Friday, March 7, 2014
Let me begin by dispelling the myth that there are such things as "Women's Hikes."
Some of my most challenging hikes have been keeping up with my wife on the trails on the Cutler Bold Coast, and Megan Roberts on Bigelow, and Deirdre Fleming on Connor's Nubble in Acadia and Bald Mountain in Oquossoc, and Judy Weston and Bee Harvey on Caribou and Blueberry mountains over in Evans Notch.
Don't tell me that women need easier trails than men!
That said, there are many hikes in Maine that are especially appealing, I'd suggest, to female hikers.
These hikes distinguish themselves because female hikers, in my experience, appreciate the journey as much as the destination.
That separates them from me and my male hiking buddies who are satisfied just to bag a peak.
So with that in mind, let me suggest three hikes you women ought to plan and invite us guys to accompany you so we can be taught how to really appreciate why we really get out there in the woods in the first place.
On a trail that spans the Hallowell-Farmingdale line just south of Augusta, you'll be treated to a couple of miles of quiet forest, a picturesque babbling brook, stone bridges and waterfalls. Photo ops abound on this short and easy hike.
To get there, head up Winthrop Street in downtown Hallowell, take your third left on Middle Street and drive south for 0.7 mile. You'll spy a small parking area from which you'll pass through a stone fence, emerge into a field and then back into the woods.
Your entire loop hike will be only a couple of miles, with an additional one-third of a mile to the dam. All in all, a delightful and restful stroll through a cool forest on a carriage path with a wood chip surface. Old oaks and verdant ferns add to the atmosphere, not to mention the granite slab, arched culverts and an impressive curved footbridge. And, of course, the ever-present music from the flowing brook, which can turn into an impressive torrent after a rain.
Your hiking options in Acadia National Park are virtually boundless, so picking one in our ascending order of degree of difficulty is no easy task.
My modest aversion to crowds motivates me to spend more time on the western "Quiet Side" trails on Mount Desert Island, although I count The Bubbles and other eastern trails as among my favorites.
But there's something about the 6.2-mile loop hike that starts on the Great Pond Trail leading to the 1,071-foot summit of Bernard Mountain that combines all that is best about coastal Maine hiking.
Heading south toward Southwest Harbor on Route 102, you'll turn right on the Seal Cove Road shortly before reaching the village. After a little more than half a mile, turn right onto Long Pond Road and proceed another mile to the end of the road at the pumping station on the end of Long Lake, where you'll park.
Your hike begins with a leisurely two-mile stroll along the west shore of Long Pond before a left turn away from the water marks the beginning of a moderate climb up a boulder-lined trail for nearly a mile to the intersection with the Great Notch Trail. Turning left, you'll reach the Great Notch in about half a mile. The trail is root-covered and requires caution.
At the next well-marked intersection, there's a trail register to sign, and even a couple of inviting benches on which to rest and grab a snack.
Then it's a short hike to Knight Nubble. Just 0.2 mile beyond that is the Bernard Mountain summit. This last section can be a little intimidating with a steep narrow path and some challenging rock faces.
LITTLE JACKSON MOUNTAIN
The most difficult and longest of the three hikes I'm recommending is, for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most rewarding. The views are unsurpassed, and its proximity to more popular trails on nearby Tumbledown Mountain renders the hike up Little Jackson a more solitary excursion. And the summit vista includes not only Webb Lake but a much better perspective of Tumbledown Pond than from the mountain of the same name.
To get to the trail head in the northern sector of Mount Blue State Park, just take Route 142 north from the intersection in the center of Weld Corner for a little over two miles, keeping your eye out for the Byron Road on your left. Turn there and look for the Morgan Road just past a cemetery on your right. It's a dirt road leading to the trail head.
The trail starts out on a grassy road before it reaches an intersection at which you'll want to bear right. An hour or so along on what is about a seven-mile hike, you'll see the Pond Link trail leading to Tumbledown Pond departing toward the left. Stay right on the Little Jackson trail for about another hour through a stunning (especially in the fall) hardwood forest before crossing a brook, and the steep and challenging ascent begins up over some ledges.
Arriving at the col between Little and Big Jackson mountains, you'll begin a series of ledge segments with restful flats between. You'll note a sign on the right partway to the summit indicating the unofficial trail up Big Jackson -- a short diversion, but worth it to get a nice look across to the summit on Little Jackson toward which you're headed.
From that intersection up Little Jackson, you're treated to unobstructed views on your way to the 3,434-foot summit. Once there you'll see nestled among some towering cliffs, Tumbledown Pond nearly 600 feet below you, as well as 3,068-foot Tumbledown Mountain.
Little Jackson is one summit where I don't need my wife to remind me to stick around a while and just drink in the scenery. And to rest from the 2,300-foot ascent just completed.
You'll retrace your uphill route to return to your car, during which time I can promise you'll start making plans to return and bring some friends who have yet to experience this special mountain.
John Christrie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: