Dan Hikes to the Squirrel Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic, Maine

How would you pronounce Arrowsic?  Answer below from a born and bred Mainer.

After hiking at Reid State Park on the coast of Maine near Georgetown (click here for that blog) this early sub-freezing December morning, my hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum has one more trail for us.  Driving back up Route 127 from the coast, Paul turns in at Bald Head Road for the parking area at the end of this gravelly road.

With crusty snow still on the ground after a weekend storm, we have a clearly-marked, blue blaze trail into the woods to the Kennebec River.  Though I step carefully in places, the trail is basically snow-free.

Off to Squirrel Point Lighthouse

Amigo Paul leading the way

In the 18th and 19th century, the Kennebec River was the most important commercial waterway in Maine. Raw materials, including a lucrative trade in beaver pelts, were exported from Au Canada.  With few roads and many islands, local residents used the river as their highway.

On to the Kennebec River

Just a mile hike to the lighthouse, the trail takes us to the well-maintained lighthouse, keeper’s home, sloping-to-the-water boat house, and oil house.  The lighthouse keeper is so named for his responsibility to keep the wick burning for the lighthouse flame that is then reflected off the Fresnel lens; he also had the responsibility to rescue boats that ran aground in this narrow part of the waterway.

Some nut at Squirrel Point Light

The keeper’s place to the left

Boathouse with a ramp to slide the rescue boat into the Kennebec River

Our conversation turns to making retirement work.  As a ten year veteran of the retirement game, I offer that after an initial period of post-work angst of how am I ever going to fill the time, I now find that retirement gives me the gift of time. By that I mean, I don’t have to squeeze in what I want to do.  Of course, retirement can suck the burly rag without one’s health, enough resources, social contacts, and a suitable partner.

In Big Sur, California in retirement with a very suitable partner

My days in retirement with Hannah have me drafting and fine tuning my hiking pieces for this blog.  I picked up pickleball and found a cadre of athletic, active folks for regular contact.  And that’s just the beginning of my active life! In addition to pickleball, I choose from going to the gym, attacking the ping pong ball, walking the beaches, biking country roads, or hiking coastal and mountain trails.  If you can keep your lunch down, I apologize for these incessant humble brags.

Ideal on a still, sub-freezing morning on the coast of Maine, the trail to Squirrel Point Light is an easy, level family-friendly hike with parking for ten vehicles.  Having a good buddy to hike with makes it even better.

Good buddy PR and his pearly whites

Arrowsic – Longtime resident of Maine, Paul gives me the down low on this pronunciation.  – A-rue-sic.  No arrow at all.

Dan Hikes at Reid State Park in Georgetown, Maine

My hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum is toughening me up in ways that would make you proud.  Believe it or not, he has me hiking in winter in Maine.  Though the word on the street had been that I am soft, but maybe, times, they are achangin’.

PR with some Dunkin’

Let’s be clear, I’m not that tough.  Paul originally wanted to hike up Mount Pleasant near Bridgeton in the damn mountains of Maine in winter.  That hike was to take place just days after 6-12” snowstorm would hit the area.  Wisely, I spoke up, wondering if he had anything coastal?

And coastal he did! 

Tougher than believed to be, bundled up and ready to rock and roll at sunrise

Paul and I hike early, I mean early, in winter when there is less than nine hours of daylight.  Awaking to a 4A, I prep for what promises to be a 24F morning.  That includes three layers of shirts, winter hiking tights under my jeans, heavy winter coat, ski cap, and double layer mittens, and an “expect the good” attitude. 

With 90 miles of driving ahead up the coast through Brunswick and Bath, then turning towards the Atlantic on the Georgetown peninsula, in Freeport (north of Portland) I pick up Dunkin’ coffee and a muffin for me and donut for Paul. The pandemic has eliminated our usual pre-hike breakfast at a local greasy spoon dishing with the waitress and feasting on coffee, eggs over easy, home fries, and multi-grain toast. 

Arriving simultaneously outside the gate to Reid State Park, Paul and I have a ¾ mile paved road to Half Mile Beach just as the sun comes up. 

