The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust had another great hike with the Ladies Adventure Club this past Saturday up to Table Rock in Grafton Notch. LAC is a group that gets members out in all areas of Maine: kayaking on the coast, hiking the A.T., fat tire biking, and tons of other great stuff. Like the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, LAC lowers some of the barriers to participation in Maine’s outdoors by organizing peers and pooling resource. This was our second hike with LAC and hopefully we can lead them again!
It was another cold morning but fortunately we were able to get in this, our second hike of the winter, after having to postpone our first two due to the cold temperatures. It was about 5 degrees when we started out on snowshoes – not terrible but still pretty chilly, and soon enough various items of gear were tested by the wind and cold. Feet were cold, fingers were getting numb, faces stopped feeling stuff. The forest cover grew thicker pretty quickly and after about twenty minutes everybody was starting to warm up nicely. Once we headed over to Table Rock on the side trail (the upper, blue-blazed official A.T. side trail, not the orange-blazed rocky one) the trail conditions deteriorated. Damage from The Storm in the fall left us groping for the next blue blaze, despite being within sight of Table Rock. After about 15 minutes we found the route, but then faced very icy conditions on the last steep grade up the rock with rungs. We eventually made it by sticking together and helping each other out.
We ate lunch pretty quickly due to windy conditions on Table Rock, and the ice was dangerous near the edge. We descended pretty quickly, taking care on the ice, and made it back to the parking lot by 2pm.
This weekend is the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend and we’re heading up Old Speck! Join us by signing up here.
Now that the holidays are behind us and we have taken stock of things we are grateful for, many of us will be giving thanks for a wonderful place in Maine that is now protected for our communities and our planet: the Gulf Hagas-Whitecap project. We are grateful for the dedication and hard work on the part of Maine conservation organizations, partners in state government and most of all, an extremely generous landowner who made this all happen.
The Gulf Hagas-Whitecap project, which was initiated four years ago by the Forest Society of Maine, is a 10,000-acre area of mountains, forests and recreation land smack in the middle of the fabled 100-Mile Wilderness. 7,138 of those acres are now protected by a conservation easement that ensures public access to the forests for recreation and that the land will remain a productive working forest. The project also transferred 1,264 acres of land to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands, which includes a key segment of the KI Road and public access to the region for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and the movement of forest products . This parcel of land includes five miles of the West Branch of the Pleasant River, renowned for its high-quality brook trout fishing and paddling opportunities. Lastly, a forest products industry landowner kindly donated 1,574 acres of high-elevation lands abutting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), including much of White Cap Mountain, the highest peak in the 100-Mile Wilderness, to the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust. Without this donation, the other two components of the project could not have been completed.
This wonderful area has permanent public access, conserved forests and fisheries habitat, eleven miles of protected, high-elevation land on the A.T.—in short, something for all Mainers to enjoy for years to come. This project succeeded because of collaboration between the forest landowner, the Bureau of Parks and Lands, a grant from the Land for Maine’s Future program, active support from Maine’s Congressional delegation, involvement from local businesses, and contributions from many generous organizations and people who know and love the region. The hard work of many individuals over many years–including Alan Hutchinson of the Forest Society of Maine, who sadly passed away in August— and the patience and generosity of the landowner, enabled this magnificent project to be completed. As we move away from the holidays into the heart of winter, we are thankful for all the benefits to current and future generations because the Gulf Hagas-Whitecap project was completed.
By Louise Jensen
Saturday temps were predicted to be above freezing with partly cloudy skies and some high winds. Not a bad weather day for a winter hike. Our 2 cars with 6 hikers arrived at the A.T. trailhead on Route 4 in Sandy River Plantation around 10am where the parking lot was not plowed. No surprise there. Fortunately, we were able to squeeze the vehicles along the side of the road.
Snowshoes were the preferred mode of transport for the day. The trail was snow covered but broken out a bit and the surface was hard with some icy spots. Pretty decent conditions for snowshoeing. Although the wind howled a bit overhead, the trees, covered with that winter wonderland mantle of snow, kept us protected most of the time.
