Visual Resources Inventory: Enjoy the View (Part I)

Pond on the way to The Horn (in rear).
Sunny but cold day – strong winds above 4,000 feet.
The review crew.
All views require photos and data logging.

“Why are you assessing views?” 

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!

 

Puzzle Mountain Trip Report!

Guess who didn’t sign a release form!
She did not actually take off…this time.
Limited views, unlimited fun.
Sun’s out!

By Louise Jensen

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!

Mount Abraham Trip Report!

Success
Nice views heading down.
Abraham ridgeline

By Mark Cheever

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.

Happy Trails!

Volunteers Needed for National Park Service Visual Resources Program

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:

Visual Resources Program Inventory Factsheet 

If you are interested please contact us at info@matlt.org!

Baldpates Hike Trip Report

East Baldpate
West Baldpate
VICTORY
The bog in question…

By Louise Jensen

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.

LightHawk Flight Over Maine’s Mountains

Spaulding and Sugarloaf Mountains.
Old Blue, Elephant and Bemis Mountains
The Rapid Stream valley between Abraham and Sugarloaf.
Mount Abraham, showing recovery from a forest fire in 2016.

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!

Old A.T. Lean-to Found on Conservation Property

On a recent site visit to the White Brook Trail up White Cap Mountain in the 100 Mile Wilderness, staff, State of Maine personnel and the district overseer for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club of the Maine A.T. Land Trust were treated to a rare find: a now-disused lean-to that remains sitting alone in the woods on the former route of the A.T. in Maine.  As you can see from the image, the shelter is in pretty good shape!  Dave Field, Overseer of Lands for MATC, notes:

This is the White Brook Lean-to, built in 1954 in record time from July 31-August 26 by Louis Chorzempa, Donald Chorzempa, Jean Stephenson, Seymour Smith, Manford Knowles, Bert Knowles, Dana Knowles, Douglas Knowles, and Adin Green.  It was abandoned by the White Cap – Gulf Hagas Relocation in 1975.
As you can see from this map, the relocation has taken the A.T. miles from its former route which was almost due north to White Cap Mountain.
Today, the route is located to the west at Gulf Hagas, then traverses the White Cap range from west to east.  The White Brook Lean-to is in decent shape and still contains graffiti from the 1950’s to 1970’s and even beyond, when outdoor activities in the KI-Jo Mary Forest led hikers, hunters and campers down this route.  Logging in the area has opened up the woods so that the location is now close to a road.  This are is a working forest conservation easement that was part of the Gulf Hagas Whitecap project.  It still takes so work finding it, so be careful and be prepared (as always) when you are in the woods!
Thank you to Seth Roope and SDR Logging for showing us this site.

Maine A.T. 2020 Program Receives Grant from the Onion Foundation

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that is has received a grant from The Onion Foundation for the Maine A.T. 2020 program!  The program, aimed at empowering Maine’s A.T. stakeholders, local communities, kids, the public and more through outreach and an ecological report, highlights the Appalachian Trail area is the last great wild space in the entire Eastern United States. The portion running through Maine is the most significant – for ecological value, as a climate corridor, as a refugia for
species adapting to climate change, as a recreational destination, and as the last wild place east of the Rockies.

By giving local communities here in Maine the tools they need to leverage this landscape, we are looking towards outcomes of local economic development based on a recreation resource, revitalization of communities around Maine’s A.T., increased health of people and landscape in era of changing climate, and a fostering of a culture of stewardship and environmental awareness which Maine’s A.T. landscape needs.

The Onion Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation based in Maine with a mission is to encourage conservation and stewardship of the natural environment and to promote music and the arts in the state of Maine.

The Maine A.T. Land Trust is excited to unveil this program with the help of The Onion Foundation.  This landscape of the Maine North Woods is recognized as of international importance but until recently, the A.T. was considered just a trail for long-distance hikers. It was not looked at as a conservation corridor, or as a contiguous wild greenway, or as an area where local economic development initiatives could take root and increase opportunity and prosperity for communities nearby, based on the outdoor recreation economy.

The Maine Appalachian Trail landscape is now under threat from multiple sectors: real estate development, climate change, energy transmission infrastructure, over-exploitation of natural resources, loss of public access, diminished natural resource quality, decline in water quality, fragmentation of the landscape, loss of species habitat, loss of biodiversity, loss of the great natural beauty and sense of remoteness that embodies the forests of Maine.  The Maine A.T. 2020 Wild East campaign comes at a critical moment and with grants like this one from The Onion Foundation we can help this landscape!

Portland (Maine) Area Thru-hikers Group Formed!

Are you a thru-hiker?  Do you live, work, visit or enjoy Portland, Maine?  Then head over to this page and sign up for a new group that plans to meet every once in awhile to discuss the latest on the A.T., network and enjoy some food and beverages!

There is no cost or obligation to join.  It’s a new group and some folks want to see if it takes off so sign up!

Flagstaff MH&T Hut Snowshoe Hike

On Flagstaff, Bigelow Range in the background.
Wind sculptures on the lake.
Lunch!
Wooooo

By Louise Jensen

“It’s a beautiful mornin’
I think I’ll go outside a while,
And just smile.
Just take in some clean fresh air, boy
Ain’t no sense in stayin’ inside
If the weather’s fine and you got the time.
It’s your chance to wake up and plan another brand new day.” – The Young Rascals

That pretty much summed up the start to our day: bluebird sky, no wind, late winter temps and nine happy snowshoers ready to go for what turned out to be a glorious day on the trail and at the Hut. We had the pleasure of having Savannah Steele, the Maine Huts & Trails trails manager, join us for the day. We met at the Long Falls Dam Road trailhead around 10am and soon headed out on the trail. For the most part, the trail was broken out, but due to the “lake effect” there was a lot of drifting which made navigating a little tricky. Fortunately, we had Savannah along who knows the trails like the backs of her hands and guided us in the right direction. As the lake was frozen and beautifully covered with whirls and coils of wind-blown snow, we snowshoed right on the lake where we were treated to magnificent views of the Bigelow Range, Picked Chicken Hill and Blanchard Mountain.

Although a relatively short hike of just over 2.2 miles, we still worked up an appetite and were famished by the time we arrived at the Hut. Savannah introduced us to the crew, and then chatted with us about the MH&T organization while lunch was being prepared. Food is available for purchase for day-hikers so we feasted on cheese platters, chicken soup, root vegetable bean soup and some incredible butter biscuits. After lunch, Pearl, one of the crew staff, gave us the “talk” that is routinely given to the overnight guests,
and it was very informative.

Lunchtime was leisurely as the Hut is cozy and warm, but we finally broke out of our food stupor and headed back out for the hike back. Clouds started to roll in, no doubt a harbinger of the approaching storm predicted for the next day, which gave our late afternoon vista an entirely different appearance. We took our time heading back while continuing to take in the beautiful mountain panorama. It was a beautiful day!

Louise is the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s board secretary.  In her day job, she’s the law librarian at Drummond Woodsum. She joined the Board after becoming a trip leader for MATLT. She lives in Portland with her husband and their greyhound Tulah.