Friday, March 29, 2019

Hiking Central Maine

Last spring, my two sons informed me that it was my fatherly duty to take them up Maine’s highest peak, Katahdin. While in my 20s and 30s I had climbed Katahdin over 30 times, including 7 winter ascents, old knees, a bad back and a 47 year old cardiovascular system had me realizing that before attempting the mountain, I needed to train. (*Side note, before starting the Katahdin hike last summer, I packed a small container of Bayer aspirin in my backpack in case I had a heart attack, LOL! When I later told my wife, she didn’t find it nearly as funny as I did!)

While millions of people head to the gym to prepare their bodies for a wide variety of outdoor pursuits, I have always found that the best way to train to climb mountains is to well…climb mountains. No elliptical runner, stair stepper or tread mill ever created, can prepare muscles, ligaments and tendons to handle slippery, unstable rocks, adverse weather, airy heights and the full body workout that is required to drag oneself up Katahdin Stream Trail. Because I knew this to be true, my training regimen consisted of hiking some of the “larger” mountains in the central Maine area.

Bond Brook 
Anyone starting out on a new exercise program should first consult a doctor. It’s also a good idea that if you have not exercised in a long time to start out with something relatively easy. In Augusta, the Bond Brook Recreation Area (Map 12, C-5) is a 270 acre urban wilderness area owned by the City of Augusta. At only 270 acres individuals will be pleasantly surprised to discover a network of over 12 miles of trails here. These trails are popular during the summer with mountain bikers and hikers and in the winter enjoyed by snowshoers and Nordic skiers. The Bond Brook parking lot is located directly behind the Augusta airport. To get there from Downtown Augusta, head north on Mt Vernon Avenue and turn left onto Bond Brook Road. From Civic Center Drive, head south and turn right on Bond Brook Road. Turn left on Tall Pines Way; there is parking located before and after the bridge and more parking is available at the stadium. Follow Tall Pines Way up the hill to the Stadium Parking Lot. Parking is also available at Mt. Hope Cemetery off Winthrop Street.

Mt. Pisgah Conservation Area 
Once a new exercise program is started, it’s helpful to slowly increase the intensity of your workouts to continue to strengthen muscles and cardiovascular systems. Mt. Pisgah (Map 12, C-2) is a perfectly “moderate” hiking trail. The 0.7mile trail to the summit is up a steady grade but not oppressive. The forested summit of Mount Pisgah features the former Maine Forest Service fire tower, which was in use from 1949 to 1991. The tower provides spectacular 360 degree views and on a clear day, Mt. Washington can be seen looming on the western horizon. To get to the Mt. Pisgah Trailhead from Route 133 in Wayne, turn south onto Fairbanks Road. At the end, turn left onto the Mt. Pisgah Road. Travel south about 1.7 miles, the parking lot is on the left. From Route 202, turn onto North Main Street and go into North Monmouth. After about 0.7 mile, turn right on New Road, which becomes Mt. Pisgah Road. Continue for approximately 1.6 miles, the parking lot is on the right.

Kennebec Highlands, Hiking Kennebec County’s Highest Peak 
After maintaining a fairly steady hiking program for a couple months, most individuals will be ready to take on more challenging mountains. The Kennebec Highlands are comprised about 6,400 acres in the town of Vienna, Rome, Mount Vernon and New Sharon and is the largest contiguous block of conserved land in central Maine. Fantastic hiking opportunities, exist in the Kennebec Highlands, including Kennebec counties highest peak, McGaffey Mountain (Map 20, E-3). The summit of McGaffey Mountain (1,310 ft.) is accessible via the “A” trail, a “moderate” hike which follows a gradual uphill grade. After 3.3 miles of hiking, the trail opens up onto a beautiful overlook. Following the trail another 1.2 miles across a rocky ridge line and it terminates at the view less summit of McGaffey Mountain. The McGaffey Mountain Trail starts off Watson Pond Road, which branches from the west side of Route 27 about a mile north of the intersection of Routes 27 and 225. Several other small mountains, exceptional for hiking and well worth exploring include: the 2.9 mile loop trail up 854ft. Sanders Hill, the 4.5 mile loop trail up 1,133 ft. Round Top Mountain, the 1.3 mile loop trail up 755 ft. Mt. Phillip and the 1.5 mile trail up 665 ft. The Mountain.
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