Paul is my wild and crazy hiking amigo. He takes me places I would never go. Four years back we hiked Speck Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in western Maine; a tough eight mile, five hour hike over rocks, stones, and boulders that brought me to my knees. We’ve hiked the Loop Trail to Tumbledown Mountain near Weld in central Maine, which has a stony winding tunnel of rocks called “The Chimney” that we climbed through! The guidebook describes this tunnel through the mountain itself as not safe for novices, children, or dogs. After, we panned for gold!
It’s never dull with Paul. Now when he suggests a hike, I ask him to send me a link describing it. The Moxie Bald Mountain Trail is a moderate/difficult-rated four mile round trip to the summit with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. That seems doable; I wonder what I am missing.
In his made-for-backroads SUV, we drive north on the Maine Turnpike to route 201 through Skowhegan and on to breakfast in Bingham, some three hours from York this mid-July. With excellent Yelp reviews, the country Thompson Restaurant on the Main Street does not disappoint. It’s a classic small town Maine diner with a menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; counter stools, three booths, and a smattering of tables for four or six. We pay $12 total for coffee, two eggs, home fries, and toast.
And then my Paul reality (unmarked roads) hits as we head out of town on route 16 to the east looking for the Town Line Road. When we pass a road with a metal post with no street sign, we guess that this must be it based on our calculations.
We go for it. The rocky and gravelly road takes us through country that only moose, hunters, and hermits would love. Since the massive logging trucks drive this road regularly, the road is well maintained. Aislinn Sarnacki of the Bangor Daily News is the source of our directions to the summit of Moxie Bald.
Just past a Recreational Trail Crossing sign and the Moscow town line, turn right onto Town Line Road. Drive 2.6 miles to the end of the road and turn right onto Deadwater Road (no sign). Drive 4 miles to a fork in the road and take the left fork onto Trestle Road (no sign), staying along the power lines. Drive 2.9 miles and turn right onto an unmarked road (which is just past an unmarked road on the left that has a bridge over Moxie Stream). Drive uphill on the unmarked road 0.7 mile to a fork in the road, and take the left fork onto the unmarked Moxie Bald Road. Drive 3 miles to a bridge over Bald Mountain Brook. Cross the bridge and park on the right, well out of the way of traffic. Walk about 0.1 mile farther to where the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses the road. Take a right to hike the trail northbound to Moxie Bald Mountain.
That’s a lot of unmarked and no signage roads (my boldface), but the directions to the tenth of a mile prove spot on. On a July day forecasted to go into the mid-80s, we lather on organic Skeeter Skedaddle and lube on sunscreen. In my lightweight Under Armor shirt and Nike shorts, I strap on my fanny pack with two bottles of water, tangerines, apple slices, and tuna salad sandwiches by Hannah.
We enter the forest to our right a little before 10A. Covered by leaves lapping onto the trail we run into Itis (his trail name [we never find out why]), the first of five AT thru-hikers we will meet today. Soon after, a young female solo hiking comes by. Trail names are often given by others and as yet she doesn’t have one. Her heavy hiking boots proved uncomfortable at Mt. Katahdin so she ditched them for lightweight hiking sandals.
The trail is muddy but not so much that we can’t easily walk around the muddy spots. We gently rise towards Moxie Bald, but it is in no way strenuous on this well-maintained trail. We meet another thru-hiker called Four Ounces. Smiling, he never reveals how he got that trail name, but he is on a smoking pace, having left Katahdin 135 miles away just one week ago.
While the first 1.6 miles is a walk in the park, we come upon a junction where to the left we can take the Summit Bypass Trail or to the right head directly to the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain. We head right as the trail steepens over the last 0.4 of a mile to the top: but it is not so arduous that we can’t continue to talk and climb and climb and talk.
Soon we are upon the Devil’s Doorstep, a series of stone monoliths 4o to 60 feet long with passageways. It’s all very cool as we climb upon rocks and over roots seeking the summit. Emerging out of the forest, we rock scramble over the massive stones on the mountainside on the way to the bald (a mountain top with no trees).
We see a thru-hiker in the distance, who turns out to be Wildcat (trail name) who has completed the AT years ago. As a chaplain supported by the Methodist Church, his mission is to follow the golden rule and help out others on the trail. Different from Four Ounces, he has taken more than two weeks to get to this point on the AT; he has had Trail Magic in the form of friends providing a meal and a place to stay off-trail four times since he left Katahdin.
Atop Moxie Bald Mountain on this hazy Monday, we have a 360 degree view to Mount Katahdin, Sugarloaf, and the Bigelows. A little after noon, Paul and I are of one mind that we’d rather keep our hiking momentum going by hiking back to the trailhead now and then have lunch in town at a picnic table.
Arriving at the trailhead more than 3.5 hours later, we drive out the gravelly hauling road when two things occur. One, we see a moose in the road, who scampers into the wetlands before I can ask him to look this way for a picture. Two, the tire pressure light goes on the dashboard indicating one of the tires has been punctured on this rocky road. We opt for Paul to cowboy it out on this logging road at 40 mph to see if we can get to route 16, twelve miles away, before every bit of air is out of the deflating tire.
Sitting high in the saddle, Paul is rocking along the logging road. He then comes up with another brilliant idea. We’ll go back to Thompson’s Restaurant and ask the waitress where is the best garage to have a tire fixed. We drive into the lot at Lavallee’s Garage where the mechanic puts the car on the lift immediately, plugs the tire, and charges Paul $10.
Gotta love small town Maine, its people, its hauling roads, and its Moxie Bald Mountain along the Appalachian Trail!