Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield has been the site of considerable new trail building activity over the last five years, with much more in the works. If you haven't been to the mountain in a while, well, you're missing out on some great hiking, which now totals nearly five miles on three trails.
The southeast view from the ledge of Burnt Meadow Mountain is pure autumnal spendor.
Carey Kish Photo
There used to be a handful of trails up the mountain, but they were lost in the Great Fires of 1947, which destroyed 85 percent of the town of Brownfield, and wreaked havoc on large parts of York County and Mount Desert Island. It wasn't until 1968 that efforts were made to re-establish recreational use of the mountain, when the old hiking trail on the eastern ridge was opened again. This was followed in 1971 by the development of a ski resort, which operated intermittently for about a decade.
The original route from the east is North Peak Trail, now called Burnt Meadow Trail, and a perennial favorite of hikers. This scenic path leaves the trailhead on Route 160 and ascends to the peak in just over a mile, passing numerous ledges and outlooks with far-reaching views.
The Twin Brook Trail was opened in 2009, allowing hikers to make a pleasant loop over the mountaintop. This trail diverges from Burnt Meadow Trail in a half-mile, and climbs a wild ravine between a huge boulder field and the two brooks from which the trail derives its name. Beyond the notch that separates Burnt Meadow and Stone mountains, the path winds up the west flank of Burnt Meadow to its expansive summit.
A third trail, a spur to Stone Mountain, was opened in 2010. The Stone Mountain Trail leads three-quarters of a mile to the wooded crest, ending just beyond at a large open ledge with broad views reaching west into the heart of the White Mountains. Later that same year, trailhead parking was expanded and an information kiosk erected.
The person behind much of this new enthusiasm for trails on Burnt Meadow Mountain is Douglas Ofiara, a Scarborough economist and co-chair of the trails committee for the Maine chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
He moved to Maine in 2000 and started hiking along the Route 113 corridor. He took a liking to Burnt Meadow Mountain and began making improvements to the neglected trail, cutting brush and painting blazes.
By 2007, Ofiara and fellow Maine AMC trails enthusiast, Keith Chapman, started thinking about what an expanded trail system might look like, and struck up conversations with local landowners like Phil Cole, who owns a sizable chunk of land on Burnt Meadow Mountain. The response was positive, permission was obtained and the pair moved forward.
As work progressed, Ofiara and others formed Friends of Burnt Meadow Mountain to help crystallize local and regional support, coordinate trail design and construction, and serve as an information resource for the project. A scant five years later, the results speak for themselves, thanks in large part to the generosity of the landowners. But there is more to be done.
The big vision, according to Ofiara, is to connect the trails on nearby Mt. Cutler in Hiram -- also the site of recent trail expansion -- with those on Burnt Meadow Mountain, through a relatively wild area with no through roads. The goal is to connect to Mt. Prospect to the west in New Hampshire, and realize some serious trail miles and perhaps a two- to three-day backpacking opportunity.
It's an ambitious undertaking. Building trails on private lands takes time to cultivate the necessary relationships, then to design and build the pathways. But as Ofiara sees it, the recreational and economic benefits will be well worth it.
For more information and to lend a hand, go to www.friendsofburntmeadowmountains.com
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow his hiking adventures at: