – check. Nicely-maintained trail – check. Good group focused on being out in both – check. We had it all on the latest Maine A.T. Land Trust hike up Little Bigelow, the little robust mountain just to the east of the larger peaks (West, Avery and The Horns). The summit is only 3,060 feet, the approach is over open but gradual ledges that provide great views of Flagstaff Lake and the eastern mountains along the A.T. towards the 100 Mile Wilderness.
The route starts out at the very southeastern tip of Flagstaff Lake, where the A.T. exits the Bigelow Range and heads over to the Carry Ponds. We headed west (southbound on the A.T.) and very soon encountered the first of MANY northbound A.T. through hikers. The trail winds through a mixed hardwood – spruce/fir forest and the leaves were popping with color. The trail does not ascend very steeply until reaching the ledges, but at that point the views more than compensate for the elevation gain. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds once in a while.
About two-thirds of the way up, we had our first and only view of the summit of Little Bigelow. It looks far away at that point but we made it to the summit only twenty minutes later.
On top, we joined an already large group of day hikers that only grew as the day went on. In the valley below the Bigelows there were yellows, reds, oranges and everything in between on the peak foliage. The summits ringing the view – Sugarloaf, Spaulding, the Crockers, Redington, and the Bigelows – were dark with conifers. It was cold, but worth it!
The Maine A.T. Land Trust will be posting our winter hike schedule soon! Little Bigelow might be on that list…check back soon.