A.T. Conference Mount Abraham Hike

Heading up!
Lots of storm damage was evident.
Heading down.

As part of the recent Maine 2017 A.T. Conference, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Executive Director Simon Rucker led a group hike to one of the Land Trust’s past conservation projects: Mount Abraham.  Conference attendees had been going to seminars to hear about A.T. maintenance issues, threats, successes and, yes, land conservation, and many were eager to get out on the fabled Maine landscape to see what it had to offer.

Our group was composed of members from all over the A.T. landscape: Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Maine and Quebec.  We headed up to the summit via the Fire Warden Trail, the most common route.  Though some of the group had travelled in Maine before, none had hiked in this rugged landscape.  And they were pretty impressed.  Abraham has the largest alpine zone in Maine and we had a spectacular day to enjoy the views in all directions.  The weather was brisk above treeline and the southern contingent compared the Maine climate to that of the southern Appalachians.  There were lots of questions about the conservation status of the landscape: from Sugarloaf down the Rapid Stream valley – almost the entire viewshed from the Fire Warden Trail – is unprotected, but spectacular and remote.

Once on the summit, the group explored the alpine zone between the two summit cairns – “there’s nothing like this in ________” was heard fairly often.  On the way down, we left the alpine zone, headed through high-elevation spruce/fir forest, and then were back in mixed spruce/fir and hardwoods until re-emerging at the trailhead.

The special nature of Maine’s Appalachian Trail is a an asset to be treasured and used, and our hike exemplified that.


Art and Land Conservation Frederic Church Expedition

As part of the Art and Land Conservation Symposium portion of the Appalachian Trail 2017 Conference at Colby College in Maine, a number of field trips were offered for symposium participants.  Deb Carroll, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust volunteer, has contributed a trip report on an outing she led to Katahdin for a two-day art history expedition into the world of Frederic Church.  Church traveled the world but so loved the Katahdin area that he built his summer camps there on Millinocket Lake. His camps were a base from which he worked. The last of his studio works, Katahdin from Millinocket Lake (1895), is perhaps the most well-known of his Millinocket Lake pieces. Church would also paint at other vantage points in the region, most famously perhaps at the remote and beautiful Katahdin Lake. Many other artists followed Church to Katahdin Lake, including Marsden Hartley. Today, Katahdin Lake is part of Baxter State Park and is still visited by working artists.

By Deborah Carroll

We met on August 5, 2017, just a few miles outside of the southern gate of Baxter State Park, to begin a 2-day adventure through art history.

Frederic Church was an American landscape painter who built a summer camp on Millinocket Lake.  During the morning hours, we were given a tour of Church’s property, which still bears many artifacts from that age including furnishings, the original structure with its vertical log wall (though it’s been renovated to some degree), and a marvelous stone fireplace with a mosaic that was thought to depict Church’s beloved canoe, but which I thought resembled a sailboat.  And they gave us cookies!

By 1:00 our group of 11 artists and art historians were shouldering out backpacks for the 3.5 mile walk to Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, a frequent haunt of Frederic Church and his large entourage of artists and friends.

Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps is perched on the shore of Katahdin Lake and affords one both a sandy beach and spectacular views stretching from Pamola to Hamlin Peak and beyond.

The Camp also features wonderful home cooked meals prepared by Holly and her crew, as well as comfortable cabins and bunks (complete with pounding rain on the roof and lightning during our visit), and fish that bite your toes when you dangle them in the water off the dock (which seriously cracked us up – and what’s a MATLT adventure without something seriously cracking us up?). (Editor’s note:  Gross!)

Our group was co-led by Maine watercolorist Evelyn Dunphy, who introduced us to individuals who were well versed in the rich story of Church’s activities in the area.  Dunphy also entertained us with stories and her own insights regarding Church era exploits.  Speaking only for myself, I was left richer for the experience.  I believe that sentiment was shared by all.

Saturday afternoon, and briefly Sunday morning, found us swimming, kayaking, sketching, and taking photographs by the lake.

The hike, a short “out and back,” was comfortable, with little elevation gain, and our group handled it nicely.  As I walked, I thought about the artists who carried their tools with them through those woods and set up their easels on the shore and dock to create pieces that would then travel the world and positively impact the work of conservationists globally, and for years to come.  This adventure was so much more than a walk in the woods, and yet it was, simply, just that as well.

The Horn via the Berry Picker’s Trail

New sign.
View of The Horn, the day’s destination.
Saddleback Mountain from The Horn.
Redington Forest from The Horn.
Seven of Maine’s 4,000-foot peaks.

Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s latest Next Century Hike was a trip to the Berry Picker’s Trail – partially over land owned by the Land Trust – up to The Horn.  This traditional trail up the ridge to the A.T. was recently re-opened and is now a blue-blazed official A.T. side trail.  The normal route to The Horn (4,023 feet) via the A.T. from Route 4 is 14.6 miles round trip.  Taking the Saddleback ski trail will shave off a few miles at the expense of some ugly terrain.  But if you take the Berry Picker’s Trail, the route is significantly shorter – 7.8 miles round trip – and follows a steady but not too steep open ridge with excellent views all the way up.

