Dan and Hannah Climb Mount Battie in Camden, Maine

Home to the most beautiful harbor on the coast of Maine, Camden holds a dear spot in our hearts.  When Hannah and I were running on empty, out of gas as parents, my mom and dad (Jean and Dan) stepped up and took our kids for a long weekend while we escaped to Camden, 125 miles up the coast from home. Camping at the base of Mount Battie in the Camden Hills State Park, the following morning we’d take the ferry to the channel island of Islesboro for a day of biking in what I imagine is what 1950s Maine looked like.

The Lincolnville Ferry takes us from north of Camden to Islesboro, three miles away on a trip that takes 20 minutes.

Arriving after a morning walk into the bay to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, (click here for that blog), Hannah and I arrive by noon for our hike to the top of Mount Battie.  Though there is an auto road to the summit, Hannah and I are pumped for a fall hiking experience in shorts and tee-shirts on this most unusual mid-November day in the mid-60s.

The trail begins at the P parking area directly above the route one symbol. We then take trail 16 to trail 14 which has a summit trail (not shown) to Mount Battie.

Walking the auto road for two hundred yards, we come to the hiker’s parking lot with the only port-a-potty we see on the entire grounds. TMI?

Dan aboard the puncheons

Puncheons (parallel planks) greet us through a what would be a boggy stretch if the summer rains had come.  We have a well-marked trip with blue blazes on the trees every 50-100’.

The hiking challenge is that the brown fall leaves cover the trail, hiding its roots and especially rocks.  Stumbling on rocks is an occupational hazard of hiking in the fall.  But using a favorite word of our grandsons Max and Owen, we are agile enough to hike without incident today.

Nearly to the top of this 1.5 mile trail that will take us about an hour, we are told by descending hikers of an owl just off the trail.  Totally missing the owl some 30’ of the trail, we are fortunate that another hiker draws us back to the spot where it is perched on an oak branch.  Not wanting to spook it, get in the way of mice it might be stalking, or owlets it might be protecting, I use my iPhone to take its prom photo.  Later I zoom in and edit the picture.

Well-camouflaged barred owl

The 780’ in elevation to the mountaintop gives us a good work out.  At the top fifteen cars and motorcycles are parked with folks out and about enjoying the coastline below.  With the warm air of the day and far fewer gleaming white sailing craft than would be there in the summer, the view to the harbor is a hazier memory of paradise.  Still, the Camden Harbor remains numero uno for me.

Hannah above Camden Harbor atop Mount Battie

Tower at Mount Battie dedicated to the soldiers and sailors who fought in the Great War (WWI) where our friend Eric proposed to his now wife Genevieve

On the way down, we walk carefully on the slippery dry leaves.  At the hiker’s parking lot, I ask a young man if I can take a picture of the bird on his head.  Happy to, he tells us that it is a rainbow lorikeet (kin to parakeet?), native to Eastern Australia, though he said he got it just up the road in Belfast.

Lorikeet

Three coastal hikes in Bristol, Newcastle, and Camden (home to Don McLean – singer/songwriter of American Pie) and two lighthouses (Pemaquid Point and Rockland Breakwater) over two days is our kind of two-day warm fall getaway on the coast of Maine.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Dodge Point Preserve in Newcastle, Maine

Our mid-November day on the Mid-Coast of Maine wraps up with another hike, this time along the Damariscotta River in Newcastle.  Thanks to the recommendation of our friend Molly Hogan, we drive a simple 18 miles back up the Pemaquid Peninsula, cross the tidal Damariscotta River and head south towards the Gulf of Maine on the appropriately named River Street.

By the way, Molly is a preeminent Maine nature photographer, a blogger/poet, (click here for her Nix the Comfort Zone blog), current elementary school teacher/hero during a pandemic, and a former student of mine in Teacher Education at the University of New England.

With sunset at 420P, we park at the Dodge Point Preserve.  When the information kiosk recommends that we wear hunter orange while hiking since it’s hunting season, Hannah and I don’t think twice about putting on our fluorescent yellow reflective vests for the trail. Momma didn’t raise no fool. 

A fashionable reflective vest, oui?
We start at the center of the map, head right on the Old Farm Road Trail, hike the Shore Trail, and return by way of the OFRT.

The trailhead map lays out a straightforward loop hike along the Old Farm Road Trail to the Damariscotta River.  Wide enough for a 19th century horse-drawn wagon, the sloping to-the-water, oak leaf-filled trail allows us to walk side by side on an unusually warm (64F!!). 

