Our most recent community hike was to Cranberry Peak, part of the Bigelow Range located in the Bigelow Preserve in western Maine, just east of the village of Stratton. The 36,000-acre Preserve was established in 1976 by public referendum, and is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation. The Bigelow Mountain Range with its six high peaks is found entirely within the Preserve. Cranberry Peak is the Westernmost of those peaks, topping out at around 3,194 feet.
We had ideal weather for hiking: warm late-summer temperatures and beautiful, blue-bird skies. The summits were in the clouds as we traveled to the trailhead but weather forecasts predicted blue skies on the high peaks and that is exactly what we got. Four hikers came out this day, all the singing praises of the weather gods. We made an up-and-back trek on the blue-blazed Bigelow Range Trail totaling about 6.4 miles.
The trail starts out fairly flat but soon makes a steep climb to an area called Arnold’s Well. There is a side trail to take you to the ”Well” but we skipped that opportunity to continue on to the summit. Soon we came to another short side trail leading to “the Cave”, but we saved that for our trip back down. The trail continues steeply, much of it over open ledges and finally reaches the summit. 360 views of Flagstaff Lake and the major peaks awaited us there. It was cool and breezy but not cold, and soon we sat down for lunch along with a family with 2 young kids and 2 Norwegian Elk Hounds. The 5 year old just made her first “big peak” hiking debut and was clearly on her way to becoming a lifelong hiker along with her older brother. We initially met this family in the parking lot and then encountered them on our way up as they were turning back thinking they either missed a trail or the summit was just too far ahead. We assured them they did not have far to go and that they would
be rewarded with magnificent views when they got there. Just like us, they were not disappointed by the vistas from Cranberry and were grateful we encouraged them to continue on.
After about 45 minutes or so we headed back down, with 3 of us making the 200-foot side trip to “the Cave”. The Cave is a large overhanging slab of rock that you can easily climb up into. After a few goofy photos, we rejoined our other hiking companions and completed our trek down. Another day well spent in Maine’s High Peaks!
Goose Eye Mountain with its two peaks, in the Mahoosuc Range is one of the Maine A.T. Land Trust’s most popular community hikes, and one of the most strenuous. Five of the original ten sign-ups chose to ignore the weather forecast of 40% chance of rain, and head to the hills. The group gathered at the Wright Trail trailhead, a scenic trail that begins off Bull Branch Road in Ketchum that is located on a branch of the Sunday River. Bull Branch Road is also home to a popular swimming area called Frenchmen’s Hole.
The day started off cloudy, chilly and even a bit humid, but luckily for us, the rain held off, although leftover clouds from the edges of hurricane Dorian threatened from time to time. We traveled along the trail where it follows the Goose Eye Brook, passes a designated campsite at about 2.5 miles and then crosses the brook. The trail continues to ascend with some very steep and rough up-and-down sections and eventually takes you onto open ledges. Even with the clouds and mist that dogged us most of the day, we still had some pretty amazing views, especially on our return trek.
We eventually summited on to the West Peak (the main summit) where it was cool, damp and breezy so we layered-up before hunkering down to eat lunch. Despite the clouds overhead, we were still awarded great panoramic views of the Presidentials and the surrounding peaks in the Mahoosuc Range. We did not linger to long as the sun continued to elude us although we could see it shining in the distance. As we made our way back, the skies started to clear and we were treated to some clearer views of Mahoosuc Notch and the surrounding landscape. Back at the trailhead, the sun came out and the temperatures warmed up but no one lamented the fact that we had less than perfect weather; we were all completely delighted to have the opportunity to hike one of Maine’s amazing mountain peaks.
The Maine A.T. Land Trust is pleased to announce that the State of Maine and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club have tentatively approved a reroute of the White Brook Trail to the summit of White Cap Mountain! White Cap is the highest mountain in the 100 Mile Wilderness (3,654 feet). The White Brook Trail is the most direct route but access has been difficult in recent years, and to get there you had to walk on an old logging road. No more! With the completion of the Gulf Hagas Whitecap project everybody has been looking to improve access to recreation in the area, and we have been able to work with landowner in order to get the trail off the road and into the woods, while creating a designated area for parking on a much-improved road.
