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 Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15 
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 Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
Mt. Megunticook and our 6.7 mile route
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I wanted to get out after Juno for some trail breaking fun. Gibba let me know he'd be up for something too if it wasn't too crazy. I told him my plans and I guess he trusted me so at 5 AM we met in Portsmouth with the temp hovering around zero and headed off to the Camden Hills. They had only got 18 inches of snow the day before from Juno, and Pawtuckaway had 30, so I figured breaking trail might be a bit easier there for a "not crazy" hike. We got to town, geared up and found the Maidens Cliff trailhead unplowed but the breakdown lane usable nearby, so parked there and off we went about 9:30.

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The trail had been broken by two guys and a dog a few minutes ahead of us, so the first warm up mile to Maidens Cliff went pretty quick under the clear blue skies. In short order we passed the guys just below the cliff and chatted for a minute, finding out the trail was unbroken after that. We thanked them for doing the first mile and arrived at the cliff with it's trademark white cross standing tall against the clear blue skies. We climbed around and then had a snack while we listened to the ice on the lake blow shift and groan before setting out for the next trail.

Arriving at the cliff we found sunny blue sky views over Lake Megunticook
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The sun warming things up into the teens
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thegibba getting a closer look
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The windswept frozen lake groaning 500 feet below
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Great spot for a relaxing snack before the hard work begins
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From there we took the Scenic Trail, which traverses a handful of bald rocky domes and ledges, with great views of the surrounding mountains, peeks of the ocean and the big prize of the day, Mt. Megunticook. Deep unbroken snow made for slow going, climbing some of the steeper parts I actually wished I had poles for the first time in my life, but eventually we trudged our way up, enjoying the many views the ledges and snowfields provided us. There was a single set of fox or coyote tracks starting there too that either did the same hike we did that morning or there's multiple foxes/coyotes out there that hiked every single trail we did! Whenever we wondered where the trail bed might be or couldn't find a blaze we just had to look for the tracks and sure enough our furry friend was right on track. Quite amazing actually that it did the last six miles of trail we hiked just ahead of us. From the top of one of the open domes (we dubbed it Mt. Nothing but I found that the series of open ledges and cliffs are actually named the Millerite Ledges on the topos) we had distant views to the higher peaks of Maine in the Rangely/Stratton area and possible some of the Whites but don't know for sure. Following our furry friend we enjoyed this great stretch of open trail before descending into the woods, where Gibba sprung our only spruce/juniper bush trap of the day in a deep drift, and after extricating himself we came to the junction with the Ridge Trail.

Deep unbroken snow from the blizzard made for tough going and we took turns leading the way
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Following our wild canine friend
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The open Millerite Ledges offered many many views along the way
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Mt. Abraham some 80 miles away was visible as were the Presis faintly 110 miles out. Not bad visibility today!
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thegibba springing a trap
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More tough trail breaking kept progress slow but steady. We took turns as the lead plow and made our way along a flattish half mile with some nice viewpoints just off the trail and easy to get to with so much fresh powder. After the next trail junction we did a time check and decided the trek out to Zeke's Lookout was going to take too much time, so we went straight for the summit of Megunticook. The trail steepened and turned into a beautiful pine forest as we climbed the final mile to the summit at 2PM. At 1385 feet it ranks second only to Cadillac Mountain in elevation on the eastern seaboard of the United States, it is the highest on the mainland however. The summit is viewless, but we took a short break there after a hard earned victory anyhow. Actually the hardest 1385 feet I've ever earned. The last 2 miles of unbroken trail had taken us 3.5 hours!

The Ridge trail is quite scenic, with viewpoints and nice forests all the way to the summit
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Eventually we worked our way to the wooded top
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The long summit ridge has some really nice woods to hike through
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Visiting Ocean Outlook, which is one of the better viewpoints in the park, required us to descend past the summit .3 miles. We stopped atop the granite ridge known as Ocean Lookout with it's views of the nearby Camden Hills, the town of Camden, the Atlantic Ocean and it's many islands, including Mt. Dessert and the snow-capped peaks of Acadia sitting pretty under an early rising moon. Directly below us 500 feet were the Tablelands, a shelf of the mountain covered in Hardwoods that look pretty interesting from above. We decided that the best route back to the car was not to re-climb the summit and follow the broken out steps back, but to descend to the Tablelands and follow the trail through them 1.5 miles back to the trail junction, so after soaking it in we headed down the eastern end of the ridge to the Jack Williams Trail. Along the way I stepped into a drift of snow up to my crotch, and my foot got wedged in between a log and some rocks. Literally I couldn't move it, not even a wiggle, and there was no way to move the log or rocks either being frozen into place under the deep snow and ice. After a few minutes I finally decided to just take off my pack and pull up as hard as I could on my leg and wiggle it as much as possible. A few tries of this and thankfully it came out, but I had taken out my ice ax to possibly dig it out if need be or pry the log, and of course forgot to put it back after putting my second snowshoe on again. So on the very off chance someone finds it and reads this feel free to let me know, I'll be happy to give you a reward.

