The Maine A.T. Land Trust’s latest Next Century hike took place over President’s Day weekend and featured a hike up West Baldpate Mountain (3,680 feet). The snow depth in Bethel, the nearest measuring station, was 79 inches and there was likely more than that in Grafton Notch. We hopped out of the car, strapped on the snowshoes and headed out with temperatures in the mid-30’s.
Our group was small (four total!) and we progressed quickly since the trail up to Table Rock had been broken out the day before. The snow was wetter than is typically experienced at this time of year, and it was hard going nonetheless. Everybody warmed up rapidly and there was some idea that maybe we should have worn shorts and less layers. Despite the conditions, we made great time. After the junction with the Table Rock side trail we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Appalachian Trail to the Baldpate summits was also broken out.
This proved to be critical as we reached the col alongside of Hedgehog Hill – here there were snowshoe trails through the open woods where a previous group struggled to find the trail since many of the white blazes (typically at eye level on trees) that mark the Appalachian Trail were buried by the deep snow. We were able to stay mostly on the trail and reach the summit in three hours. There, the warm temperatures at the lower elevations were replaced with snow showers, biting winds and bitter cold. Lunch would have to wait until we retreated from the summit. After a two hour hike down, we completed the hike in good order. It was another great day on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
Check our calendar page for our March hikes, which will be posted shortly!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust had a great hike as part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, a series of events held twice a year focused on Maine’s outdoors and connecting people to the natural wonders of Maine. The location for the hike, the State of Maine Four Ponds Public Reserve area through which the Appalachian Trail winds, was carefully chosen because it is not a heavily traveled area in the winter, the scenery is spectacular (as you can see from the photos) and the terrain is mild.
Since the Height of Land parking lot was not plowed, the group parked in a turnout up the road, and headed south along Route 17 to the A.T. crossing. Weather conditions on the road were bitter, with temperatures below 10 degrees and with gusty winds coming off Bemis Mountain and across the open expanse of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Fortunately, once we entered the woods heading up Spruce Mountain, the winds were mitigated by the trees and everybody warmed up with the effort of the short climb. Trail conditions couldn’t have been better for a snowshoe hike – there was a packed base of about three feet of snow, covered by a foot or so of fresh powder.
The conditions made for some spectacular sights and a great experience in the Maine woods. We stopped for lunch where the A.T. winds along Four Ponds Mountain along the northern edge of Long Pond, and due to increasing winds and falling temperatures, we all decided to turn around. Everybody agreed that this made for a great experience on the way back so there were plenty of photo opportunities and time to talk.
Thank you to the Maine Outdoor Coalition and everybody who participated in the event! See you in the fall for the next GMOW!
Maine A.T. Land Trust’s latest Next Century Hike was up Old Speck Mountain in the Mahoosucs. A winter favorite, Old Speck is the 5th highest mountain in Maine and arguably the easiest 4,000 footer to climb. The roundtrip distance is 7.6 miles – not too bad by Maine standards – but more importantly, the route is below treeline until you reach the cleared summit area. It’s a fairly safe winter hike if you are adequately prepared.
Three of the four attendees met at the Grafton Notch parking area promptly at 8am. The fourth and final attendee, Bob, was not technically part of the group but since he knew we were coming we invited him to come along with the Maine A.T. Land Trust group. Conditions were great upon heading out – temperatures were in the mid 30s with no wind. It was cloudy, but since two people forgot their sunglasses this was ok. Despite the nice day, the group encountered only two other hiking groups for the entire day.
As the group ascended, the snow become drier owing to the colder conditions at higher elevations, and there was more rime and now on the trees. Snowshoes were not needed since the trail was packed out. Traction aids were necessary but the trail was not as icy as it was last March for a previous land trust hike. Since the group was small we made great time and reached the summit in exactly three hours.
