|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Snow Mountain (Chain of Ponds), ME|
||ATV trails, herd paths|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, June 5, 2021|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||North Road (that at some point becomes Snow Mountain Road) is in excellent shape, probably due to the recent activity of logging operations. Since this was a Saturday, there were no signs of activity today and I have no idea if there is current operations or not. If there is, proceed cautiously as the road is narrow in several spots.
North Road is marked with a blue sign, easily seen on the left approaching on ME27 from the south, with a wide apron. This is approximately 13.5-14 miles north of the Eustis Community Center or 9.5-10 miles north of the Cathedral Pines Camping area sign.
The road passes 2-3 residences in the first .2 miles and takes a very sharp right turn, with another road forking straight (left fork). After this, there are many roads entering on either side, but keep on the main road in the same general heading (although the road twists and turns). There are at least 3 wooden bridges, one which looks a little sketchy, but is very sturdy since it is built to hold the weight of loaded logging trucks. There are a few rocks protruding and some depressions, but all easily avoided with care. The road is easily passable in anything but a very low slung sports car or roadster, and even they might be ok with a careful driver.
There is a sign with a number 4 and pink flagging at the 4 mile mark near a junction. Continue on the fork that has the sign. (I didn't notice any at miles 1,2, or 3, but there may be some.) There is another sign and flagging at mile 5 at a parking area, about .1 from the trailhead, with a well developed logging road proceeding forward. If your vehicle can handle a bit of drop from the roadway and some rough ground, it is possible to park 2-3 vehicles right at the trailhead.
The trailhead is marked by two large boulders on either side of a wide ATV trail, which turns about 100 yards from the beginning and just before a branch of the logging road, easily seen from the trailhead. It might be possible to drive up to the second junction of this road with the traditional trail (see trail notes), but there doesn't seem to be any safe parking at that point (if logging equipment is using the road.) |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Three major water crossings are bridged (all on lower ATV trail). Several other small streams, runoffs are all easy step overs or walk-throughs (most have less than 1 inch deep water). Some of the wet areas of trail have more water on them than the minor streams. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||This is supposedly an unmaintained trail, however, several blowdowns have been cut to ease passage. There are some difficult ones remaining. Two on summit herd path are low enough to require hands and knees, and a couple other that are close and require an extremely deep squat. The ones too large to climb over have herd paths bypassing them. Some could be handled with a hand saw, so great opportunity for those so inclined.
Key junctions are marked in some manner, as described in notes, but they can be missed if not careful.
Some possible wrong turns have logs or branches laying across the wrong way. However, there are also many such branches laying across the correct path. The most critical ones are marked with large branches/logs that have not been de-limbed. |
||There are several small streams on 3 of the 4 segments and nothing technical on any of the trails. The upper ATV trail may be prone to ticks as the vegetation grows in. Saw no animals or humans today. |
||Bugs started swarming while unloading my gear and the mosquitos were biting. I don't know all the varieties, but there were several of them. Temps at start were mid fifties and apparently not cold enough to slow them down. Maybe these are Canadian bugs and they think it is summer already. Annoying through first 2 segments, so I took a water break and put on my bug net (can't stand them flying into ears, etc. even if they don't bite). Had long sleeves and long pants on, not knowing what to expect for hazards, so had protection for everything but hands and wrists (where I did get one nasty bite from something.) |
|Lost and Found:
||Found one empty plastic water bottle and packed it out. Hope it's worth a nickle for my effort.
Lost the summit herdpath and found it again a quarter-mile later. (Actually got some real bushwhacking in.)
Couldn't find the summit herdpath, at first. See notes to help others find it more efficiently. ||
||Snow (Chain of Ponds) (Franklin County) (Alder Stream Township)|
I think of this hike as having four distinct segments: ATV trail (lower), Cutoff herdpath, ATV trail (upper), Summit herdpath
The lower ATV trail starts at the trailhead, goes about 100 yards and takes sharp left over first bridge. In just a few feet the trail joins a branch of the logging road and follows the very open road for about 120 yards where it re-enters the woods, marked with large boulders on either side of the ATV width trail. This section of trail has several very wet areas with much water and mud on trail, most of it easily bypassed, but some requiring some careful steps to avoid wet feet. The trail intersects the logging road branch at the .5 mile mark with the trail marked by large boulders on either side of this intersection. The trail proceeds another 1.1 plus miles from here with varying grades (mostly moderate steepness) and patches of mud and water. The trail opens up from time to time as the log cutting comes right up to the trail in some spots, but other than the road intersections mentioned, doesn't impact the trail itself. The second bridge appears at 1.1mi and the third bridge a little past 1.5mi (distances from trailhead). The markings for the Cutoff herdpath are on the right a little more than .1 mile past the third bridge on the high side of a sharp left hand turn. There is a wooden backing nailed to a tree with pieces of a yellow arrow attached and there is a cairn at ground level. You gain approximately 900 feet of elevation in this 1.6 plus mile segment. (If you plan to take this cutoff and you reach a 4th bridge, you missed it and need to backtrack down the ATV trail.)
