On Saturday, Dec. 10, the winter sky was crisp and clear. The big, fat moon rose nice and full across the region during a hike up Bald Pate Mountain in South Bridgton.

If you’re looking for a nice little escape with a fine view of our natural phenomena, Bald Pate is a great bang for the buck. Previously owned by the S.D. Warren Co., this 500-acre parcel was acquired by Loon Echo Land Trust in 1996.

Loon Echo stewardship and volunteer coordinator Jon Evans grew up in this area and spent time hunting on this very hill as a youth. As our leader that Saturday, he was a wealth of information on the area.

“I have the greatest job in the world,” said Evans, who must draft a forestry plan for the parcel.

Evans said Loon Echo’s priorities for Bald Pate will include animal habitat first, recreation second and forestry third.

A group of 30-odd participants showed up for the sunset-moonrise hike up this 1,115-foot granite-faced hill, one of many such outings Loon Echo invites the public to each and every year.

We left our cars a little after 3 p.m. and followed Evans up an old tote road that was wide and easy. The air was crisp and clear. It felt good to put our legs in motion and work up some heat. A little before the summit, a lookout to the west revealed the area’s many hills, including Bear Trap Mountain, the site of an old granite bear trap where early settlers — most of them Revolutionary war veterans from Massachusetts — lured nuisance bears that preyed upon their livestock.

Bear Trap Mountain has seen development in recent years. Evans spoke with pride when telling the group that neighboring Bald Pate is one of the area’s few remaining outlooks, one that will forever remain accessible, saved from privatization and development.

Before we knew it, we were at the summit, which as its name suggests is mostly smooth granite ledge. It was nearly sunset and the waning light cast nicely among the several pitch pines that managed to eke out a living among the rocky crags.

Measuring just 6 inches in diameter, some of these scraggly specimens are 250 years old, Evans said. They grow very slowly atop the rock and are relatively rare, especially at this altitude. Evans said they depend on forest fire to regenerate; their cones open in the heat and release their seed.

At 4:05 p.m., the sun began to dip behind the western hills, the light glistening off Hancock Pond just to the west. Many of us pulled out our cameras and captured the ever-changing light as the sun made its descent over a brilliant scene.

Seven minutes later, it was time to focus our attention in the other direction. At 4:12 p.m. the lazy moon began to rise. With a nearly 360-degree view, the summit is a great place to witness the Earth’s rotation this time of year — when sunset and moonrise occur within minutes of each other.

The December moon was called the “Christmas Moon” by colonial settlers. Some Native American tribes called it the “Long Night’s Moon.” In medieval England it was referred to as the “Oak Moon.”

Bald Pate Mountain is right off Route 107, a little ways before the Bridgton/Sebago town line heading south on the left. A wooden sign on a sharp bend in the road leads to ample parking and a trailhead.

Other Bald Pate hikes will be among Loon Echo’s 2012 event calendar, which includes two Mushers Bowl snowshoe hikes here on January 21 and 22; a tracking hike at Bridgton’s Pondicherry Park February 18; a sunrise hike back at Bald Pate March 20; and trail maintenance at Pleasant Mountain on April 14. For more information on these events and the rest of 2012, visit loonecholandtrust.org.

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

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