Old Farm Road Trail

At various junctions, the trail is well-marked and includes, for the first time hiker, the same map we saw at the trailhead.  Brilliant!

Ice Pond Hannah

By Ice Pond and then walking the wooden puncheons (planks set on boggy parts of the trail), we never lose the totally golden brown oak leaf covered trail as the river is always to our east.

Dan aboard the puncheons through the low lying area
Damariscotta River
Heading to the trailhead before sunset

From across the river we hear the sound of a gravel truck dumping its load.  Soon we realize that the sound is actually the echo from gunshots.  We are indeed in rural Maine and not in Kansas (and by that I mean York) anymore.

With the sun setting, we return by way of the Old Farm Road Trail as an orange-vested hound barrels at us (and by that I mean me). From 100’ away a woman loudly yells, Come, come.  Paying no attention, the pooch races at me at 70 miles per hour as I stare down the gun of a barrel.  Stopped dead in our tracks, not knowing what to expect, we watch it circle us and return to the distant woman.  As we pass, she genuinely apologizes and says, she always comes back.   Well not, this time.

Having been bitten and nipped on the road/trail while biking, hiking, and walking, it’s not hard to guess that I’m not a dog person.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I like dogs that don’t bark, are leashed, and don’t really care about me.

As Billy Shakespeare writes, All’s well that ends well!  The minor incident hardly disturbs our third celebratory adventure of the day hiking the preserves in coastal Maine.

Click here for the first at the La Verna Preserve blog and click here for the second to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

Dan and Hannah Celebrate by Hiking the La Verna Reserve near Damariscotta, Maine

Unusually warm weather for early November has Hannah and me itching to the hit the road and rock and roll up the coast of Maine for some hiking and lighthousing.  Having my own personal Maine travel guru in Paul Rosenblum, I learn that 100 miles north of York are hiking trails on the Pemaquid Peninsula for our time to celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

Warm temps over the cold Atlantic bring heavy fog to the coast this Monday after the 2020 election, as we drive north on the Maine Turnpike before turning onto coastal Route One in Topsham. 

Our WAZE GPS takes us through Damariscotta south on the Pemaquid Peninsula to the parking lot for the La Verna Preserve.

With promised water views of the Muscongus Bay, we do wonder what we’ll see as the fog has us hiking in a wonderland cloud.  With well-marked, blue blaze trails, we begin on the Hoyt Trail, turn left at the Ellis Trail (see map below), to maximize our hiking mileage (by that I mean our Fitbit steps!). 

Wouldn’t Robert Frost love this stonewall!

With a few firs of green, skeletal oak trees, and hemlocks dying a brittle death from the tiny white hemlock woolly adelgid, we trample the fallen oak leaves aware that hidden stones and roots lurk below. 

Shorts in Maine November!

Once to Muscongus Bay, we channel our Inner Zen Sunshine, having faith that the fog will lift. At various points along the Shore Trail we head down to the rocks and get our full Maine coastal experience. 

And then Voila! The sun breaks through.

With few others are on this trail, when we do cross paths, we all don our masks.  It’s our effort to support the common good. It’s not rocket science. Fact is, it’s second grade science!

Returning by way of the La Verna Trail, we encounter a solo hiker who we greet with It’s a great day for a celebration.  He knowingly smiles and laughs his agreement about the momentous conclusion to the 2020 presidential race just two days ago.

La Verna Trail

Soon, a younger couple, he with tattoos (not that there is anything wrong with that) and both without masks pass by.  I am not so lighthearted with them as we are deep in Red Country. 

You see, there is talk of two “Maines.”  We in the south are more progressive, brunch-loving, and drive Priuses and those in the north have more conservative views, pick-ups, and gun racks.

An American flag truck at the trailhead

After 90 minutes of temperate November hiking, in shorts no less, we return to the parking lot to see two women about our age dressed in hunter orange with their pooch suitably covered with her own orange reflective vest.  We smile and say, It’s a great day for a celebration.  The first woman looks at her partner as she smiles back broadly. Then they wonder if we have heard any gunshots? No, only a distant chain saw.

It’s one thing to be white in America and be disgusted by the tone and substance of the last four years. It’s something else to be gay, undocumented, or a person of color who is directly threatened by policies of exclusion and hate.

We celebrate today but know the journey is nowhere near done.

For those wondering more about the backstory of the La Verna Reserve, please read on. Tap on the images to enlarge them for easier reading.

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.