With the winds calm, we have an ideal morning for hiking/beach walking.  Really, you Arizonans and Californians! It’s quite pleasant to hike in the twenties, as long as there is no wind. Turning south towards the coastal inlet, we have snow-covered sand for firmer walking.

Half Mile Beach

U-turning back up the beach, we cross the rocks to One Mile Beach, with the rising sun to the east.  Paul and I go way back to my days as a prof at the U (that is University of New England) and he an elementary school teacher with out-sized enthusiasm who came to my teacher education classes to wow my students.  Hiking has kept us connected since I retired nearly ten years ago.

Mile Beach

Our early December morning has us getting outdoor, mask-free exercise in these Coronavirus Times. And best of all, a vaccine is on the horizon.  Our exemplary Governor Janet Mills is challenged to decide the priority for getting the vaccine; which I will get it in a heartbeat now that Dr. Fauci says so and together Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama are lifting their sleeves to get it publicly.

But who gets the vaccine after front line health care workers and nursing homes? Some wonder why give a vaccine to a 90-year-old with dementia before a single mother of four who works at Wal-Mart? Me included. 

Dr. Shah and Governor Mills

Maine’s top CDC public health official, Dr. Nirav Shah, says that he disagrees with the policy of giving the vaccine to the elderly first.  His recommendation for his in-laws who, though older are in good health and can socially distance, is, You know what?  I’m sorry, but there are others that I need to get the vaccine to first, so that when you guys get vaccinated, the world you come back into is ready to receive you.

No easy decision.  I am happy not to be Governor Rothermel.

Reid State Park

Dan Hits the Shoreline, Marsh, and Woodland Trails at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine

You would not be off base to wonder when in the world I am going to post a blog about actual hiking since my blog is over60hiker.com!

PR at the farm as dawn breaks

Fear not! Thanks to my hiking buddy Paul Rosenblum, I’m set to return to the trails this weekend. To refresh your memory, PR is the public school teacher who often came to my University of New England classes to wow my pre-service teachers with his passion and student-centered focus.

Early morning on the Atlantic near the barrier dunes

Of course, there is one small problemo.  Our start time is at 7 A.M. when the forecast is for low 20s on this blue moon Saturday in October.  Who hikes in such cold?  Well, it turns out Paul does.

Sucking it, putting on layers, and for once not being such a big baby, I meet Paul at Laudholm Farm, just 25 minutes from our York home.  In the 38 years that Hannah and I have lived on the coast of Maine, we have never been to this hiking venue. My bad.

Trail to the Atlantic

Arriving at the near empty parking lot, I head out with Paul through the grassy lawns of the historic main house and barns of the Laudholm Farm, part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

For a little background, after glaciers retreated 6,000 years ago, the Wabanaki settled in the region.  In the early 1900s, the Laudholm Farm was the largest saltwater farm in York County, selling milk, cream, butter, eggs, broilers, and roasting chickens to locals and for the Boston market. 

In 1978, local citizens banded together to protect the historic landscape and its structures.  Click here for the fabulous website with further details of Laudholm Farm.

Along the tidal Little River Estuary

Crossing the fields to the clearly marked trail to the Atlantic, Paul and I have easy walking on the feet-friendly wet beach sand.  Overlooking the marsh we wind along the tidal Little River Estuary.

Inland along the Little River Estuary
PR heading back from the beach through the woodlands

Returning to the woodlands, we have six foot wide trails that meander through the pines and oaks.  Stepping six feet into the woods in these Covid times, we let two women pass by.  We greet each other with distinctive Mainer smiles that say, Aren’t we lucky to live in such a place!

Trail through the fall woods
Sing “Under the boardwalk!” Really, we walked on the boardwalk.

Returning to the farm, we take the mowed grassy path through the fields.  To either side are stalks cut to ground level, that once flourished as ground cover for the wildlife.

The woodland trail takes us to the marsh overlooking the Rachel Carson Preserve.  At low tide, the Little River Estuary river exposes the mudflats minutes from the Maine coast.

Returning by way of the fields which we circumnavigate to stay in the now 32 degree warming sun, we have had three hours on the shoreline, marsh, and woodland trails.

Thank you Paul for getting my butt out of the house on a muy frio morning.  We make plans to hike again before Thanksgiving.  Stay tuned.

Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 4 of 4)

With our chilly brook crossings to Angel Falls behind us, we wonder what Maine Trail Finder means when it says we’ll do more rock hopping at Dunn Falls.  (Click here for more information on Dunn Falls.)  Fortunately, I have my four points method (both arms and both legs in the rushing brook) to steady me through mountain streams here in western Maine.

AD 5 map of andover

Driving through rural Maine, we clearly see the great divide between the Gold Coast of Maine (from Kittery to Belfast) and the rugged life inland.  There are many good people living in houses with exposed tar paper or mobile homes trying to eke out a living now that paper mills are running at a much reduced level.

Driving through Andover, Maine (population 821) with its vacations home and year-round residents, I have learned that the community has done all it can to save the 62-student Andover Elementary School with its five teachers.  For once the school goes, there is little reason for families to remain year round.

AD 5D  P on trail

Paul on the trail to Dunn Falls

Eight miles out of town on the East B Hill Road, we cross the Appalachian Trail to begin our two-mile round trip to the Dunn Falls.  At the roadside parking this mid-afternoon, we come upon Animal, his trail name from a 2012 thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.  Tattooed with that accomplishment on his right arm (yikes!), four years later he returns to the trail for a week to get a taste of his glory days.

AD 5BB D at cascades

Cascades along the blue blaze trail

Heading east one hundred yards down the hill from the road, we are advised to take a left on a blue blaze trail along the river of cascades and mini-waterfalls.  At 230P on a 75F in the shade of the Maine forest, Paul and I have a Maine Department of Tourism spectacular day for hiking.


After seven tenths of a mile, we see a yellow blaze blob on a tree and further on a blue blaze across the brook, directing us to the Dunn Falls.  Rocks are placed conveniently across this 20’ wide brook, so we just rock hop across without dipping in.  Our climb up the hill is steady; this has family hike written all over it.

AD 5C  P rock hopping

A very clearly marked trail takes us past the 80’ Lower Falls, which we only catch glimpses of through the trees.  We can get to the head of these falls, but that is hardly an impressive view compared to 70’ tumbling Upper Falls that awaits.

AD 5G  DF themselves preview

Upper Falls at Dunn Falls

As we climb into the interior, we soon come upon a pool beneath the Upper Falls.  Paul decides that this is the perfect time for a swim and dives into what is much icier, colder water than the brook to Angel Falls.

AD 5E  P after a swim by the falls

The upper Dunn Falls pool with back-lit Paul

Me?  Not today.  I have contacts (not people with influence but plastic in my eyes).  Nor am I dripping with sweat after our shaded hike, so hiking back in wet clothes is not my idea of a good time.  Skinny dipping?  Let’s not even go there.

So what have we learned this Monday afternoon in western Maine? 

AD 5F  D at white blaze at AT

White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

One, wherever you live, come to Maine and partake of a scintillating breakfast at the 1920s club car Deluxe Diner in Rumford.  Tell Jody that Paul and Dan sent you.  Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner.

Two, if you are daring, hike to Angel Falls, fording the brook three times as you cross.  It’s an Outward Bound-ish test that may just be the challenge you both want and need.

Three, take the quintessential “Bill Bryson-type Walk in the Maine Woods” on the Appalachian Trail to Dunn Falls.

AD 1AA  P and D selfie

Four, do all this with your version of Paul Rosenblum, a positive life force with an adventurous spirit.

Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 3 of 4)

Having given up our quest for Angel Falls after schlepping through the hillside slash for an hour, I ended Part 2 with this tease – Once across, Paul and I walk back to the trailhead parking to see four cars in the lot, not the two when we started.   Hmmmmm.   Someone has found the Angel Falls Trail.   And then we turn and see…

AD 3 map of AF

What we see are the promised red blazes on both a large rock and a tree on either side of the logging road directly to our left.   Smiling to each other, without a bit of self-flagellation, we just up and head to Angel Falls 0.8 of a mile away.