The proposed reroute of the White Brook Trail will likely take place starting in the fall and in the spring. Thank you to ExtremeTerrain for providing funds through the Clean Trail Grant program to go towards construction of the new route and some goodies for volunteers who come out to help! We are currently raising the balance needed so please, please consider making a donation today!
The 8th Annual Rangeley Trail Town Festival was another great success for the trail community and the Town of Rangeley! The A.T. Communities program is now up to over 40 towns that are assets for the A.T. and help with the Appalachian Trail! In Maine there are four A.T. communities (Monson, Millinocket, Rangeley and Kingfield).
The Rangeley Trail Town Festival was a great day of food, fun and music right on Haley Pond in downtown Rangeley. The Maine A.T. Land Trust had a table alongside our A.T. partners, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We gave out hundreds of the new Maine High Peaks Map and Guide which shows the trail section in the Rangeley vicinity, with day hikes broken out for easy access. There was also an ice cream eating contest!
This was the most frequently asked question we heard during the recent Visual Resources Inventory pilot the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust took part in, but examining views on the ridge of Saddleback Mountain from the Berry Picker’s Trail to The Horn. The National Park Service has been working on a program called Enjoy the View and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was chosen as a test site to deploy the methodology of assessing views. The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust works in many of the areas directly in view from many of Maine’s most scenic viewpoints, and we have a longstanding relationship with the National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (all of whom are running the pilot).
But why are we assessing views?
When conservation organizations determine which lands need protection, we rely on data: mostly geospatial data, or GIS. We have GIS data on all kinds of values that are important for the Appalachian Trail: climate resilience, rare/threatened species habitat, trails, water quality, ecological community types, soils, etc. There is data on what you can see from the Appalachian Trail, but the data is very broad and is not accurate enough to help us plan for A.T. land protection in Maine. However, this is the mission of the National Park Service:
The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.
One of, if not the, most important resources of the Appalachian Trail is the scenic beauty. Up to now, we have not really had a way to “assess” this resource. The other values we look to are quantifiable: acres of habitat, miles of trails, categories of ecological communities. With the creation of this Visual Resources Inventory, it is hoped that we now have a way to measure the scenic beauty of different spots along the A.T. in Maine, so that they most important can be protected for all of us to enjoy.
Note: We will have a follow-up article on this program next month!
Saturday’s weather forecast was an iffy one at best, but 5 hikers and one excited dog decided to toss caution to the wind and meet at the trailhead for Puzzle Mountain in Grafton Notch. To reach the summit of Puzzle, you climb up the eastern section of the Grafton Loop trail. There are several ledges along the way that ordinarily have very fine views of the Sunday River ski resort, Old Speck and the Baldpates, but on this day they were far and few between. No matter, the trail was lush and green, it never rained and everyone was happy to be out. Along the way there were still plenty of wild blueberries that did not escape notice and our taste buds.
The summit was in the clouds when we arrived, so there were no panoramic views where you may see Mount Washington and Sugarloaf Mountain on a clear day. Layering up a bit as it was cool and damp, we chatted and ate lunch, took the obligatory summit photos, including shots of other hikers also not deterred by the weather, and soon headed down. Normally, on a clear warm day we would hang out on top for a while enjoying the views, but not today. Upon our descent, the clouds did open up a bit for a decent view of Grafton Notch where we had a few more photo opts. As there was very little lingering, we were back down in the parking lot before 3 pm. Everyone agreed, despite the less than ideal weather conditions, that this was a thoroughly enjoyable hike!
On Saturday July 27th we gathered at Tranten’s in Kingfield to carpool to head up Mount Abraham. The weather forecast has been threatening with potential thunderstorms but it was a clear, blue sky with temperatures in the high 70’s. Great hiking weather. While a small hiking group (just four of us, plus one very good dog), we were efficient and ready to go. We wasted no time at the trailhead and made great time up to the campsite, just over an hour. After a quick snack break we were on the ascent again, tackling the steep elevation gain over the last mile and a half to the summit. The trail up Abraham was in great condition, thanks to the incredible work of the local MATC trail maintainer. Some parts of the trail had been relocated to avoid water buildup and erosion and these new sections were smooth and worked with the landscape. The trail meanders as it goes up the mountain, and we were treated to classic Maine Woods views with birch at lower elevations giving way to pine further up.
