Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winter on Maiden's Cliff - Camden, Maine

Bright blue skies and temps up near freezing set the scene for a gorgeous loop around Maiden's Cliff & Mt. Megunticook the other day.  Turns out that this loop is another Jeff hike.  That is, Jeff Romano, and his book is called Best Loop Hikes.  Long-time readers may recall my fond regard for this book.  I sometime think that this book is the main reason I haven't written my own yet.  If I did, it'd be difficult to think of anything I'd want to improve upon.

The cross-country unicyclist is back in town and it was great to catch up a bit with him.  We only saw a handful of other folks all day, as it often the case.  We started at the second, the correct, trailhead.  Tim and I parked at the first one last Summer (my bad) which got us as close to lost as I'd ever been.  Not dangerously so, but still.  Anyway, drive on by the first big obvious trailhead if you want to do this loop!

And you should want to do it!  It's a conveniently-sized total of about 6.7miles and a good third of it is up on a ridge with numerous spectacular views southwest over the lake to Ragged Mountain and the Camden Snow Bowl, and then east over the Atlantic.

A short up -- maybe a mile? -- brings you to Maiden's Cliff, at which point, a great deal of your climbing is done.  The rest of the ascent along the ridge to Megunticook is pretty gentle.  There were a couple of blowdowns to help everyone monitor their flexibility prowess and problem solving abilities, or not...

We took our time and admired the ice formations, animal tracks and burrows, lichens, and of course, tree spirals.  We were snowshod but it was mostly very hard-packed and pretty icy; at this time of year I could maybe have gone with microspikes.

The zenith of the Camden Hills, Megunticook's humble summit, is a small piney clearing with a grand cairn.  The views come several tenths (I think?) of a mile later at the top of another great cliff.  Here is the best view over the Atlantic to the Fox Islands, and you can still see the whole panorama across the lake as well.  I can't imagine a month of the year in which this would not be a wonderful spot to visit.  Aptly named, this spot is Ocean Lookout.

I love looking out at the three huge wind turbines on North Haven Island.  These provide all of the power for both North Haven and Vinal Haven.  They don't stand out -- you kind of have to be looking for them -- but they provide an orientation of sorts, and a sense that these communities and more notably self-sustaining and progressive than insular or cut-off.

The strong breeze that spun wildly through the distant turbines was less chilly as we dropped down off Ocean Lookout and onto the Jack Williams trail.  As with the other junctions, this was well marked.  The initial descent was short and steep and soon we were snowshoeing along back in the direction we came, but at the base of the cliff instead of along the top.  For some reason this section made me think I would like to do the loop in the reverse direction next time.  It was flat, serene, bit monotonous, but the looming cliff nearby provided some sweet ambiance.

Eventually we took a final left turn back down to Route 52 where we'd parked, glad for extra traction on our feet.  We stopped for a long time to appreciate huge icicles and then to gaze at a stream moving under ice.

Will add the photos a bit later... :>

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