Crossing the Berdeen Stream again, this time on a bridge wide enough for cars, we have none of the barefooted fording of the white water that we did just an hour ago.  Feeling confident that the rock hopping described in the Maine Trail Finder website  would be quite manageable, we buoyantly head for the cooling waters of the 90’ Angel Falls.  (Click here for detailed information of Angel Falls.)

AD 3AAA more P crossing

With the roar of the brook building, we see a torrent among boulders roiling from the deluge of the past weekend.  And so it appears my iPhone and I have more watery challenges ahead.   In the lead, Paul takes off his boots and socks and chucks them across the wild brook.   Knowing from our previous experience that the water is cold, but not bone chilling cold, I follow suit and whip my boots with socks across the deafening brook.

AD 3BBBBB D crossing brook

From my previous “barefoot crossing on rocks” experience, I have learned that I am most comfortable crossing on four points (i.e., on all fours).   With my legs submerged in the racing water that is stirring around my feet, I step on mini-boulders while using my hands to get low in the brook as I place them on rocks in the tumbling stream.  With my iPhone in my pocket, I step into the icy tempest and successfully cross.

AD 3C  trail along brook

The trail itself is within feet of the roaring brook as we climb the gorge into the interior.   With my confidence building and having figured out that the four-point technique is “water crossing gold,” I am ready to ford the brook two more times in my frog stance.

On this 74F day under the shade of brook trees, we head closer to the falls.   Crossing the brook twice more has me going slowly and steadily across the submerged rounded rocks, some slimy with algae and others surprisingly algae-free.  After a successful third crossing, I have the white water heaven of Angel Falls within my grasp.  I feel like an Outward Bounder; doing something I didn’t realize I could do.

AD 4B  P at Falls

And then boom!  The crashing white water over the 90’ falls to the pool below is as spectacular as any western waterfall in Mount Rainier National Park.  There are some who contend that Angel Falls is the highest in Maine, one foot more than the Moxie Falls.  (Click here for more information about Moxie Falls.)

Whether they are or not, the falls have me searching for superlatives – stunning, spectacular, dazzling.  None of these words is hyperbole.

AD 4C  section of upper falls

Knowing my iPhone and I still have three knee deep river crossings before we return to the trailhead, we head down the brook trail a little before noon.  There we see a family of six ready to cross.   The 13-year-old girl with pole in hand is half way across the boulders.   Throwing our shoes to her grandfather who catches them like the high school shortstop that we soon learn he was, we wonder about kids crossing such a torrent.

AD 3BBB D at brook crossing

They have water shoes so they are less vulnerable to slipping than I am in my barefeet.  Later a family with a kid looking just a little older than our four-year-old grandson Owen is contemplating crossing the turbulent waters.  I can hardly believe it.

AD 3F  putting boots on

We talk of our experience with them, but soon head down the trail before we learn what mom and dad decide to do.

After tromping through the slash of lumbering Maine, then being immersed in the raging book on the way to Angel Falls, we have hit waterfall nirvana.

Part 4 concludes our waterfall adventure at the Dunn Falls…

Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 2 of 4)

AD 1A  D outside DD

After a fantastic breakfast at the Deluxe Diner (Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner) in Rumford, Maine, Paul and I head north for Angel Falls on route 17 through the “hardly towns at all” towns of Frye, Roxbury, Byron to Houghton.   The directions from the Maine Trail finder link are fine, but it would have been helpful to know that the Bemis Road was at the north end of the open field it mentions.  Click here for detailed information about Angel Falls.

AD 2A  P at wrong trail

It looked like the trail to us!

Rolling along the dirt Bemis Road for 3.5 miles we are directed by a cardboard sign to the side road to Angel Falls.   Spotting the promised large graffiti boulder at the parking area at the one-time gravel pit, we make a rookie mistake.  Our directions say clearly that we should follow the red blazes (2”x 8” rectangles painted on trail trees or prominent rocks).  We don’t.  We follow two older women on what anyone would say is obviously a trail (See Paul in the picture to the right.  Do hear an Amen?).  We jump to the conclusion that this is the way.

