Flagstaff MH&T Hut Snowshoe Hike

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

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.

Four Ponds Hike with the Ladies Adventure Club

By Meg Clews
On a brisk February morning, a group of intrepid women gathered in Portland to organize the carpool up to Height of Land, 30 miles north of Rumford, where out trek would begin. Also joining us was Simon Rucker from Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust who would be one of our two guides for the day. We left Portland around 7:30 in two vehicles.  One car made a brief stop at the Lewiston Park and Ride to pick up Mark (our other guide) and his trusted canine companion Benton. After a brief pit stop in Rumford for humans and dog, we arrived at the parking area at Height of Land around 10am. Another car with 4 more LAC members joined us there, and we all headed out at 10:20. The view to the Northwest, over Mooselookmeguntic Lake and beyond was clear and beautiful!  With snowshoes on, we hiked south along Route 17 for approximately .4 miles to where the AT crosses the road. Here, we headed north on the AT.  Right away, the trail went steeply up Spruce Mountain, through deep, soft snow. Several of us took turns breaking trail, which was hard work, but served to warm us up! After the strenuous uphill, the trail leveled out, and we had to make a few detours around some blow downs. We saw moose tracks and scat along this section. The snowpack that we were on top off was at least 3 feet deep – you could tell by the white blazes on the trees that mark the AT – they were about 2 feet above the snow and these are usually just above eye level in the summer! There was another climb, and then we went down and crossed a well groomed snowmobile track. From here, we trekked along a gentle down hill, and then a level section which had very deep snow with uneven terrain. At one point while Gillian was in the lead, one of her snowshoes went in so deep she become stuck in the snow. It took two of us about 10 minutes to dig her out. There were Gray Jays at one point, and one that landed on an outstretched hand!  Eventually we arrived at the north shore of Moxie Pond and around 1:15. Here, we stopped for about 30 minutes for a standing room only lunch, and a group photo. Everyone was staying warm and dry, and there were plenty of hand and foot warmers to go around. Simon and Gillian had plenty of yummy snacks to share. 
The return trip was much faster than the way in – we were following a nicely packed trail and made excellent time, returning to the parked cars around 3:15pm. There was a gentle snow falling as we hiked out, and when we reached Route 17, the view was completely clouded over and a strong wind was blowing across the road. I estimate our  total mileage was around 4.5 -5 miles round trip. 
I went to bed that night with a perfectly drowsy and happily satisfied feeling after my first day out with The Ladies Adventure Club! 

West Baldpate Trip Report: The Uses of Adversity

Group shot!
Frosty John (photo courtesy of Deb Hews!)
Heading down.

Winter can be tough in Maine.  It’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s dark and all of it together can make life hard if you let it get to you.  But there’s also something wonderful about winters on the A.T. lands of Maine where just making it through can be much more meaningful than doing the same thing in the summer.

This has been the pattern so far our the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s winter hikes so far in 2019.  Unbroken trail, super cold conditions, illness, fatigue, freezing extremities – they’ve all played a role in our trips.  West Baldpate via the Appalachian Trail was similar – half the group made it to the summit, half the group did not.  Once again, the temperature was 1 degree above zero when we set out.  The wind chill was relatively low, however, the trail was broken out so conditions were pretty good.  The group as a whole made pretty good time, but was spread out along the trail.  It’s pretty steep in the upper sections of the A.T. and the conditions took their tool.  Cold toes.  Bad knees.  Fatigue.  Four made it to the top and collected the others on the way down.  No regrets.

And just look at the scenery!

Our next hike will be Sunday, January 27th to Eddy Pond and Piazza Rock.  Sign up here!  


Little Bigelow Trip Report

Scenes from the hike.
Heading up in the sun.
Great views northward along the A.T.
Bright and cold.

Little Bigelow is such a nice hike – great terrain, awesome views, deep woods – that this latest Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hike was full months ago.  Then, early last week, the forecast started taking shape.  A few people decided early on to drop out and seek alternate plans.  A few days later, the forecast seemed rock solid: it would be cold, but the big issue would be the bone-chilling winds.  A few more people dropped out.  A core group of five decided to proceed with the hike and pay it by ear, knowing that the conditions would be chilly.

And they were right.  The coldest spot was probably the parking area on East Flagstaff Road when everybody was gearing up.  It was about 0 degrees and would remain there for the rest of the day.  The group was adequately covered and layered so everything went pretty smoothly in the sunny woods.  There was a fresh foot and a half of snow to be broken through, on top of a few feet that was already there, so it was not a speed hike.

At higher elevations past the junction with the A.T. shelter side trail, conditions were much colder and the winds had yet to diminish.  Despite adequate footwear and even toe warmers, feet started getting cold and not warming up.   Everybody knew at that point that we’d at least reach the open ledge below the summit of Little Bigelow, but not the peak itself.

Which was fine!  It was a great day out on the A.T. and we all had fun.  Our next hike will be on Saturday 1/19 up West Baldpate in Grafton Notch.  Still a few spots left!

SCALE UP Program Receives Grant from Maine Community Foundation

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that the organization is the recipient of a Maine Community Foundation Fund for Maine Land Conservation grant for 2019!  The SCALE UP program aims to engage MATLT’s corporate members by directly connecting these companies and their employees, officers and partners to the A.T. landscape in Maine.  We’ve had great success with the program so far, in its first year, and we’re hoping to continue it beyond 2019!

