|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Snow Mountain (Chain of Ponds), ME|
||Road walk, bushwhack|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, February 16, 2019|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Parked along the road in semi-cleared area, with enough space for logging and other vehicles to pass. The semi-cleared area hadn't been plowed since the last storm (8-12" had fallen since). |
||Snow - Unpacked Powder |
|Water Crossing Notes:
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
|Lost and Found:
||Any trip to a Maine "six pack" peak is an adventure. Add in the Winter component, and it's doubly so. Snow - Chain of Ponds can be very tough to reach in Winter via the regular route because many logging and access roads around it are not plowed. By default we'd have a five-mile road walk along North Road off Route 27 before you even get to the summer trailhead, then another 3.5 miles to hike to the summit. The round-trip distance would amount to about 17 miles -- a long day even if the road were broken out by snowmobiles.|
Instead, by recommendation of some fellow hikers and some further in-depth research, I looked at a different, significantly shorter route. I called the US Border Patrol and a logging company (Pepin) active in the area ahead of time, too, to ask permission and make them aware of our presence there, as this whole area is essentially large, private land sometimes undergoing active logging -- and it lies just a few miles from the US / Canada border.
We drove to the starting point, expecting to head out along a relatively short stretch of unplowed road before heading into the woods. We encountered a few guys unloading a couple snowmobiles; they were going to be riding the same road we planned to walk. To our dismay, they told us that access to the road was usually not allowed, and recommended we contact a specific person in charge first, who would be joining them some time in the next few hours. We couldn't wait that long for him to come, so we deliberated a bit and decided it would be best to give him a call as we hikers prefer to respect private landowners and their wishes. (There were no "No Trespassing" signs, but this area isn't exactly full of "public" roads to begin with.)
We drove back out to "civilization" and made the call, since the hiking area was far out of cell signal range. To our great relief and deep appreciation, he gave us permission to walk the road so long as we respect the land, and not share the route. I am honoring that request here so I can't be too specific about where and how we hiked in. That said, the route is one that's been traveled by others in years past so it's not exactly a secret. But we understand the concern here: that many of these roads are privately owned, so there is a question of liability and the like.
Anyway, we drove back in and started out, over an hour-and-a-half later than we planned. The snowmobilers we talked to earlier had broken out the road so we made quick work of that stretch then headed into the woods as planned. Unsurprisingly, we encountered deep powder, anywhere from 2 to 4+ feet all the way up. Snowshoes the whole way.
The woods were beautiful, largely open except for a small patch we encountered up high. We kept to a compass bearing that took us mostly diagonally up the mountain, until we joined the traditional herd path just below the summit. At the summit we saw more concrete evidence about just how much snow we were dealing with: the collapsed cabin was completely covered in snow, and we saw no evidence of the rock ledge you usually have to climb up to get to the base of the old tower. Snow filled in that lower area, making the rest of the summit basically level. We knew we'd encounter a lot of snow this far north, and it was especially apropos on a mountain of this name.
We signed the register and headed back, our way made much easier by our earlier steps. A steady but light snow fell all day, creating some of the most peaceful and idyllic winter scenes at points along the route where the woods were more open. As we neared the road on the descent, we were treated to a magnificent view of a pond down below, with sun barely peeking through the clouds. Rays of sun shone down over the lake, with ice and blowing snow creating a shimmering effect that was awe-inspiring to behold, and difficult to put into words.
Mark, Mike, Mike, and I deeply appreciate the privilege and ability to take this route up the mountain. It provided a very memorable experience for us, and further cemented our love of the area, its challenges, and rewards. 96 of Winter NE 100
||Erik Bertrand |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.