Hitting the high spots in Maine
By Deborah Carroll
Hiking can be a strenuous activity, requiring careful planning in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the trail. However, it can also be a memory making experience that will strengthen the bonds of friendship and family while fostering an appreciation of the natural world around us.
Here are a few suggestions to help you plan your trip, as well as a few recommended hikes:
First, choose your trail wisely!
Take into account the fitness and ability levels of your party.
Second, pack carefully.
Would it be nice to have those heavy binoculars, a Maglite and that extra heavy jacket, just in case? Of course it would, but do you really need it? Extra stuff translates to extra weight in your daypack, and lots of little things add up to one heavy pack.
What should you bring? The “day hike” essentials include:
• small first aid kit
• water, and lots of it
• space blanket or other small blanket
• disposable rain poncho
• good knife or multi-tool
• a hat and gloves, even in summer
• light non-cotton wind shirt and another warm but non-bulky layer
• headlamp or flashlight
• lighter or matches
• snacks for the trail and lunch for the summit!
When dressing for your hike, remember this: cotton kills. From your socks to your hat, clothing that dries quickly and wicks away moisture will keep you comfortable. You’ll also need a decent pair of hiking boots.
Now that you’re packed and ready to go, here are a few recommended hikes:
Rumford Whitecap (Elevation 2,200+ ft., 5-mile round trip)
It takes about an hour to get from Lewiston-Auburn to the trailhead at the Mahoosuc Land Trust’s Rumford Whitecap Preserve. Follow the well-maintained “red/orange trail” with the orange blazes for a 2.5-mile, moderately strenuous hike to an open summit that rewards the traveler with 360-degree views.
With the trail climbing steadily upward, you’ll travel through hardwood forests with the occasional large boulder and stone staircase at the lower elevations, through stands of evergreen that will remind you of Christmas morning, and then out onto rock which sparkles with flecks of mica and, closer to the summit, veins of quartz. Bring lots of water with you as there is no reliable water source on the mountain.
Table Rock (Elevation 2,400 ft., 2.8-mile round trip)
Located in Grafton Notch State Park, the hike to Table Rock is one of Terri Marin’s favorites. Begin your hike by following the Appalachian Trail. About a half mile into the hike, the AT meets up with Table Rock Trail on the right. Table Rock is a gigantic and relatively flat rock that sticks out from the mountainside affording those brave enough to venture out onto it a 180-degree-plus view featuring Old Speck – a 4,000-footer – that sits directly across the notch, and Sunday River’s Whitecap peak in the distance.
With an elevation gain of 1,000 feet from the parking lot to the scenic stone ledge, this hike is a moderately strenuous climb with a wonderful spot to enjoy a picnic lunch. Marin, who lives in Oxford, Maine, also recommends Pleasant Mountain in the Loon Echo Land Trust Preserve, Old Speck to Speck Pond Shelter and Saddleback Mountain to The Horn and Saddleback Jr. via the Piazza Rock Trail off Route 4.
Saddleback Mountain (Elevation 4,120 ft.)
Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley is the eighth highest peak in Maine. According to Marin, “Following the AT from Route 4, you will come to a lean-to and, just beyond, Piazza Rock – a huge outcrop/ledge formation. At the rock, there is a chasm and old-growth trees with large mossy roots. Due to the close proximity to Route 4 just under two miles, it is a great destination site for beginners and families.”
Experienced hikers might continue on to Saddleback Mountain, The Horn and Saddleback Jr. “The trail skirts Ethel Pond,” explained Marin, “a quaint little place surrounded by hemlocks and fir, but once you’re above the tree line the trail is fairly wide and rocky, and marked with cairns, with outstanding 360-degree views.”
Cutler Bold Coast
For those who enjoy a hike by the ocean and don’t mind a little road trip.
“I like the Cutler Bold Coast part of the Maine Public Reserve Lands,” said Mark Hyland of Poland. “The parking lot is north of Cutler on Route 191, 17 miles southeast of the junction of Routes 1 and 191 in East Machias. The trail from the parking lot heads directly toward the coast through a forest over mostly level ground. You reach the ocean in one-and-a-half miles and turn south on a trail that follows along the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The trail goes up and down a lot over the next one-and-a-half miles until you reach Black Point Cove. The cove has a terrific pocket cobble beach (fist-size and larger round rocks) with sheltered swimming. The cliffs offer great views of the ocean and Grand Manan Island. The trail continues along the cliffs where seals and whales can be seen. In two-and-one-third miles you reach the end of the ocean walk at Fairy Head.”
Hyland recommends overnight camping at Fairy Head, though he warns that in summer the limited spots fill up quickly. Although “the trail then heads inland to complete the loop back to the parking lot,” Hyland suggests you return the same way you came in, making for a 10-11-mile round trip hike.
Whether you’re out for a day, or overnight stay, an adequate level of preparedness, in terms of what one brings and what trail one chooses will make for an enjoyable day of camaraderie with friends or family, and communion with the natural beauty of Maine.