However – to access the Berry Picker’s Trail, you need to first drive over a rough logging road for a little over three miles and then park at an ATV gate.  This road has deteriorated significantly since the fall so if you are heading in please use caution and have, at a minimum, a high clearance vehicle with all-wheel drive.  From the ATV gate, you walk up the ATV trail for one mile before you reach the true trailhead of the Berry Picker’s Trail.

We had a small group of just three for this hike, but the weather was spectacular.  Once we reached the A.T., we saw several southbound and northbound thru-hikers, including one from Spain.  We reached our destination – The Horn – at 12:30pm, and had a leisurely hike down.  Even at this pace, we were back at the car at 4pm.  It’s not often you can get into terrain as remote as it is on this side of Saddleback, ascend a 4000-foot peak, and then be home in time for dinner two hours later!

Old Speck Trip Report

Big day on Old Speck
Beautiful sky!
The gang.

By Louise Jensen

Sunday brought together six veteran MATLT hikers to venture up Old Speck in Grafton Notch State Park. Old Speck, at 4,180 feet, is the tallest and northern-most mountain in the Mahoosuc Range that stretches for 30 miles across Maine and New Hampshire. From route 26 in the Park, the AT (Old Speck Trail) runs south to the Mahoosuc trail and then a short spur takes you to the summit of Old Speck where a fire tower provides spectacular 360 views.

Before heading up, we noticed some folks setting up some “trail magic” in the parking lot for AT through hikers.  We did see some thru hikers coming down as we ascended; 2 particular fellows were very happy to be in Maine and getting closer to their final destination. I’m sure the trail magic was a welcome sight.

The weather started out cool and partly cloudy – really perfect conditions for hiking. Although, we “donned” some bug spray, the bug population conveniently stayed away for the most part. No complaints there!  Water crossings were easy, the waterfall was flowing nicely and the footing, though still wet and muddy in places from last week’s downpours, was very manageable.  As this is a steep and rugged hike, we took our time, stopping frequently to admire how lush the forest is this time of year and to take in the intermittent views along the way.  We passed the trails leading to the Eyebrow – not in our plans for the day – and continued steeply up and down using a narrow foot bridge and a ladder, stepping over a large blowdown and under another to finally reach our destination. Along the way, we met up with MOAC hikers and Maine AMC hikers – Sunday was a popular day to be out.

The summit was sunny and breezy.  We ate lunch, enjoyed the limited view and climbed the tower to take in that fantastic 360 view. Well, some of us did.  The tower has a very straight ladder that can be a little scary to climb on – not everyone’s cup of tea!  After one of our members did her customary yoga head stand and we took the traditional group photo, we headed down, moving more quickly than our ascent.  After about an hour, we got caught in a brief summer shower that dampened the trails just enough to make it a bit slippery so extra caution was needed.  The sun soon popped out again, and we all arrived safely at the parking lot – happy and satisfied hikers!

Baldpates Trip Report

Nice stone steps.
East Baldpate.
Some views!
The saddle bog.

By Louise Jensen

Sunday morning found 5 hikers ready to climb the Baldpates with hopes of seeing the 360 views that the East peak has to offer. Hitting the AT before 9:30, we headed northbound with warm but comfortable temps and clouds still in the sky. Bugs were out but pretty tolerable so far. We took our time, snacking, hydrating and taking photos of the many lady slippers dotting the trail and, of course, plenty pics of ourselves.  Blue sky was peaking out above the trees with the clouds clearing from time to time. Hope for those views.

We passed the side trails to Table Rock which we elected to skip as we had more than 3 miles to go. At 2.3 miles we passed the side trail to the Baldpate lean-to and steadily climbed to West peak. Views were in the clouds at this point and after a quick descent complete with a ladder assist, we finally climbed to the base of the big rock ledges of East Baldpate. The steep ledges here look scary to climb but as long as they are dry – and they were today – the footing is quite good.

Mist and clouds greeted us at the summit – but alas, no 360 views today. Even so, the summit is wide and beautiful. Periodically, the clouds would part in the distance and we got glimpses of the views below.  After some lunch, more pics and a chat with some through hikers, we headed back down.  On the way, the clouds parted somewhat and we finally had some lovely views. We continued on our way for a hot and buggy hike out, but all in all we all agreed that we had a wonderful and fun hike.

Horizon Foundation Contributes to Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust Program

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust recently received a $5,000 grant in support of the Appalachian Trail Maine: Next Century program.  The program was launched in 2016 with three facets:
1. Next Century Priorities. Prioritization via GIS mapping and application of the lands along Maine’s Appalachian Trail.
2. Next Century Land Protection. New conservation projects along the A.T. in response to NPS Scaling Up Initiative.
3. Next Century Outreach: Bringing national attention – from the public, elected officials, foundations and other conservation organizations – to the Appalachian Trail in Maine.