After a quick lunch, with much sharing, Bob headed over to Speck Pond on the unbroken trail to scout out for fishing season. Bob is an L.L. Bean guide and says that fishing for brook trout in Speck Pond is exceptional. The three remaining hikers headed down, reaching the parking lot two hours later for a total trip of five hours. They saw only the two solo hikers and, more surprisingly, a couple skinning up the trail to backcountry ski down from Speck Pond.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust had our first Next Century Hike of 2017, up Caribou Mountain in the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness area of the White Mountain National Forest in Maine. Caribou Mountain is not on the Appalachian Trail but there are great views of much of the A.T. landscape from the Presidential Mountains of New Hampshire, all the way up to the mountains in the Rangeley area.
We had a total of six hikers for this trip up the Caribou Trail from West Bethel. The temperature at departure at about 9:30am was -5 F but winds were light and everybody was ready to get out on the trail. Some wore snowshoes and took them off, some kept their snowshoes on for the duration of the hike, and one hiker barebooted the entire way. The trail had been broken out when there was deep powder, but since then it had sleeted and snowed so it was packed with a crust on top. Since it was so cold, and the snow was crunching so loudly, we made good time on the way up. We did not see any other hikers and the trail down to the Evans Notch side of the mountain (on Route 113) was not broken out at the junction with the Mud Brook Trail. This was not a surprise, given that 113 is closed to vehicles in the winter.
We reached the summit at about 12:30pm and stayed for about five minutes. The wind had picked up and Louise’s jacket thermometer read 5 F (though it was probably more like 0 F). We headed back the junction and had a nice snack-oriented lunch while standing around in a circle. The trip down was largely uneventful, though with the cold and deep snow fatigue was starting to set in. Fortunately, somebody thought of the idea of stopping at the Norway Brewing Company on the way home, and everybody revived. Since the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust wishes to support local Maine businesses whenever possible, the four Maine-based hikers had a nice snack and beer there on the way home (thanks to Mike Morrone, land trust volunteer, for paying!). Next time we’ll get the New Hampshire hikers to come too!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $2500 from the Maine Community Foundation’s Fund for Maine Land Conservation. These funds will go towards GIS mapping technology in connection with our Appalachian Trail Maine: Next Century program. The project will involve an inventory of the A.T. landscape in Maine based on categories such as:
Scenery Along the Treadway
Views Beyond the Corridor
Natural Resource Quality and Ecological Connectivity
We are excited to have undertaken this project with the assistance of the National Park Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and with local community partners in towns up and down the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Our work depends on our local partners and supporters – Maine Community Foundation is one of them.
The dashboard thermometer in my car read 14° as I made the left turn onto the road that leads to Grafton Notch. Being so excited to see my friends, I forgot to look at the temperature when I got that the trailhead. So let’s just say it was cold… Really cold. And windy.
Within a few minutes of arriving at the parking lot the four of us were bundled up, wearing our packs, and heading for the trail. A fresh layer of snow – about three or 4 inches of fresh powder over several inches of base – had fallen the night before. Although someone had been on the trail in previous days and done the hard work of packing the base, we were the first people out on that particular day.
Once we got into the woods, the wind all but stopped. We walked along the Appalachian Trail through the lovely winter landscape and took the second right turn, almost a mile in, onto the blue blazed side trail that led to Table Rock. We were surprised that the skies were relatively clear when we eventually emerged onto Table Rock. Old Speck was visible, beautiful, and covered with snow. The wind wasn’t as bad as we had expected, but it was still cold. We lingered on the rock’s exposed the ledge for a few photos and a few laughs, and then headed back down the mountain.
Although there were two cars in the parking lot other than ours, we didn’t see anyone else on the trail, and so we assumed that they were climbing Old Speck.
The 2.6 mile round trip hike to table rock was a great way to spend a crisp but sunny mid-December morning. It was a great day for the first Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Next Century winter series hike.
