Archive for December 5th, 2011

Hansel and Gretel

In an area that was heavily logged, a clearing provides a nice view. That's our nemesis, Speckled Mountain (see previous Nov. 7 blog entry entitled "Hiking Fashla"), in the far right distance. (click to enlarge)

With the days so short it’s difficult to go on a hike of any real substance, but on very beautiful sunny days like today, it’s hard to just sit around twiddling our thumbs.  We decided to go on a walk through the foothills, around the myriad of logging trails that crisscross the more remote areas of our woods.

Many of the roads are maintained seasonally by the Forest Service, which means that they are open only in the summertime, and gated and locked at other times (though hikers are welcome).

Now that hunting season is pretty much over, we feel a lot less vulnerable walking in the woods.  Some of the old logging roads are in pretty bad shape, since once the area is harvested there is no reason for the huge logging trucks to use them again until many years in the future, so the Forest Service will close them off to all motor vehicles until the area can regenerate on its own and go back to being truly wild.  It was on such a road – rutted and eroded beyond repair – that we trod today.  Over several segments we resorted to bushwhacking.

Besides evidence of past logging, we saw many places with old stone walls, a hallmark of 200-year-old former farmland and property boundaries in upper New England.  Because of the snowstorm on Thanksgiving that dumped 12″ of snow, then quickly melted when temperatures became unseasonably warm, the ground was extremely soft and boggy in some places, and seasonal streams were flowing high, hard and fast.  Ponds’ shorelines were filled to their topmost levels.

The biggest surprise of the day was the Hansel-and-Gretel-like “camp” – a Maine word for a seasonal rustic cabin – – that we came upon, far from any functional road, standing alone in a quiet part of the forest surrounded by heavy woods, streams, and pleasant mountain views. It looked like it belonged in a storybook and the only thing missing was a Wicked Witch.

It was clearly uninhabited and had been that way for a few years.  They had two large “Welcome” signs and the door was unlocked so we took a quick peek inside.

sign on the unlocked cabin door

Mice had shredded the fiberglass insulation and droppings were everywhere so I guess the place wasn’t completely uninhabited after all.  A rowboat dumped outside was last registered in 1995, but an old newspaper that was lying about was dated only 2 years ago.  The cabin held basic supplies that were neatly arranged, from a bow saw and axe for firewood, to .22 caliber bullets and orange hunting cap, to dry goods and first aid supplies, and a dart board.

kitchen and first aid supplies

simple interior of the one-room cabin with woodstove

The stairs against the back wall lead to a sleeping loft.

The outhouse (no, I did not make use of it) was clean and even provided toilet paper, reading material and Purell.

The outhouse sat about 30' from the cabin. It was open on one side, facing a beautiful view of a brook.

Inside view of outhouse (for the morbidly curious).

"The best seat in the house" - the view from the outhouse. There's plenty of privacy - the camp is about 3 miles from a road that has maybe 6 cars a day passing thru.

The outdoor grill and table told of pleasant summer picnic meals.  All in all it was a picture-perfect example of a Maine camp (including the Welcome sign and unlocked door, which is not unusual around here).  It also served as an ego check:  a reminder that wherever one treads, someone trod before you!

outdoor grill

We continued our walk and as the area got boggier my first thought was, “this is perfect moose habitat.”  Sure enough, although we didn’t see moose, we soon  saw very fresh moose and deer tracks so it seems they must have heard us coming.  Eventually we reached the uninhabited side of Horseshoe Pond, a beautiful pond where we went kayaking earlier in the summer.  Even though it was 90 minutes til sunset, once the sun falls behind the mountains darkness descends quickly, so we headed home.

the pristine waters of Horseshoe Pond

It wasn’t a dramatic or overly exciting hike (it was only 4 miles total), but a very pleasant and relaxing day nonetheless.  It’s so nice to know that we have endless walking and hiking possibilities literally just outside our doorstep.

a topo map shows where we hiked (click to enlarge)