ATMNC is well underway and expected to be completed in early 2018.

Horizon Foundation was founded in 1997 to support non-profit organizations that aspire to create and maintain sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities by

  • Enabling children and adults to lead their communities in creative, healthy and thoughtful ways;
  • Educating citizens to be good stewards of the environment;
  • Conserving land and water resources;
  • Encouraging service to others;
  • Promoting visual arts and music, and
  • Teaching appreciation of and preserving historic assets

Thanks you to Horizon Foundation!

Arnold Expedition Appalachian Trail Hike

At the Great Carrying Place where Arnold’s army headed west over land.
The Great Carrying Place Portage Trail.
Norm Kalloch of AEHS explains how they hauled munitions, boats and equipment over the ridge.
East Carry Pond, looking at the hospital site.
The group.
AEHS cabin on Middle Carry Pond.
New MATC bog bridges.
The A.T. junction.

The most recent of our Next Century Hikes was held this past Saturday on a section of Maine’s Appalachian Trail that is not so well traveled: the area between Flagstaff Lake and the Kennebec River, more specifically the Carry Ponds.  There are no high mountains on the A.T. here, and no side trails that go to other peaks.  There is, however, a really interesting side trail that was completed just a few years ago – the Great Carrying Place Portage Trail.

In the fall of 1775, Benedict Arnold – then a rising star in the Continental Army, and years away from becoming the traitor we think of today – led an army of about 1,100 men by sea from Cambridge, Massachusetts and then up the Kennebec River to the Great Carrying Place in what is today Bingham, Maine (on Route 201).  The army’s destination was Quebec, then held by the British, but first the army had to reach the city by the inland route since the St. Lawrence was heavily defended.  The route was comprised of portages from the river to the Carry Ponds trips in bateaux, flat-bottomed boats that were hastily made for the expedition, and from there up the Dead River to Lake Megantic in Quebec.  Unfortunately, the expedition was beset by trouble from the start.  There was a late-season hurricane, the route was arduous, the men were exhausted and eventually many deserted.  The eventual Christmas Day assault on Quebec ended in failure.

Fortunately for hikers today, the Arnold Expedition Historical Society has recreated the trail with 95% certainty up to West Carry Pond.  The route is orange-blazed and has a number of signs along the way.  There are a number of roads and camps in the area of the ponds and the route needs to be followed carefully, but it’s easily done for most of the route.  The Appalachian Trail runs with the Arnold Trail from West Carry Pond to near Long Falls Dam Road.

For the Maine A.T. Land Trust hike, we were planning to cover the route from the Great Carrying Place on the Kennebec River to Arnold Point on West Carry Pond.  We were accompanied on the hike by Norm Kalloch, a volunteer for AEHS who owns a camp in the area.  Despite his protestations to the contrary, Norm knows everything about the Arnold expedition and the land along the route.  As soon as we set out, he told us about the challenges the men faced, the context of what they were doing, and how the landscape we were seeing related to what Arnold’s men saw and experienced.  There were places where historic artifacts have been found, sites where Arnold’s men camped, hauled and even where they died, and much more.  Hikers can get used to seeing the A.T. and its environment a certain way, but with Norm’s help we were able to look at the landscape differently.  This is one of the things that makes Maine’s A.T. so special: the existence of trails, history, recreation and heritage all in one place.

The total distance we covered was about 13.5 miles, but this included a number of detours and anybody can hike any distance of the Arnold Trail depending on how far they want to go.  We didn’t quite make it to Arnold Point, but it was a wonderful hike nonetheless!

If you are interested in hiking the Arnold Trail in Maine, head over to http://www.arnoldsmarch.com/ for more information.  See you out on our next hike!

Trail Maintenance

New sign will be located here.
Conant Stream
Blue blazes
Last snow
More views.
Ryan, volunteer for the day.
Saddleback Mountain

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust conserved the land on the east side of Saddleback Mountain in 2004, and there’s a recently-opened trail through the property to the Appalachian Trail in the section between Saddleback and The Horn (two of Maine’s 4,000-footers in the High Peaks region).  As part of the land trust’s stewardship duties, we send volunteers to help maintain the trail under the leadership of Maine Appalachian Trail Club.  MATC maintainers maintain and manager 267 miles of the A.T. in Maine.  Many of the land trust’s members, directors and staff are members of MATC.  Some maintain sections of the A.T. in their own right.

Maintenance trips are usually done 2-3 times per year, depending on the condition of the trail.  Both the A.T. (white blazes) and official A.T. side trails (blue blazes) are maintained by these volunteers.  Being a relatively new trail, the Berry Pickers Trail did not require much maintenance this year – just a few blowdowns and encroaching spruce branches.  The land trust will have another trip in September to tackle low-growing vegetation and generally check in the trail.

If you are interested in maintaining a section of the A.T. or a side trail, or in corridor boundary monitoring, you can find more info at matc.org.  This article is a pretty good summary, too.