One of the chief obligations of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (and most other land trusts!) is stewardship. Stewardship means taking care of the lands the land trust owns or holds conservation easements over, by making sure that the terms under which the property was conserved are adhered to. We do this by getting out on the properties and inspecting them – sometimes multiple times per year – to ensure that boundaries are marked if necessary, or that there aren’t illegal activities taking place. Many of the properties the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has stewardship responsibilities over are remote and hard to access. But at the same time, they are some of the most rewarding landscapes to visit, due to their unique qualities and unparalleled natural beauty.
We generally monitor our properties in the fall when the leaves are down, but as you know the weather in Maine can be very tricky. In the slideshow above, we ventured out with representatives of Appalachian Trail Conservancy on a joint monitoring trip to Mount Abraham. With nearly a foot of snow on the ground, the going was tough. But we were able to hang a new sign in an area where snowmobiles have been entering the Mount Abraham ecological reserve area (where motorized vehicles are not permitted), find boundary markers and venture into a part of the 7,000+ acre reserve area that is seldom visited.
We also hold conservation easements on land that is not as remote. These photos (with stewardship volunteer Olin Jenner) show some of the permitted structures, boundary markers and terrain on a 40+ acre easement on a hunting camp lot along the Appalachian Trail. The entire perimeter can be walked in a few hours, but since there are multiple use areas there are details to investigate. And as usual, be prepared!
Stewardship is not like any old obligation the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has – it has it forever. When the land trust agrees to acquire land or easements, we understand that this means we have a contract with the public to ensure that the benefits of this landscape are protected. For help with these obligations we are very thankful to have volunteers, but we can always use more!
If you are interested in getting out on the land with us and learning a skill for resume building in the conservation world, contact us at 207-808-2073 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you have an ideas for hikes that will be appropriate for large groups of vary abilities that does not have extensive terrain above treeline, send your ideas along by email or social media! We will be releasing the calendar in November.
Maine A.T. Land Trust Executive Director Simon Rucker was lucky enough to attend this year’s A.T. Partners’ hike, which is an annual event hosted by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. It’s a good opportunity to connect with A.T. organizations in a great environment, i.e. outside on in Maine on a fall day at Height of Land on Route 17. And though it was a brisk 37 degrees at the start of the hike and the wind made it feel like January, once we entered the woods and proceeded on the hike to Moxie Pond, the sun warmed us nicely. Lester Kenway, President of MATC, and Dave Field, former President, remarked on the history of the trail in the section south of Rangeley, and the history of trail improvements. It was a working hike but with the great scenery, it was worth the trip out.
Maine A.T. Land Trust had our latest (and final of the season!) hike up the Baldpates in Grafton Notch on Saturday and as you can see from the photos, it was spectacular and almost every way. The weather, although not sunny, was warm enough and the rain held off until the evening. The fall foliage was at peak and despite the predictions of prognosticators that this year there would not be much in the way of good color (due to drought conditions), there was plenty.
The group met at the Grafton Notch parking area and hit the trail at about 9:30am. Most of the group had climbed the Baldpates at one time or another (like a “failed” attempt last year), but everybody was looking forward to climbing these lesser traveled peaks that are often overshadowed by Old Speck, just across Route 26 to the west. One of the group, Sue, is working on becoming a trip leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club and this was a practice hike of sorts for her.
We made good time to West Baldpate (3,662 feet) and headed down to the bog area between the peaks. This is one of the highlights of the hike, as there are views in all directions and the terrain is unique. After the bog, we reached the steep ledges on the final ascent to East Baldpate (3,812 feet). It took everybody a few minutes to adjust to this open, exposed terrain, but it was more exciting than scary. We reached the summit at about 1pm. There were great views in all directions and though there was a chill in the air the lack of sunshine was a welcome feature of autumn.
On the way back down, we encountered several groups going up or down, and everybody remarked at how great an experience hiking the Baldpates is. It was a great way to end the warm-weather of our Next Century Hikes program!
Stay tuned for our updated calendar for the fall and winter season! Make sure those snowshoes are operational by December.