Heading towards the storm-fueled Berdeen Stream from this past weekend’s downpour, we immediately forget about the red blazes and look to cross the waterway.  Arriving at a field of slash (i.e., stripped branches, small logs from the lumbering company ) that covers the open spaces, we stomp across the lumber debris.  There, in our way is the 25’ wide white water mountain stream.  The women wisely abandon ship and head back to the trailhead.

AD 2E  P crossing Berdeen Stream

Without a second thought, Paul removes his boots and socks, takes them in hand, and balances his way, barefooted across the very rocky stream.  My amazement of Paul knows no bounds!  There is no way that would I ever do such a studly thing on my own.  But today I am with Paul.  So I deboot and desock and head into the white water flow.

Not nearly as breathtakingly cold as I thought it would be, the water is still mountain stream chilly; but nothing like the bone chilling water in early summer at York Beach.  I do wonder how bright a move this crossing is since I have my iPhone6 in my pocket, totally unprotected from the H2O.  When the Maine Trail Finder said there would be rock hopping, I had no idea that fording a raging stream, barefoot no less, would be required.

AD 2B slash


Yet, I make it across and am so damn pleased with myself.   Before us is a mountainside of slash from the havoc that men and women with their maniacal chainsaws have wrought.  We see no trail nor red blazes, but we are not easily dismayed.

AD 2D more bushwhacking

Bushwhacking through Tick Central

Bushwhacking through leaves, small firs, and brush, in what must be the Caribbean for ticks, we are relentless in our search of a trail.  Climbing in and over the hillside of lumber waste, we go left, then right along the hillside; up the mountain, and down to the stream looking for something that resembles a trail.

AD 2CC D on slash

For what seems like an hour we search the hillside to no avail.  Paul, who will look for a trail til the cows come home, finally says “Let’s go back.”  We do have Dunn Falls some 30 miles away to hike on our schedule today.  And so be it.  Today was not our Angel Falls day.

We do have to cross back over the roaring Berdeen Stream in all its ice-cold glory.  Having one successful crossing without dunking my iPhone to my credit, I agree with the odds makers that think I just might make it a second time.   Soon it is apparent that I am wobblier as these rounded, underwater boulders are not so forgiving.

As the current races, Paul throws me a bone, by which I mean a 5’ pole-like tree limb to steady myself.   I quickly learn that a staff is not my preferred way of crossing a roaring stream barefooted.  Losing my balance and heading for the chilly wetness, at the last second I catch myself, ever aware that my iPhone is inches from a watery grave.

Once across, Paul and I walk back to the trailhead parking to see four cars in the lot, not the two when we started.   Hmmmmm.   Someone has found the Angel Falls Trail.   And then we turn and see…

Part 3 lets you in on what we see.

Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 1 of 4)

When I hit the trails with Hannah, we hike.  When I’m off to the mountains of Maine with Paul Rosenblum, it’s a whole different animal; it’s an adventure.  As an elementary school teacher here in Maine, Paul regularly came to my education classes at the University of New England to blow my students away with his passion and insights into connecting with kids.

Every summer, he finds a trail for us and we are off to the boonies of Maine.  (See the “Hikes with Paul” category to the left of this blog for our other Maine hiking adventures.)  Today he has picked two short waterfall hikes in western Maine: the mile and a half round-trip to Angel Falls north of Rumford and the two mile Dunn Falls Trail that coincides with a section of the Granddaddy of all Trails – the Appalachian Trail.

Leaving home in York at 5A, I drive for an hour to his place north of Portland.  While I ride shotgun, Paul steers his 150,000 mile, 4-wheel drive, all-man Honda Pilot as we head inland to the north.

AD 1B  map of rumford

It is my responsibility to find a breakfast place for our pre-hike sustenance.  Checking out the towns along our route, I google, “diners in Rumford, Maine.”   The Deluxe Diner has a 4.5 of 5 rating and the price is right.   Rumford is a “trying to hang in there” old mill town on the Androscoggin River.   To be clear, there are two Maines: The Gold Coast from Kittery to Belfast where we live and then there is the rural, far poorer Maine.