Abraham is one of Maine’s best hikes, thanks in large part to great views from a large alpine zone. The elevation gain is significant, but once you clear the tree line it is nothing short of spectacular. We took a short break to enjoy the views, and then began the last bit up to the summit through a giant boulder/scree field and between various outcroppings of Krumholz. The group reached the summit just three and a half hours after departing from the trailhead – great time for a casual group hike. Views were enjoyed, as were snacks, and a group shot taken thanks to another hiker present. The descent was fast-paced and steady, with a stop at the campsite for a bathroom break and a water refill. After three hours we were back at the trailhead with another 4,000′ crossed off and an appreciation for the beauty of Maine’s High Peaks.
Interested in giving back to the Appalachian Trail? We are looking for volunteers to help with an inventory of scenic resources and visitor experience on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail here in Maine! This work will involve going on day hikes with trained inventory teams who will assess viewpoints from locations from Bemis Mountain in the south to Saddleback Jr. in the north. Trips will be taking place from about August 24th to August 29th. More information can be found here:
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hosted its first community hike of the season to Baldpate Mountain in Grafton Notch. There are two summits: the somewhat wooded West Peak at 3,662 feet and the wide-open and beautiful bald East peak at 3,780. This rugged hike, complete with bog planks, ladders and open bald ledges starts on the east side of ME Route 26 and follows along on the Appalachian Trail heading northbound.
Five hikers participated this day, two who had not hiked the Baldpates before and were promised a bit of a wow factor. It was a warm, slightly muggy and a little-bit-buggy day but the skies were clear and really, it was an almost perfect day to be on a hike in the Maine mountains. We started out around 9:25 or so, stopping briefly from time to time to sip water, have a quick snack or sometimes chat with AT thru hikers, many of whom are finally heading through Maine. Along the way we took the .2 mile detour to visit the Baldpate lean-to.
We soon arrived at the West peak and sat down just beyond the summit to eat lunch and admire the views looking Northeastward toward the East peak. After lunch, we gathered our things, took some pictures and headed off to the East peak.
No hike can be complete without a minor mishap or two and this day was no different. There is a small boggy area below the summit of the East peak where the bog planking has long since disintegrated. Over the bog are some scrawny tree branches serving as some pretty anemic plank substitutes. Two of our hikers took a nice step into bog while trying to negotiate the “planks”. One ended up with a soggy and completely mud- covered boot, but a dry sock and a plastic bread bag (hiker hack to keep the foot dry from the inside of a wet boot) saved the day.
Up the East peak we went and the wow factor kicked in. The views as you climb up or down from the East peak never disappoint, especially on a clear day like we had. We hung out on top of the open summit with its 360° views and after awhile reluctantly headed back down. The descent was uneventful – no bog mishaps – and we reached the parking lot safe
and sound and quite satisfied with our day’s hike.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust has been fortunate enough to complete several projects in the past few years in collaboration with several conservation partners. Gulf Hagas Whitecap, Redington Forest, Orbeton Stream and Crocker Mountain have all been protected in the past six years. More projects are in the pipeline, as the Appalachian Trail landscape is seen more and more as one of the last great open spaces in the east.
But with the completion of these projects come obligations to care for the lands. Some of these conservation lands are now in the care of the State of Maine, but others are either owned by the Maine A.T. Land Trust or protected with conservation easements which require great attention and monitoring. That’s where LightHawk comes in: their mission is to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight.
We’ve used LightHawk several times over the past few years in order to get this aerial perspective of Maine’s A.T. lands. Getting out by foot always a great way to see the landscape, but you can’t assess large-scale changes and impacts from the ground, or get an overall view of a 10,000-acre parcel. For this latest flight, we had the services of a professional photographer to help us gather visual documentation of a large conservation easement, take great images for our next round of conservation projects on Maine’s A.T., and check on some other areas that are either difficult to access or at a very large scale. How has vegetation recovered on the summit of Mt. Abraham? How is reforestation in the Rapid Stream Valley progressing? Check out the photos above!
A hearty thanks to LightHawk and our photographer for helping us protect the A.T. landscape in Maine!