The Maine Community Foundation, now in its 35th year, works with donors and other partners to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. The community foundation is committed to serve all of Maine; demonstrate respect for people and places; achieve quality and integrity in everything we do; and remain nonpartisan. MaineCF is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion, and ensuring Maine is a safe, welcoming, and accepting place for everyone.  The Fund for Maine Land Conservation supports projects that advance land conservation.

Caribou Mountain Trip Report

Heading out
Fueling up
Landowner Richard Duplessis

The latest Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust hike was up Caribou Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest.  We had a nearly-full hike of nine and everybody was ready to hit the trail.  It’s been a cold fall/early winter and conditions have been snowy in the mountains since mid November, but our hikes were scheduled before that so we’ve been wanting to get out too!

Unfortunately, conditions were not ideal for this hike and the group did not reach the summit.  The snow was soft and the trail was unbroken so the group was slowed down considerably.  One hiker started feeling under the weather about halfway up and she was accompanied back to the cars with a trip leader.  The rest of the group kept going but spent too much time trying to find the trail since, as per Forest Service policy, the trails in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness Area are not blazed very well.

It was still a nice day to get out with some great people.  We met the owner of Pooh Corner Farm, Richard Duplessis – it is through their generosity that hikers are able to park on their driveway in winter!  AND, thanks to our community partners for this hike (Rosemont Market & Bakery and REDD) we had some awesome munchies to fuel up with.  Stayed tuned for our next hike up Little Bigelow Mountain!

Bald Mountain Pond Project Receives Fields Pond Foundation Grant

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $14,000 from the Fields Pond Foundation for our work on the Bald Mountain Pond project!  The project is on track to be completed in the spring of 2019; the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is working with The Trust for Public Land and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife on finalizing the details.

The primary mission of Fields Pond Foundation is to provide financial assistance to nature and land conservation organizations that are community-based and that serve to increase environmental awareness by involving local residents in conservation issues.

The Foundation’s emphasis stems from its founding Directors’ beliefs that the conservation of special places in our environment, and providing public accessibility to those conservation areas, is a desirable end in itself; but it is also a means of building public support for future land and river conservation by increasing the direct connection between individuals and their environment, and fostering active participation in the work of conservation.

Thank you to the Fields Pond Foundation for this support!  Grants like this are vital to conservation organizations and ensure that we can protect special places along the Appalachian Trail in Maine – for public benefit!

MATLT Ecological Report to Be Revised and Updated

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is pleased to announce that plans are in the works to update and revised the groundbreaking ecological report on Maine’s High Peaks which was first issued in 2007.  The report has guided conservation efforts along Maine’s Appalachian Trail for over a decade and with recent and upcoming land protection projects, the time has come to evaluate the status of the Appalachian Trail landscape in Maine.  Old threats have waned but new threats have emerged to threaten the integrity of the A.T.  Outdoor recreation and the economic impact it can have, along with climate change mitigation, destination development and health/wellness issue have all emerged since the initial publication of the report.

We will have further updates on when the study will be re-released!  Stay tuned.


Mount Abraham Trip Report

Made it!
Ticks be gone!!!
Guthook tells us how to maintain the Appalachian Trail.

By Mark Cheever

Hiking up any one of Maine’s most prominent mountains during peak foliage is a sight to behold – but especially true on Mt. Abraham! Our group tackled the 9-mile roundtrip hike this past Saturday and were treated to a brilliant display of reds, yellows, oranges and greens.

After carpooling from Portland, our group convened at the Orange Cat in Kingfield for some breakfast snacks and coffee – discussing different aspects of outdoor recreation and the tourism economy while we fueled up. Then it was off to the trailhead down West Kingfield Road to Rapid Stream Road. The roads were in good shape and passable even for cars with less than average ground clearance. At the trailhead, about half the group applied all-natural tick repellent Tick Me Off Maine, a MATLT Community Partner who has generously donated product and proceeds to support our mission and hikes! (little known fact: ticks can thrive well into the fall, using fallen leaves as insulation)

After a quick briefing the group headed off, enjoying the winding trail and basking in the golden colors of the fall. At these lower elevations a prominent of ash, birches and elm produced vivid yellow colors in addition to the brilliant red and scarlet of maples, various oaks and sumac. We hopped across several streams, careful to keep our boots dry. The Mt. Abraham trail was in great condition, thanks in part to MATC trail maintainer Ryan Linn who we ran into on the hike, preparing for the coming spring melt by ensuring water bars were clear and properly functioning.

After two and a half hours we reached treeline to take in the magnificent landscape and its views. The demarcation line of evergreens versus deciduous species was clearly evident. A short while later after rock-hopping across the scree slopes of Abraham we reached the windy summit. Off in the distance the group marveled at various snowbursts across Maine’s High Peaks and recharged with various snacks, including Maine-based Redd bars donated for the group (ed note: the salted caramel really hit the spot, thanks Redd!). MATLT Executive Director Simon Rucker gave a brief history of the area, including pointing out various current and future projects. He noted the old fire warden’s tower, which had been repurposed into a makeshift shelter that had recently been dismantled by Maine Youth Trail Stewardship Coalition (thanks guys!). The remains will have to be airlifted out at some point.

As the chill began to set in we set off down the mountain, enjoying the views all the way down. It was a quick, technical descent by some very capable hikers! On the way there were short bursts of snow & sleet. After reaching the trailhead it was decided that tacos were on the minds of this very hungry hiking crew so we celebrated another successful summit at Uno Mas in Farmington. Another great hike in Maine’s glorious High Peaks!

The Maine A.T. Land Trust will be posting our winter hike schedule soon – be sure to check back in for updates and sign up for our next adventure!