AD 1A  D outside DD

The Deluxe Diner is small, very small in fact – ten stools at a 30’ counter.  (Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner.)  On this Monday in the second week of July, it’s an 8A work day for the good folks of Rumford.  Three grizzled locals are digging into their eggs and bacon, while a couple to our right looks like they are from away.

Asking for decaf, we see Jody, the waitress/owner, begin a fresh pot.   The counter provides an intimacy with both Jody and the retired grump to my left that I had never realized.  I’m known as a booth guy for breakfast, but I like this closeness; and we have no choice since there are no booths or tables.

Sporting a Boston Red Sox cap, two years ago Jody came to Rumford to run the diner.  When later we ask about a bathroom, she describes a basement dungeon that she advises us against even seeing.  She lets us know that a nearby Hannaford’s grocery store has a very clean men’s room.

AD 1 P and J at DD

When I ask Jody if I can post this picture of her and Paul on my Facebook page, she is all in and hopes we’ll “like” the Deluxe Diner.   (I later do.  Click here to read my Yelp Review of the Deluxe Diner.)

Thoroughly satisfied with my gooey two eggs over easy, lots of home fries, and homemade wheat toast, we are off to the waterfalls that we seek.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday as we seek out Angel Falls.

Dan Hikes Moxie Bald Mountain on the Applachian Trail in Maine

Paul, Maine hiker extraordinaire

Paul, my Maine hiker extraordinaire

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!

Paul at Devil's Doorstep on the way to Moxie Bald Mountain

Paul at Devil’s Doorstep on the way to Moxie Bald Mountain

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.

Thompson's Restaurant in Bingham, Maine

Thompson’s Restaurant in Bingham, Maine

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.

The pole with no street sign which we are reasonably confident is Town Line Road

The pole with no street sign which we are reasonably confident is Town Line Road

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.

Another unmarked road on our way to the trailhead

Another unmarked road on our way to the trailhead

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.

Heading north to Moxie Bald on the Appalachian Trail

Heading north to Moxie Bald on the Appalachian Trail

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.

MB 2D Paul on trailWe 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.

Rocky and rooted Moxie Bald Trail

Rocky and rooted Moxie Bald Trail

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.

Views to Sugarloaf Mountain to the west

Views to Sugarloaf Mountain to the west

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.

Dan at Devil's Doorstep

Dan at Devil’s Doorstep

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).

Dan with veteran AT hiker, Wildcat

Dan with veteran AT hiker, Wildcat

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.

From the summit looking northeast to Mount Kahtadin

From the summit looking northeast to Mount Kahtadin

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.

Hauling on the hauling with a deflating tire. We want no part of any Maine version of a trumped up Deflategate scandal

Hauling ass on the hauling road with a deflating tire. We want no part of any Maine version of a trumped up Deflategate scandal.  In Tom we trust.

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.

Paul's trusty work SUV at Lavallee's Garage in Moscow, Maine

Paul’s trusty work SUV at Lavallee’s Garage in Moscow, Maine

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!

Dan Hikes/Climbs Tumbledown Mountain in Western Maine

Annually I hike some crazy mountains in Maine with my teaching buddy Paul.  We’ve busted a gut for five hours hiking the Appalachian Trail to Old Speck Mountain; we challenged Borestone Mountain near Monson.   Today it’s Tumbledown Mountain near Weld, north of Rumford.

At 430A, I wake, polish off a bowl of oatmeal, and head north from York – an hour by car to meet Paul.  Our first order of business is to find a small town breakfast place.  Heading north on route 4, we cross over the Androscoggin River from Livermore Falls into the town of Jay.  Immediately on our left, we see a sign for the Mill Street Café.  Lisa welcomes us in to what was once the old office building of the main mill when making paper by International Paper ruled the roost.

