Peakbagging In Maine
What Is Peak Bagging?
Peak bagging is an outdoor activity. It involves mountain climbing, for when the climber reaches the top, the peak is "in the bag" - orso to speak. But the real angst of peak bagging is climbing multiple mountains and then keeping a record of each ascent. For example, a hiker who sets out to climb every 14,000 mountain in Colorado would be deemed a "peak bagger", as well as a little bit crazy.
Peak bagging can be great cardio-vascular exercise, exhilarating and sometimes obsessive or even addictive. Among outdoor enthusiasts, peak baggers are held with mixed regard. On one hand their physical accomplishments can be extraordinary, but on the down side their desire to get to the top can be self-defeating or even fatal. Just witness the fatalities that have occurred on Mt. Everest over the years. It is stunning. Overall, peakbaggers range from the simple (i.e. peakbagging 3,000 footers in Massachusetts, there are only two) or the extreme (climbing the highest peak on all seven continents, including Antarctica). By the way the last grouping is called the Seven Summits.
Overview of Maine
Maine's list of mountains begins with one 5,000 footer and thirteen 4,000 footers. Of the six peaks, I have selected only two are on this list. The other four are lower elevation climbs that provide the hiker with an enjoyable outdoor experience. One of the summits, Cadillac Mtn. is in Acadia National Park and sits only 1500 feet above sea level. However, in this case the sea practically rolls up to the base of the mountain. Let's start there.
If you think that the President and his family climbed Cadillac Mountain from the base guess again. Since there is a paved road that goes to a parking lot 50 feet below the summit, it is my hunch that they drove to that location and then hiked the short portion to the top. At least, that is what most visitors to Acadia do. However, if you wish to hike or bike the 1500 foot peak from the base you can - just prepared for a crowd of motorists at the top.
For the wilderness purists, there are still lots of splendid hikes up seaside mountains that yields an uncluttered summit with a fine view of the Atlantic and all its coastal islands and landforms. Penobscot and Nurembega are two Acadia mountains that will yield the visitor, a more spartan hiking experience.
Near Bridgeton, Maine there is a long mountain that follows the shoreline of Moose Pond for about ten miles. The mountain is called Pleasant Mountain. This whole portion of the state is a patchwork of lakes and mountains, but perhaps the best views come from a hike up Pleasant Mtn. The change in elevation is roughly 1500 feet with the summit just clearing the 3,000 foot mark. The ridge walk is very satisfying and can be enhanced by abundant blueberry picking during the summer. In summer you can climb the grassy ski trails at the north end or drive alongside Moose Pond until you come to one of the two trails to the plateau on top. Best rated as a moderate day hike.
In Evans Notch
Evans Notch is the easternmost section of the White Mountain National Forest. The notch is located on the Maine-New Hampshire border north of Fryeburg. The western side of the notch is part of the granite state, while the eastern half is part of Maine. On the Maine side of Route 113 take the long gradually ascending Mud Brook trail to Caribou Mtn. This hike a steady climb that should take the better part of the day. The summit will put dead center in a circle of higher mountains. This hike is especially enjoyable in the fall, when the colors a re at peak (Columbus Day approx.).
Don't Tumble Down Tumbledown Mountain
Finding the trailhead to Tumbledown can be the most difficult part of this outdoor adventure, but once you do, the hike is very rewarding with a nice place for swimming, located several hundred feet below the summit. To find the trailhead, just drive to the tiny wilderness town of Weld and ask somebody for directions. Weld is a good two and a half hours from Portland and then you should allow six to eight hours for the walk in and out, so plan accordingly. To reach the summit, first, you climb steeply to a long ridge, which contains Tumbledown Pond. From the pond the summit is another 700 feet higher in elevation.
Bigelow Mtn. is a 4,000 footer, which straddles the Appalachian Trail near the Sugarloaf Ski resort. Like most Maine excursions, the drive is long and scenic. Fortunately, finding the trailhead is relatively easy, for the parking lot is well marked off highway 27 & 16. Getting to this mountain involves a steep climb to a long ridge summit. Once on top follow the trail south to Cranberry Mt. It doesn't get much better than this.
Rugged and Foreboding Katahdin
Katahdin is a wild woolly mountain, which provides some of the most spectacular hiking east of the Mississippi. It is also the northern terminal of the Appalachian Trail. The summit and surrounding tableland rise high above the neighboring forests and lakes, so you will need to book a campsite in Baxter State Park for two consecutive nights, allowing all of the day in between for hiking. Getting a campsite in the summer may require making a reservation on January 1st of the same year, so be warned. Once hiking day arrives, you have two choices; follow the Abdol (part of the Appalachian Trail) up the grueling, steep west side or take the more gradual approach via Chimney Pond. Check with park officials for all hiking regulations for there are quite a few, including start time.