Many nice views while descending Ocean Lookout
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Our foxy friend visited the lookout too
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Gibba eyeing the Tablelands
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From 500 feet above it looked like a good idea to hike through them
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Relaxing over Camden, Maine
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Moon over Mt. Desert Island/Acadia
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Descending to the Tablelands
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Once down to the flats of the Tableland we set out on the trail back, quickly realizing we made a pretty bad choice. The trail that looked so interesting from above and is a pleasant walk in summer was actually about 24 inches of powder, as the snow from the windswept ridge above had settled on top of the 18 inches the storm dropped to begin with. The 1.6 miles of mostly flat trail took us nearly three hours. It was a nice area but the spirit-breaking trail-breaking slog didn't really allow one to enjoy it. Not as bad as the carriage roads of the Ossipees, but it was quite grueling to say the least. It even finished with a flurry of ups and downs as we watched the sunset through the trees and dawned our headlamps.

Sun sinking low as we start the slog
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Ocean Outlook above us
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I don't know what to say other than UGH. 1.6 miles in 24 inches of untracked powder will make you say that
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The sun setting on our parade
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At the end of that we connected with our route from earlier and life got much easier. We'd already broken out the next 2/3 of a mile so we made good time in the moonlit forest to the next trail junction. From there it was 3/4 of a mile back to the car but a steady drop in unbroken snow made for some fun as we bombed down the mountain, still following the fox the entire way and finally arrived back at the car right around 6 PM. 6.7 miles (5.2 of it in the undroken aftermath of Juno) with a total elevation gain of about 1300 feet took us almost 9 Hours. So much for the "nothing crazy" hike I lured Gibba into! :D Now, if it doesn't turn up in the park office I may be going back sooner than expected to dig for an ice ax, or maybe it won't thaw out until spring and get turned in then. Other than that this was a great hike on a beautiful day.

The lights of the Camden Snowbowl coming on
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Back at the last of the ledges we had a great view of Camden lit up under the starry sky
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I always enjoy this coastal clump of mountains for the similarity to Acdaia, the variety of views and general lack of crowds. With broken out trails these hills make for nice moderate hiking and it is one of just two places you can backcountry camp on the entire Maine coast, with two rustic lean-to shelters in the park (free!!) and an old ski cabin in the middle of it all (complete with fireplace, woodstove and wood) you can rent and I'd love to stay at sometime. Another great day in this park and definitely won't be my last. If any of that interests you you can get more info with the link below.

http://www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl?search_radio=1&state_park=14&historic_site=&public_reserved_land=&shared_use_trails=&town=&distance=&submit=Go+%BB


Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:24 am
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
SWEET!

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Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:45 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
Looks like a wild and very love it-hate it trip. I'm glad you posted, these have been on my sort of "off the radar" radar, if that makes sense, and I thought about the area a couple weeks ago. I chose against, in part due to general unfamiliarity with the trails, parking, area, everything making it seem like a poor choice for winter solo. Reading your report, for a while I thought "hmm, looks like it would have been fine!" But miles of trail breaking and following wildlife tracks and getting caught in spruce traps and under logs makes me think I made the right decision to save the area for a more appropriate moment.

Also -- I thought this was reasonably close -- 4 1/2 hour drive there? Is that right and/or normal?


Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:30 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
Bold type from Joe?? It has been missed around here lately! :D

GB, the place isn't really all that wild but it's really nice. AMC Maine Guide does a good job covering the area. This is the State Park section of the hills, and everything is VERY well signed, and pretty well blazed and maintained. I think it's a popular spot with the locals and they still digging out and just hadn't got there yet to break the trails, although this is my first winter trip there so that's just a guess. There's a number of other preserves on the bigger mountains like Bald, Ragged, Hatchet that aren't as well signed I might avoid in the winter with their small out of the way parking lots. We parked at a smaller starting point but if you don't mind paying 4.50 to the State of Maine the main entrance is actually plowed and staffed year round right on Route 1 and should only be 2 - 2:15 minutes or so for you to get there if you go slightly over the speed limit. You should be able to hit Acadia in about 3:30 too. 4 1/2 hours would definitely be not normal. It also is not an unpleasant ride. Lots of bays and rivers and little coastal towns to see.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Somersworth,+NH/44.2301773,-69.0473625/@43.7699393,-70.5463171,9z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m8!4m7!1m5!1m1!1s0x89e299a2a48fe2ed:0x1c8028a99c2f6f93!2m2!1d-70.8653372!2d43.2617503!1m0

And of course, if you want to go dig for an ice ax and happen to have Thursday off...


Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:28 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
For what was advertised as an easy 7 or 8 miles. This turned out to be quite possibly the most physically demanding hike I have ever done. Not that I'm all sour grapes over this or anything. In fact I felt quite accomplished after reaching the car at the end. A bluebird day doesn't come around quite as often as I'd like.

Here is the report from the other end! The drive up was pretty nice bopping through these essentially backwoods towns and farm lands.

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I believe this is Ragged Mt.
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Getting up to Maiden cliff the trail was broken by two other guys. As we passed the trail that led up to the Millerite Ledges not too much thought was given as to how much breaking would need to be done.

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However not too far in, we were presented with some neat pathfinding puzzles

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grinding up a small chute towards Mt. Nothing

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The rock atop of Mt. Nothing had a pretty spectacular Panoramic view. Some of the Maine 4k's and as GG mentioned. The presis a mere 110 miles away.

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The Millerite Ledges gave impressive views now and then Towards Camden.

Heres GG surveying his dream retirement home (only an hour or so away from Acadia)

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Back to the grind however, through some really pleasant woods. Sloooow and kinda steady taking turns. I think we welcomed the moments where we could take a moment to see where the trail would go between some blowdowns. Really, we would have been out by lunch time if we had gone you know, any other time except after a noreaster.

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Topping out at a whopping 1385 feet, My legs felt like they climbed Adams twice. There were no views here, but a bit of downhill (which felt awesome at this point) towards the ocean view. Kicking back and relaxing would have been a little nicer... if it was 60 degrees warmer.

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The relentless grind on the way back over the table lands may have been the longest 1.6 miles ever hiked. The kick in the pants was that it goes back up to the ridge trail. The nice low angle winter sun gave some nice texture to the landscape. I wish i was able to appreciate it more.

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Towards the end of this my legs were so very tired. I kept tripping myself up in the shoes. The last one I found it impossible to stand back up again immediately as my quads were exhausted. On the way home we estimated how many cubic feet of snow we displaced over the haul. It was some absurd number. Overall it was still a good time. Sometimes you gotta get your butt kicked. This was one of those times. This is a really cool place to hike like GG mentioned similar to Acadia. This place being 3 and a half hours of a drive for me would be the very upper limit as far as distance goes for a day hike.


Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:59 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
thegibba wrote:
This place being 3 and a half hours of a drive for me would be the very upper limit as far as distance goes for a day hike.


So the Adirondacks are out for the next trip? Good thing I didn't bite at the suggestion of a day hike in Acadia! :D

I like that last one with the different coloring in the Tablelands. I too was too tired to appreciate it by then. Thank goodness the free range goldfish kicked in. As you mentioned with broken trails or no snow this would have been much quicker. 6.7 miles took us 9 hours. This trip in fall did 9+ miles in just under 7 hours with lots of breaks for photos and scenery. Quite a difference conditions can make...

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http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?t=6789


Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:47 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
Granite Guy wrote:
thegibba wrote:
This place being 3 and a half hours of a drive for me would be the very upper limit as far as distance goes for a day hike.


So the Adirondacks are out for the next trip? Good thing I didn't bite at the suggestion of a day hike in Acadia! :D

I like that last one with the different coloring in the Tablelands. I too was too tired to appreciate it by then. Thank goodness the free range goldfish kicked in. As you mentioned with broken trails or no snow this would have been much quicker. 6.7 miles took us 9 hours. This trip in fall did 9+ miles in just under 7 hours with lots of breaks for photos and scenery. Quite a difference conditions can make...

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http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?t=6789


Well, I didn't have work the next day, thats why i was baiting you with Acadia 8) It felt like the same exact drive. Go on 95 forever then a two lane highway for a while and then a single laned highway with passing areas to a small town to a double lined road to an even smaller town. Surprisingly, the next day, I was fine. My legs seem to be getting more used to these monstrous hikes i get tangled up in lately. :) It might not take much to get me out to the ADKs though.


Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:11 pm
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 Re: Camden Hills after Juno - 1/29/15
Looks great you two! Image

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Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:19 pm
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