Mother Nature Models Her Fall Garb in Brownfield
November 02, 2015 -
Brownfield-The weather this month has been so tantalizingly inviting, and the foliage, once it revealed itself, so brilliantly beautiful that I couldnít resist one last late-October outing combining two favorite pastimes: paddling and hiking.
And what better place to ascend a mountain and pop the canoe into some placid water than over in Brownfield, where I could not only have an invigorating morning hike ascending over 1,200 vertical feet with breathtaking views of bright fall colors against a backdrop of snow on the New Hampshire peaks to the west, but a restful afternoon in the stable comfort of my 16-foot Stillwater in an undisturbed bog near the Saco River.
So it was off to Burnt Meadow Mountain, and its near neighbor, Stone Mountain. The visit for me was a trip back in time, as over 40 years ago, on my only other trip there, I was completing an appraisal of the defunct ski area and its abandoned T-bar for the Farmers Home Administration, which had foreclosed on the area after its $275,000 investment went into default.
My friend Wendell Pierce, who already owned a ski area in Mars Hill, bought the area from the FHA, principally for the value of the 3,148-foot Staedeli lift on the northeast side of the mountain. He actually sent his daughter down from Aroostook County to attempt to make a go of the place, renaming it Zodiac Mountain, but encountered the same difficulty as his predecessors with both sparse snow and growing competition, and gave up the ghost after a couple of years.
The lift still stands, and the trails are barely discernible as nature has taken over.
The loop hike upon which I embarked starts at a trailhead less than two miles from Brownfield on the west side of Route 160 and only about 500 feet from the public boat launch on Burnt Meadow Pond.
The well-marked, blue-blazed Burnt Meadow Trail goes to the 1,575-foot north peak of Burnt Meadow Mountain, reached after a bit of a scramble over steep rocky ledges near the top.
If you want to have a loop hike of nearly five miles, head west on the Twin Brook Trail to an intersection with the Stone Mountain Trail for a short hike up to the 1,624-foot summit of that peak, then head back to rejoin the Twin Brook Trail where youíll follow the yellow blazes back to the Burnt Meadow Trail and your starting point.
In three hours or less youíll have experienced a variety of terrain, and views to the west of the Sandwich Mountain Range over in New Hampshire, Carter Notch to the northwest and Pleasant Mountain off to the northeast.
Tempted as I was to launch the canoe at the inviting site on Burnt Meadow Pond, I had already made plans to explore the Brownfield Bog that several of my quiet water friends had recommended to me over the years. Even during the height of the summer paddling season when the nearby Saco River is sometimes seemingly full of canoes, you can explore completely undisturbed the hundreds of acres of state-maintained marshes in the Brownfield Bog Wildlife Management Area.
Itís easy to find the launch site by taking the Lord Hill Road off Route 160 and then turning left after a few hundred feet onto the access road. Youíll see a small shed where rules are posted. You can also launch about a mile and a half farther up the road.
On my recent trip, the bright yellow bigtooth aspen leaves helped frame a beautiful view of the snow-dusted White Mountains. I quickly realized that this protected area is not only home to the wide variety of wildlife one can expect to find in this sort of habitat where, Iím told, even the occasional moose can be spotted, but also to about every type of vegetation that finds a bog-like environment inviting.
Red and white oaks abound on the higher surrounding ground, making this particular paddle, in combination with a hike on nearby Burnt Meadow Mountain, the perfect all-day outing Ė especially in October when Mother Nature displays her finest fall garments.
John Christie, Maine Outdoors, November 2015
Lakes: Burnt Meadow
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