A hiker encounters an icy trail high on Mount Blue. Ron Chase photos

People are busy during the holiday season. So, when no one expressed interest in my scheduled Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society mountain hike in early December, my wife, Nancy, and I were undeterred.

After considering the various options that appealed to us, we decided on Bald Mountain near Weld. Since the area had experienced heavy rain the day before, we assumed any ice on the notable Bald Mountain exposed ledges would be washed away. A cool, sunny and breezy morning on our arrival at the trailhead, we packed and dressed for predicted gusty conditions at higher elevations.

What we didn’t dress for was an unanticipated obstacle encountered a short distance from the trailhead. Tiny Wilson Stream was almost overflowing its banks. Getting wet during a traverse was a near certainty. Not a little damp but serious wet. We needed waders, but they hadn’t been on the checklist. In fact, we haven’t owned waders since I discarded a pair that leaked while completing a misguided winter crossing of Hancock Stream in New Hampshire en route to Scar Ridge about 20 years ago.

We were all dressed up with no mountain to climb. Tumbledown and Little Jackson Mountains were fairly close, but I’d hiked them a couple of weeks earlier. I thought of Mount Blue; so, it’s my bad. Decades since I had climbed the nearby 3,187-foot peak; my senior recollection was the hike on Mount Blue was comparable to Bald in length and difficulty but less scenic.

On the map, Mount Blue was a short distance away. However, the drive was more complicated than it appeared. After passing Mount Blue State Park Headquarters on the Center Hill Road in Weld, the signage was confusing. Following a wrong turn, we located the poorly marked, narrow dirt Mount Blue Road and drove 2.5 miles through a couple of rough sections to the trailhead.

There is a new tower at the summit of Mount Blue.

A sign next to the kiosk indicated it was 1.6 miles to the summit. Although there was no indication of ice or snow anywhere in the area, as a precaution we added micro-spikes to our packs.


From the trailhead, we hiked steadily uphill on a wide, well-worn, rocky path in a mixed hardwood and conifer forest. The collapsed remains of the old Fire Warden’s Cabin were passed on the left after about a half-mile. The steep gradient continued for perhaps another half-mile to an open area where there was a partial view of the forested summit cone which appeared to be more than two-thirds of a mile away.

Shortly after, the trail angled right, and we entered a dense conifer forest. Patches of ice unexpectedly pockmarked the surface. As we progressed, the path narrowed and steepened. The sporadic ice worsened to a continuous carpet that completely covered the increasingly boulder-strewn route.

Nancy and I stopped to discuss our options. Believing the summit was close, our choice was to add micro-spikes and carefully continue. After persisting for some distance, we met two hikers who were descending with difficulty. They implied we were nearing the top. We weren’t — at least traveling at our snail’s pace.

Emerging onto a clearing where the sun was brightly shining on what appeared to be a relatively new tower, we finally reached the summit. On our last visit, the dilapidated remnants of an old fire tower were an unsightly welcome. The new structure is a marked improvement.

Winds were gusting, so we quickly donned our parkas and found a sheltered location to relax and consume much-needed snacks. Given the blustery weather, we decided to forgo the panoramic vistas presumably afforded by the observation deck on the new tower. Fortuitously, superb views were available from our lunch spot.

Our descent on the icy surface was tediously slow. Dry ground was a welcome relief. When we reached the trailhead, the outing had taken an hour more than expected. Even factoring in the ice delays, the hike seemed longer than 3.2 miles. An elevation gain of 1,774 feet is a possible explanation. Old age is more likely.

Although enduring more adversities than expected, we had the satisfaction of completing the challenging hike despite the precarious conditions. And much of the journey was thoroughly enjoyable. Our experience was a stark reminder that warm clothing and micro-spikes are a must this time of year.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at [email protected]

The beginning of the Mount Blue Trail was rocky but dry.

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