Paul at our window side table at the Mill Street Cafe, Jay, Maine

Paul at our window side table                          at the Mill Street Cafe, Jay, Maine

With the Café all to ourselves, we ponder our breakfast choices.  For me, pancakes are a temporary, deceptive pleasure; delectable because of their cake-like nature, but I’m left hungry an hour later; that will not do when we are hiking Tumbledown Mountain, a three thousand foot peak, on a 90 degree day.  When breakfasting out, my default meal is two eggs over easy, home fries, and the most exotic toast they have.  Today it’s multi-grain.

A "Real Man's" Breakfast

A “Real Man’s” Breakfast

To top it off, Lisa is a $5 waitress.  Though the total bill is a very modest $12, we bump up the tip because of her engaging personality and excellent service.  She’s just a pro.

Traveling north on route 142, we stop at the town of Weld to resupply.  At 9A it’s already 85 degrees with temperatures across the state of Maine today going north of 90 degrees.

Paul at the trailhead parking lot a little before 10A

Paul at the trailhead parking lot a little before 10A

Driving 5.8 miles down the Byron Road (a dirt road), we park, lather on the sunscreen, and load our backpacks with extra water, turkey sandwiches, apple slices, gorp, and cut-in-half baby carrots.  The trail begins a mere 150 feet from the parking area.

Trekking sticks make the man (sometimes)

Trekking sticks make the man,                             I delude myself

The guidebook says the 1.9 mile Loop Trail to the summit has 1900 feet of elevation gain and takes an hour and forty-five minutes.  Walking into the woods, we thankfully find the trail almost entirely shaded, though very rocky.

Puncheons (wood planks) welcome us to the Loop Trail

Puncheons (wood planks) welcome us to the Loop Trail

The lower Loop Trail

The lower Loop Trail

Following the blue blazes, I use my trekking sticks for balance as well as it being an added workout for my arms.  In short order we go from a slight elevation gain to stepping up and over rocks.

The Loop Trail starts to take control

The Loop Trail starts to take control

And then it gets serious.  Without a slide rule we estimate the trail to be at least a 60% incline.  Grabbing handholds in the rocks, we scramble over mini-boulders and feel all of the 90 degree sun in our soaked shirts.  Wearing Under Armour rather than cotton, I find my shirt wet, but not clammy and clingy. My lightweight Nike shorts keep me cool and, I know what you are thinking, make you cool!

Looking back towards Webb Lake

Looking back towards Webb Lake from the Loop Trail

As I trod/climb/grasp upward, all I see is rocks, the sloped ground in front of me, and occasionally a glimpse of Paul’s hiking boots.  Putting away my trekking sticks, I find them of little use at such a steep angle.  I know that the trekking sticks will be a godsend on the way down for these creaky knees of mine.

Ready to mount the final assault

Ready to mount the final assault

The trail levels off in sight of the top, but another steep climb lies before us.  We have decided there is no way we’ll climb down this mountain.  Though it means an extra mile and a half walking on the Byron Road, we can double back by way of the Brook Trail after getting to Tumbledown Pond.

This is no hike.  This is a Himalayan climb sans Sherpas.  The pitch is severe and we grab rocks to make our way to the top.  We have heard stories about the “Fat Man’s Misery” crack through the mountain.  It’s a side trail that we mistake for the main trail.  Paul, ever fearless and intrepid, heads in while I sit back thinking there is no way in God’s green earth I am going in that hole/tunnel of rock.  I’ll climb back down before I enter that devil’s den.  Paul returns with news that this can’t be the trail for it ends with a fissure to the outside.

Paul exploring the "Fat Man's Misery"

Paul exploring the “Fat Man’s Misery”

Relieved, but wondering what the hell Paul has got me into, I follow him as we backtrack and push upward.  And then we see “The Chimney” opening.  The guidebook describes this tunnel through the mountain as not safe for novices, children, or dogs.  Really!   65 year olds beware.   With nowhere else to go, Paul heads into “The Chimney” and I follow.

Skirting the cliffs

Skirting the cliffs on the Loop Trail

There are three rungs of rebar strategically placed within the ascending stone tunnel of mountain.   Paul takes his backpack up, then returns for mine.  He’s just a flat out stud.  Draw your own conclusions about me.   I have no choice but to enter the maw of the monster.

What 60% looks like!