Heading out we descended slightly and crossed the bridge over the still flowing Sandy River. Ascending gradually, we reached a snowmobile/logging road at about 1 mile or so in. Looking both ways – it was “Snowdeo” weekend – we safely crossed over and reentered the woods. Eventually, we reached the Piazza Rock lean-to and the side trail to the Rock. We decided to trek on to Eddy Pond and explore the Rock on our return hike out. Further along the trail are some boulder caves but investigating those was not on the day’s agenda.
We continued up and down through narrow sections where snow laden branches crowded the trail. We passed Ethel pond on the right and Mud pond on the left, finally reaching Eddy Pond where the wind howled and lunch time was spent huddled under the canopy. Once nourished, we spent some time by the shore of the pond, admiring the cold gray starkness of the sky and the frozen pond surrounded by the evergreen-covered foothills of Saddleback.
The wind eventually chased us out and we trekked back to explore Piazza Rock. The rock formation is an enormous overhanging flat-topped boulder with trees growing out from the top. It is amazing to behold and we all had notions of what it looked like: a snake, a dinosaur head, even a sock puppet. It is definitely worth the .1 mile climb off the beaten path. Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger too long as it was growing late so we hurried out before it got dark. All would agree later that this was a really wonderful and fun winter hiking adventure!
We are pleased to announce that our Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership projects have been awarded a grant from the Davis Conservation Foundation! The Davis Conservation Foundation is a public charitable foundation established in 1989 by Phyllis C. Davis and H. Halsey Davis of Falmouth, Maine, to support protection of the environment and conservation of our natural resources. The foundation was established following Mr. Davis’ retirement as President and Chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. and has provided over $15.8 million in grants to conservation organizations since its founding in 1989.
The A.T. projects include two in Maine’s High Peaks and and two in the fabled 100-Mile Wilderness region just south of Katahdin. These funds will aid the Land Trust’s effort to complete projects that are of national significance to the Appalachian Trail and will be critical for Maine’s recreational, economic and ecological future.
Thanks again to the Davis Foundations! They have done incredible work in Maine over the years.
We are pleased to announce that the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has received a grant from the Belayer Fund of the Maine Community Foundation!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is currently working on four conservation projects for the Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership, which aims to bring together public and private partners to connect and conserve the natural, ecological, cultural, historic, scenic, recreational, and community values of the exceptional landscape associated with the Appalachian Trail and the Appalachian Mountain Range. Maine has two A.T. Priority Landscapes designated by the Partnership (High Peaks and 100-Mile Wilderness) and the Land Trust is spearheading two projects in each of those regions.
We are grateful to MCF for their support of our conservation work, but more importantly all the work MCF helps fund in Maine. In 2016, the Maine Community Foundation distributed $33.5 million in grants and scholarships from its charitable funds!
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust had our final visit on the ground, rather than in the air, to the soon-to-be completed Redington Forest conservation easement area. As a co-holder of the easement with the U.S. Navy via the REPI program, it is our responsibility to ensure that the baseline documentation is completed prior to the closing of the deal. This effectively means that we are taking a snapshot – through photos but also data and analysis – of what the property looks like when it is conserved. This will ensure that we, as stewards of the land in perpetuity, have an accurate picture of the conservation values we are aiming to protect. In fifty years, people should be able to look to the baseline as a document by which stewardship standards can continue to be measured.
It’s also fun and exciting to get out on a new project area and do some exploring! Just make sure that your truck has good tires when you head out on remote logging roads. Thanks to board member Claire Polfus and board vice president Pete McKinley for coming along!
By Louise Jensen
It felt like a late summer day when four early morning risers and one spunky black lab named Shyla arrived at our meeting place in New Portland. From there we consolidated cars and drove another 30 minutes to the Appalachian Trail trailhead located on East Flagstaff Road. We had a beautiful day ahead of us to hike Little Bigelow Mountain.
