It only consists of a quarter-mile of easy climb along a well worn path, but it leads to open rock ledges and panoramic views of the White Mountains, and western Maine. Jockey Cap is a short hike rich with history and local color. And it’s worth every footstep.

“I was born and brought up in Fryeburg. As a young child I went up there,” said Diane Jones, thinking back to her younger days and hikes with her father. Jones is director of the Fryeburg Historical Society.

“A lot of us had swimming lessons in the afternoon,” Jones said, speaking of her high school years. “We’d pack a lunch and go up (Jockey Cap) in the morning.” The mornings were often spent chit-chatting and sunning on the rocky outcroppings. “Then we’d take our bikes down to swim.”

Today, students at Fryeburg’s Molly Ockett Middle School make the trek up Jockey Cap as an organized school field trip. It’s an excursion beneficial for both the exercise and to afford students a walk along an important path in Maine history, said Pat Higgins, former Molly Ockett Middle School Librarian and co-creator and developer of www.ImagineMaine.com, a Web site dedicated to providing students and others with a link to a variety of Maine informational sites.

In geological terms, Jockey Cap is considered an outcropping, said Jones; a 200-foot portion of bedrock or other stratum protruding through the soil level. It is a granite rock formation that in silhouette resembles a jockey cap.

From atop Jockey Cap, the view to the southeast looks out over Lovewell Pond and the site of the 1725 Battle of Lovewell Pond, where, Higgins said, 20 colonists on a scalping expedition led by John Lovewell and an unknown number of the autochthonous Wabanaki including warrior leader, Paugus, lost their lives in what historian Francis Parkman described as, “one of the most obstinate and deadly bush-fights in New England” history.

Panning west from Lovewell Pond, the Fryeburg Academy campus is visible. Fryeburg Academy, incorporated in 1792, was one of the first schools in Maine and one of the first schools to accept women. Statesman Daniel Webster was headmaster 1806.

With the aid of a granite pedestalled, 360-degree rangefinder monument, the White Mountains can be identified to the west. The brass ring of surrounding terrain in profile was designed based on a survey by Fryeburg Town Surveyor and arctic explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary. Peary’s wife installed the monument on the summit in 1938 and dedicated a brass plate to her late husband.

“At one time we had Indians that walked that path,” Jones said.

There is a cave located along the path near the base of the granite outcropping that was inhabited by famed Pequawket healer, Molly Ockett, during her stays in Fryeburg.

Also known as a landmark and lookout for the Pequawkets (the local tribe of the loosely organized Wabanaki tribe), Jockey Cap marked a portage between the Saco River and Lovewell Pond, then known as Saco Pond.

Lost slope

Jockey Cap is listed as a lost ski slope of Maine by NELSAP, the New England Lost Ski Area Project.

“Not many people have heard about that,” said Higgins.

According to NELSAP the ski tow built at Jockey Cap in 1936 was the first in Maine. Photos from the November 1936 National Geographic Magazine feature article New England Ski Trails by photographer B. Anthony Stewart can be viewed on www.mainememory.net. Jockey Cap’s commission as a ski and toboggan center was short lived, succumbing to competition by Mt. Cranmore opened in 1938.

Today, Jockey Cap is listed on numerous sites devoted to bouldering and rock climbing. Mark Chauvin of Chauvin Guides in North Conway, N.H. uses Jockey Cap to offer instruction in rock climbing.

Jockey Cap’s trailhead, marked by a signed archway amid white picket fencing, is located less than a mile out of town on the grounds of the Jockey Cap Motel and Country Store, on Route 302 in Fryeburg.

More information can be obtained through the Fryeburg Historical Society, http://www.geocities.com/fryeburghs/, Diane Jones, director. Phone: FHS Research Library 207-697-3599 and FHS Museum 207-935-4192. The Society meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Legion Building on Bradley Street, in Fryeburg.


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