Granddaughters, Bunions, and Courage – KGUA prompt #9

KGUA icon 2

This week’s KGUA radio writing prompt comes from the repeated words in last week’s submissions.  The words that kept coming up again and again were: trust, passion, peace, end, love, give, life, free, youth, kindness, nature, faith, walk, time, courage, ammunition, people, conviction, black, drown, and potential.

Mark Gross, the KGUA writing leader, asked us to time our free write for ten minutes, limiting us to 200 words.  We were to edit just for spelling and grammar, and send in the draft.

His directions were similar to what I did with seventh and eighth graders in Kittery, Maine and while leading the Teaching of Writing courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England.  I would have a discussion, read a passage, or come up with a group activity.  From those activities, I would have my students write for ten minutes to see if they found a topic to take through to a final draft in our writing workshop.  Head down and trusting they’d write, I wrote along with my students.

Mark has given me a taste of my own medicine this week, and for that I thank him.  I chose three words below to run with.  The Walk draft aired on the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Hour on June 28, 2020 .

Walk

For the first time in six weeks, Hannah walked with me at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  You see, six weeks ago to the day, Hannah had bunion surgery.  First she was on crutches, then two weeks in a walking boot, and then wrapping her foot with surgical gauze twice a day in a hiking shoe.wa

words - ogunquit beach

Ogunquit beach on the southern coast of Maine

Oh, she could move around the house, then our yard, but walking for more than twenty minutes…well she just didn’t want to risk screwing up the operation.  It turns out she was walking on the side of her foot to protect her big toe.  A no no.

But this morning, we woke at five, stretched, then a little after six drove to the wide sandy beach here on the Atlantic.  Being low tide, we walked where the waves were rolling softly to the shore.  She thought she’d go halfway, but then…distracted by the fog, stepping in and around the pools of salt water, we were thirty minutes down the beach before she knew it, nearly to Wells.

Pumped, she headed back into the wind full speed ahead.  I’ve been listening to podcasts as I walk alone during Hannah’s rehab, but this was much better.  Both the conversation and the silence.

 

Youth

Hannah and I are just back from Ithaca, New York where we met our granddaughters for the first time.  Yes, granddaughters!  Reese and Charlotte are our identical twins.  In this crazy Time of Corona, we didn’t know if we’d even see them for six months or even a year!  But when our son and his wife, a nurse no less, invited us to visit the girls three weeks after their births, we were all in to drive 400 miles to be with them.

CR girls nose to nose

Charlotte and Reese

When we arrived, mom and dad hugged us!  Do you know how long it’s been since we hugged anyone else!  Yeah, you do, it’s three months going on a year!

The girls mold together as they lie in their bassinet, just like they were in the womb.  As I sat on the couch knees folded together, I held Reese as she lay sleeping.  Yeah, they sleep a lot.  Then they cry, then mom feeds them, sometimes at the same time, and then the girls sleep some more.

But after three days, they were looking around more and more, checking out their new world.  I look forward to being a part of their lives for a long time.

 

Courage

I have to admit I never really got the white privilege stuff.  As a kid, I was just a kid.  What did I know?  We did live in Radburn, a privileged part of Fair Lawn I learned later as a young adult, a pretty much all white community in north Jersey.  We did take two family car trips to the West Coast.  I just figured lots of kids did that.

words - map of maine

In tiny print, York is on this map

My goodness, I played tennis!  Is that ever a white man’s sport, even though the Williams Sisters took charge of the women’s game for the last twenty years.

I was just going through life.  Living frugally on a teacher’s salary while Hannah stayed home with the kids.  But then we moved from multi-cultural Arizona to white bread Maine.  As such, there were not many families of color here that I knew.  Without a second thought, our kids went to college, had careers.

Of late, I am aware that my white comfort is compromising the lives of so many fellow Americans of color.  Now is the time to have the courage to admit my privileged status and do my part to even the playing field.

I’m listening.

 

Dan and Hannah Hike Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach in Maine

SB pickleball M H and D

With our daughter Molly on the pickleball courts at York High School

Normally throughout the summer, Hannah and I play pickleball on Tuesdays.  But today is not a normal Tuesday.  We are feeling something different.  Despite our love of whacking wiffle balls with paddles, we are looking to break from a routine that we love.  Today that would be some coastal Maine hiking.