Little Bigelow is part of the Bigelow Range in Maine’s Bigelow Preserve. The Preserve is made up of over 36,000 acres of publicly-managed land near Stratton in Western Maine. This beautiful mountain range encompasses 7 summits including the 3,040 foot peak of Little Bigelow. The first section of the hike rises gradually through a dense forest of hardwood alongside a brook that, under normal conditions, would be gushing along but in near-drought conditions showed many sections of the brook to be dry or at a trickle. This was not welcome for some very late-season northbound through-hikers in search of a decent water supply whom we met later in the day.
We continued along the trail in a shimmering canopy of gold leaves overhead and then across some beautiful ledges where we had gorgeous views of Flagstaff Lake, eventually arriving at the East peak. From the East Peak we had amazing views of Sugarloaf and the rest of the Bigelow range. The warm temps, blue bird skies and the autumn fall colors all contributed to an idyllic setting for a long lazy lunch break on the ledges.
Before venturing out to the “true” and viewless summit, 2 southbound hikers stopped and chatted with us for a few minutes telling us that they did not start in Baxter park but just outside it which was rather curious. We soon learned why: a cat was traveling with them in a backpack! Pets are not allowed in Baxter State Park, hence the outside-the-park start. The A.T. is filled with all sorts of wonders.
The hike along the trail to the summit was still quite lush and green for this time of year. We ventured a little further in search of another view of the Lake but instead found another ledge with yet another fabulous view of the range. As this supposed lake view was nowhere in sight, we opted to turn back before this hike turned into a 10 mile affair instead of a 6 or 7 mile one!
Tired but happy we headed back to the trailhead. Everyone agreed that we had one of the most perfect days to be in the Maine mountains.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust was fortunate to once again receive a donated conservation flight from LightHawk, an organization whose mission is to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight. Practically speaking, they get really awesome pilots to fly over some amazing landscapes and take conservation people with them so they can gather data, take photos, inspect properties and get a new and comprehensive view of the landscape. We were fortunate to have pilot Scott Cianchette take us on a flight over Redington Forest and Maine’s High Peaks. As part of our acquisition of a conservation easement, we are required to complete a baseline documentation report outlining the conservation values and features of the property. Seeing all 10,000 acres from the air goes a long way towards doing that.
Thanks to Jonathan, Audrey, Scott and everybody at LightHawk for helping to get us up in the air.
The latest in our fall edition of the Next Century Hikes was up Cranberry Peak, the western-most of the five mountains comprising the Bigelow Range. While not a difficult hike, the last trip up in March was in difficult conditions and we did not reach the summit. This time, with much better weather, more daylight and repainted blazes, we were able to reach the summit in about two and a half hours.
We headed up through the foliage, which was at peak or just past at the lower elevations, and then up on the ridge. Arnold’s Well, a crevasse on the ridge in some boulders which is named for the man and his ill-fated expedition to Quebec, was empty of water and dry, as was the trail for most of the distance. Once we entered the higher-elevation spruce/fir area, things were a little slippery and there are a few scrambles up some large boulders. The March expedition had to turn back in these areas due to cold, ice and not much guidance on the route of to the summit. The blue blazes denoting an official A.T. side trail have since been repainted.
The summit was cool and windy, with temperatures in the high 40’s. The group sheltered behind some rocks and had a nice lunch in view of Flagstaff Lake. On the descent, things warmed up a little once we reached the south side of the ridge, and it was a pleasant trip down.
Stay tuned for our next hike on Saturday – Little Bigelow, at the other end of the Bigelow Range.
Every year, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club hosts a hike for partner organizations who do work along Maine’s A.T. This year, there were attendees representing MATC, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Park Service. The purpose of the hike is to get partners out on the A.T. for a day of catching up, seeing the trail, and mostly unwinding from a busy season in the field. This year the hike was up Little Boardman Mountain in the 100-Mile Wilderness, right in the KI-Jo Mary Forest. A spectacular area for outdoor recreation, there are several ponds near Little Boardman and the views from the top are pretty good. It was a great day in the field and a nice chance to reconnect with some good folks.