|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Blueberry Mountain, ME|
||Shell Pond Trail, Shell Pond Loop Trail, White Cairn Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Overlook Loop, Stone House Trail, Rattlesnake Pool Spur|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, October 31, 2020|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Good roadside parking along Deer Hills Rd. The road itself is in OK condition - nothing terrible, but it's rocky in places, with protruding rocks, has some potholes, and the bridge over Cold River needs to be taken slowly. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Mud - Significant, Leaves - Significant/Slippery |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Just a small one on Shell Pond Trail close to Deer Hills Rd that had good stepping-stones. The crossings of Shell Pond Brook on Shell Pond Loop Trail and Rattlesnake Brook on Shell Pond Trail are bridged. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||Trails were muddy in places, with fallen leaves frequently obscuring the mud until you step in it. A small portion of Shell Pond Trail below the cliffs of Rattlesnake Mountain was flooded, but possible to get around. A couple blowdowns here and there - not a major issue. Shell Pond Trail between Stone House Rd and the bridge over Rattlesnake Brook is not marked - basically just follow the double track. |
||Didn't see any. White Cairn Trail is steep, rough, and ledgy in places - make sure your dog can handle terrain like that. |
|Lost and Found:
||Chose this hike, despite the long drive, since this might be the last snow-free, not-too-cold weekend until next spring. Shell Pond Trail from Deer Hills Rd to the junction with Shell Pond Loop Trail is a fairly rocky footpath, with one spot that's a little difficult to follow at a small, muddy creek - just continue straight through the area and you should see the continuation of the trail. The WMG claims that Shell Pond is not visible from Shell Pond Trail; while that might be true in the summer, it is not true now when the leaves are down - I could see Shell Pond through the trees from a significant distance. Shell Pond Loop Trail is a woods road - easy to follow, and the view of the Baldies from across Shell Pond is excellent (the snow on the open ledges and even in the trees was clearly visible).|
Once I got to Stone House Road, I went 80 yards east to the start of White Cairn Trail. White Cairn Trail starts off easy, then gets moderate, and then the climb up to the open ledges is steep (the rock stairway helps). The climb up the ledges themselves is also somewhat steep, and mostly exposed - careful foot placement was important there. Luckily, the rocks were dry and had no ice (the ledges are south-facing). The views to the south and west from those ledges are excellent - the bluebird day helped. The uppermost section of White Cairn Trail goes across semi-open ledges and should be followed carefully, though the cairns were a good help (this area is in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, so there are no blazes). A few of the ledges in this section were icy, but it wasn't too difficult to get around them, and there was no snow on any of the trails. The Overlook Loop was beautiful, but again, follow the cairns carefully.
Descending Stone House Trail was interesting. The WMG claims that the upper part of Stone House Trail climbs steeply straight up the slope. This is not the case anymore - the upper part of the trail is now a gradual, winding ascent (or, in my case, descent). Since this is a fairly new section of trail, the footway is not well-established yet, and that, combined with leaves obscuring the footway and a lack of blazes due to it being in a Wilderness, made this section difficult to follow at times. However, due to this relocation, Stone House Trail is now significantly easier than White Cairn Trail (but also less scenic). The lower part of the trail is a woods road that was easy to follow. Rattlesnake Pool was very nice, and its green color reminded me of Emerald Pool just across the valley. Just below the spur to Rattlesnake Gorge, the trail forks - the WMG claims there's an arrow here, but I did not see one, however the left fork has a sign visible from the junction that says 'Private Drive', so it should be clear to take the right fork.
Once I reached Stone House Road, I continued on Shell Pond Trail by crossing the road and following the airstrip to the left. When the airstrip peters out, the trail continues on the double track. The lack of signs and blazes might make this area disconcerting for some, but a brief check of the map and guidebook made it clear that I was still on the right track.
I think this hike was about 7.5 miles, and it took me 4:20. I noticed while driving that there seemed to be a lot more white on the Sandwich Range in the morning than in the afternoon. A very nice day - crystal clear, cold in the morning but then warmed up a bit in the afternoon.
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.