SB map of Bath coast

Thanks to our friend and favorite Maine writer, Molly Hogan, a former student of mine at the University of New England, we have learned of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area 90 miles north of our home in York.  (Click here for Molly’s blog – Nix the comfort zone.)   The four-mile round-trip hike to Morse Mountain/Seawall Beach will take us through coastal forest and marshland on our way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Accompanied by our free spirits, we take the Maine Turnpike north on the coast.  Turning towards the ocean on route 209 in Bath, we pass the large houses of seafaring captains of yore as well as the preppy Hyde School behind its “stay out” spiked metal eight-foot fence protecting its pristine lawns.

SB map of SB

After driving a simple twenty miles down one of the many peninsulas along the coast of Maine on route 209, we take route 216 rather than continue on to Popham Beach State Park.  Eight tenths of a mile later, we turn left on the Morse Mountain Road for the Conservation Area trailhead parking.

Two hundred yards up the gently rising gravelly road, we meet Jack, a student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, who is all at once the gate keeper, parking lot attendant, and biology major.   With limited parking for at most 40 cars, we pull into one of the few remaining spaces at noon this late August Tuesday.

SB 1  H on trail

Hannah on fire road as the trail begins

If you are thinking that if the lot is full, you can park along route 216, think again, my friend.  The road has no shoulder as the bushes, trees, and brambles come right to the road’s edge.  The good news is that since the trail to the beach is only two miles, there is lots of turnover in the parking lot.

SB piping plover

Piping Plover

Cooperating with the Nature Conservancy and the Maine Audubon Society to preserve nesting sites for piping plovers, rare and fragile plants, the Conservation Area covers 600 acres from the Sprague River to the Morse River out to Seawall Beach.  The St. John Family leases the entire area to Bates College for one dollar.

The two-mile trail to the beach climbs initially through the forest of pines and hardwoods.  Molly has warned us of mosquitos, but with the midday sun shining through the trees, we see nary a mosquito, Zika or otherwise.  The fire road, once paved but now with just vestiges of macadam, is wide enough for a pickup; the St. John Family has access to its houses along the trail.  For the rest of us, we walk.  Which we are so damn lucky to do!

SB 1C more marsh

It’s a simple climb along the fire road to Morse Mountain.   Saving a trip to the actual summit of Morse Mountain for our return, we head east to the beach, first in forested area, then to the wetlands of the bay.

SB 1B  marsh

At a leisurely pace, it takes us no more than 40 minutes to wind up at the expansive sandy beach.  Along the way we pass other couples, mostly seniors, and families out for this last taste of days without routine before the school year begins.  With no public facilities, toilets, picnic tables, or lifeguards, this is shoreline heaven for all who like their beaches un-ly, unsullied and uncrowded.

On this late August summer day with the temps near 80F and full sunshine, we have a mile of sandy beach before us to make our four miles of hiking into six.   For most people, beach-going is living the dream.  Hannah and I are just not such people.  Lying in the sun “collecting rays” is not our idea of a good time.  And I find walking in the dry sand of the beach frustrating and worthy of #$*&!# name-calling.

SB 2 D at beach

Dan at Seawall Beach at the Atlantic Ocean

But today Seawall Beach delivers in an unexpected way.  Since it is low tide, we have firm wet sand by the shoreline to maintain a steady pace without us wading through and sinking in the dry sand.

Families are building sand castles, some like the Geico guy and some like Geico’s competition.  Click here to see the 30 second Geico ad at the beach that is played on ESPN morning, noon, and night.

Twenty minutes later we arrive at the Morse River with Popham Beach State Park across the waterway.  Truly, cares and routines get left behind.

Leaving the beach on the trail back to the parking area, we soon take to the spur of no more than a few hundred yards to the top of the very modest Morse Mountain.  There we see a vision of ourselves in four years.  Let me explain.

For there, on the slightly angled large boulder with views to the Atlantic Ocean, we meet grandparents Mike and Molly who have brought their grandsons, Landon and Spencer, to hike the trail; out for an adventure, they say.

SB  Owen and Max and Hannah

Max and Owen with their Omi loving their popcorn

You see, “an adventure” is just we call our regular excursions with our grandsons, Owen (4) and Max (2).

Why the following day we will have such a “24 hours of Owen and Max” adventure.  We will take them to race around the indoor track at the Kittery Community Center, play with the trains at the York Public Library, chuck water balloons from our upstairs deck, and then celebrate it all with popcorn, before baths in our kitchen sink.

We mark our 2020 calendar to hike to Seawall Beach for an adventure with the then eight-year-old Owen and his six-year-old brother Max.

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

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.