Some people continue on to the pond and then take the other ATV trail from there. Most of the trail reports I read take the cutoff as the pond section has a reputation for being very wet and difficult to navigate at times. The cutoff herdpath initially follows a streambed and then turns into a herdpath that follows another abandoned trail/road. There are several apparent departure points from the streambed, but I followed it for a full .1mi and took a very obvious herdpath just before a very heavy blowdown section blocking the streambed. This path moves away from the stream, but then bends back and quickly joins the aforementioned road. The streambed had less than 1 inch of water in most places and many of the rocks above the water line were flat and dry (others are rounded and wet). After exactly a quarter mile, this herdpath pops out at the famous ATV trail junction marked with a cairn at the end of the herdpath. You gain only about 100 feet of elevation in this segment.
At the junction, there is an ATV trail bridge visible to the left and a very muddy ATV trail proceeding in the same heading as the just completed herd path. To the right is a lot of vegetation, some wet areas and large puddles and nothing that resembles an ATV trail, from the viewpoint of the cairn. Older trail reports indicate to take the muddy ATV trail directly ahead and it presumably eventually connects with the ATV trail to the right or a herd path connects the two. The more recent reports say to turn right, go through the wet area for a very short distance and a very visible ATV trail becomes apparent. This is the shortest and most direct route to get to the summit herd path. This segment has a number of wet areas with large puddles, that today all had ample solid mud pathways around them. In rainy weather or following a rainy period, these may be more difficult as they appear to lack drainage. Also, the vegetation was low today, but it appears that it might continue to grow and could be considerably higher later in the season. This trail then steepens and some rocks become more exposed and there are more boulders along the sides of the trail. The trail climbs over two pairs of slabs, both on turns of the trail, then climbs a short grassy patch to a level area with a puddle at almost exactly .5 miles from the junction. There is a small cairn on the right and an obvious footpath heading toward the summit. There is also a medium sized boulder on the left side of the ATV trail if you would like to take a rest before the steep climb. The elevation gain is between 300 and 400 feet in this segment.
For some reason I thought the herd path started between the two slab pairs and I made several trips up and down this section looking for the cairn before proceeding to climb a bit higher, so I got a little extra elevation in my track.
Once you have found the correct Summit herdpath, it is generally easy enough to follow all the way to the summit. There are, however several blowdowns and if you bushwhack around them, it is sometimes difficult to pick up the correct path. There are a number of blowdowns that have not been cleared (and a number that have been) and some steep pitches with wet soil or rocks or erosion that makes footing extremely slippery. At least two blowdowns require getting down on all fours to get under (at least with a pack on) and some others that require a quite deep squat. Some large ones require a walk around. There are a couple of very steep pitches, some with good footing, others more treacherous. There are a couple of sharp turns in the path, but the correct path is fairly easy to determine with some careful evaluation. I did lose the trail once at a blowdown bypass and wound up adding about a quarter mile to my ascent before getting back on the correct path. I had no problems on the descent. (I can be trained.) There is about 900 foot elevation gain on this .9-1.0mile segment, with a 50 foot drop in the first .2 mile, so that tells you how steep this is.
There are no views at the treed summit unless you climb the sketchy looking firetower. I started in sunshine, but it was cloudy when I reached the summit. I had no desire to climb today, anyway. Plus the wind was gusting at about 20mph. Of course the sun came back out 3 minutes after I left the summit. There were some views from the outcropping just below the summit. (Look back after climbing over the slab, from firm ground.) There is a wooden box wired to a tree a few feet before the fire tower and summit cairn. I didn't want to take the time to unwind and wind up the wire (presuming the summit log is inside).
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.