What 60% incline looks like!

I bang my head on the overhang rock but maintain my balance.  Paul, a spry 50-something, made it; there’s at least a chance that I can.  Grabbing the first rung to my left, I see light coming from above.   I’m trusting it’s not my Maker calling my name.  So far so good.  A couple feet higher to the right is the second rung. I step on to the first and swing my foot up to the second.  Needing all my flexibility, I do reach it and push up with my right foot.  I reach for the third rung and see daylight above.  I am not going to die.

Coming out of "The Chimney"

Coming out of “The Chimney”

Pulling me through, Paul beams his amazing grin that broadcasts, Isn’t this the best! 

It’s very cool.  And Paul, you got me through!  It took us two hours and fifteen minutes, 30 more than what the guide book says.  It must have been a mountain goat that wrote this entry.

Webb Lake from Tumbledown Mountain

Webb Lake from Tumbledown Mountain

Loop Trail - Byron Notch Road CAUTION Trail is very steep and difficult. Not recommended for children or dogs.

Loop Trail – Byron Notch Road                                                     CAUTION                                                                Trail is very steep and difficult.                          Not recommended for children or dogs.

On ridge trails, we luxuriate in their levelness and head to the right towards Crater Lake, now named Tumbledown Pond.  Spotting swimmers on the island in the pond, we are later told that it is the highest pond in Maine.

Level terrain!

Level-ish terrain at last!

Snaking our way down to the pond, we find this hiking to be child’s play after the Loop Trail.

Idyllic Crater Lake

Idyllic Tumbledown Pond

High school kids and families dot the shoreline.  If they are here, descending the Brook Trail clearly is doable.  We relax over lunch with our feet in the pond with a light wind and an air temperature a comfortable 80 degrees.

Tumbledown Pond (nee Crater Lake)

Shoreline of Tumbledown Pond (nee Crater Lake)

At first the 1.9 mile Brook Trail has us scrambling down boulders, but soon it gently slopes through the forest and eventually takes us on an eroded, rock strewn trail that was once a logging road.  

Descending the Brook Trail

Descending the Brook Trail

We see families and young campers pass us on the trail heading for an afternoon swim.  As we near the end of our hike, I think how one-to-one hiking is just the ticket for we introverts.  We make it to the Byron Road in 75 minutes, exactly an hour less than our ascent.

Brook Trail

Brook Trail

Since we have come down the Brook Trail, we have 1.5 miles of walking on this very sunny, very dusty, very gravelly Byron Road ahead to Paul’s Honda.

Byron Road back to Loop Trail parking area

Byron Road back to Loop Trail parking area

I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed hoping a car will pass our way and pick us up.  Though, walking this hot, dusty road is a small price to pay for not descending the vertical hell of the Loop Trail.  After 10 minutes, the first car rumbles by and we yell.   The driver pauses, thinks we are kidding, and starts to pull away; so we whoop it up even louder and he gets the point that we’d love a ride; as a fellow hiker, he welcomes us into the backseat.  Today we all are fellow members of the community of hikers.

Packed and ready to head for home on the coast of Maine, we have one final stop.  The west fork of the Swift River.

West fork of Swift River, Maine

West fork of Swift River, Maine

Paul has always wanted to pan for gold and I think “What the hey.”  The water is refreshingly cool as we dunk ourselves in the rushing stream.

Cooling my jets in the west fork of the Swift River

Cooling my jets in the west fork             of the Swift River

A gold panning family offers us tips to swirl the water in the pan and let the heavier gold settle to the bottom.  It takes far more patience than I have and in the end we leave with some fool’s gold and mica.   Keep your day job if you think panning for gold will bring you riches.

Paul panning for gold

Paul panning for gold

Spent, we head for home.  Let’s not mince words:  The Loop Trail is a tough, rugged, nasty hike.  It takes your soul.  It’s just mean.

That said, we did it!

Click on this “one minute video” of the Loop Trail hike to Tumbledown Mountain.  What the filmmaker describes as “Fat Man’s Misery” is in fact “The Chimney” that I described.  It’s not the walk in the park the video might suggest.