Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#91 Snow - Chain of Ponds (ME), June 22, 2014

Snow - Chain of Ponds (3,960') via ATV trails, herd paths, 6/22/14.
Mileage:  7 miles (RT)
Elevation gain:  2,200
Trailhead:  North Road, Eustis (off Route 27 approximately 10 miles north of Cathedral Pines Campground). Take left onto North Road, and then right at the "T" intersection. Cross bridge.  At 2.8 miles bear left and cross bridge. Pass Sports Camp Road on the left, cross bridge and bear right.  Parking lot is at the end of the road (just under 5 miles from the 27/North Road intersection).

Recent reports indicate the approach to this peak has changed.  The parking area and herd path remain the same - it's just getting to the herd path that's different. The property is part of the Penobscot Nation and they've reworked the ATV trails to protect the area's streams.

Sarah's friend, Chris, couldn't hike with us today but managed to summit Snow COP of Friday and left us detailed instructions (doesn't get any better than that!):

Directions (courtesy of Chris Higgins):

From the COP parking lot:
  1. Start at the ATV trail (signs, rock)
  2. Cross 3 ATV bridges
  3. After the 3rd bridge, trail immediately swings right
  4. The trail then curves to the left. Go straight  - over a berm and rocks (a yellow arrow sign and "North Road" sign are at this junction)  
  5. Follow the streambed path up for a short way
  6. ATV path leaves the streambed on the right, take that path 
  7. Enter a four-way intersection (there's a bridge off to the left) 
  8. Go straight at this intersection 
  9. Look for the broken yellow sign (part on ground, part on tree) and herd path on the right.  Follow the herd path. 
  10. Herd path ends at a logging road 
  11. Go left on the logging road,  up gradually and then steeply to the top of a rise. Small cairn on right indicating a herd path. Take that herd path. 
  12. This herd path eventually comes to a T-intersection with a second herd path. Go right, on the herd path to the summit.

Parking lot, enter on the right.

Entrance to ATV trail.

ATV bridge.

After 3rd bridge, road swings to right (and will then swing left).

Berm and rocks (go over these).

Broken sign on ground (part is still tacked onto the tree).

Beginning of the herd path.
Things steepen.

Bat house is the summit canister.


Hiked with Sarah and friends.  Snow COP is to Sarah's 100th peak on the New England Hundred Highest List, and our third (and last) hike on this 3/6 pack Stratton weekend.  Yesterday (6/21) we hiked Cupsuptic Snow in the morning and East Kennebago in the afternoon (see Cupsuptic and E. Kennebago trip reports).

The ATV trails are muddy but we were glad to avoid the pond area (this route takes you away from the pond, which generally is a very wet area).

Chris's directions were great and we had no problem finding the next turn.  Undoubtedly there are other ATV trails that could get you to the cairn and the herd path but given the general wetness of the area we were glad we took this route. (it hadn't rained in a week but still lots of mud).

This hike goes up very gradually and doesn't steepen until just before the herd path. 

The path is riddled with blow downs; we went under, over, around.

There's one short scramble on the way, a rock wall (pictured below).  Going up this rock is no problem, plenty of handholds, though the rock is damp.  But this scramble has a twist.  The rock scramble is 2/3 of the way up the rock, leaving a significant drop just to the left of the scramble.  One slip and down you go (probably 15 feet, scarier than it sounds).  I went up it easily, forcing myself to look away from the drop. 

The trail is on the upper half of this rock.
Fortunately there's a bushwhack around this and on our descent we took it - very steep but lots of trees to hold on to.

Up we continued, stopping at a gorgeous view point.

View point.

The summit is just above this viewpoint, with the broken fire tower (cab in ruins on the ground) and a bunch of old propane tanks.  We gave Sarah a proper salute at the top!

Congratulations Sarah Keats. What a great weekend! 

Easy down and off to Giffords for ice cream.