Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pleasant Mountain - a bipartisan winner on election day!

Route: Ledges Trail
Distance: 3.6 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 2006'
Duration: Two hours

Yesterday I got to take a half day for working this past Saturday.  For record keeping's sake, I'll mention that yesterday was the random, crazy-beautiful bluebird November day in the 60's.  In light of the new sunset time, I hightailed it home to pack quickly, promising myself I would vote upon returning.  We made it to Pleasant in about an hour and  I was relieved to see a few other cars alongside Mountain Road.  We threw our stuff on quickly and began at 2:30.

The Ledges Trail has a nice kiosk once you take the stone staircase up from the road that details the trails and safety precautions.  Shortly thereafter, the broad trail begins to gain elevation fairly evenly.  As of yesterday, the leaf cover is fresh and the ground dry, unlike a little bit further north.  For that reason, this is a great hike for those not ready to welcome winter.

During a flat section, the dogs took advantage of two small streams that ran close to one another. Soon after, a sharp right turn and return to climbing indicated the beginning of the long, gentle switchbacks that defined the next 15 to 20 minutes.

Last staircase before the open ledges
Staring at a squirrel
We broke out onto the ledges with the sun swallowing Ty's light outline as she walked along the cliff's edge, scanning the ground below for critters with a surefooted-ness a dancer would kill for.  The next section provided the inspiration for the trail's name.  Most of the ledges offer beautiful views of everything from nearby hillsides and lakes to distant mountains.

Someday I'll look up the history behind this

The trail turned into the woods and ascended some more before the junction with the terminus of the Southwest Ledges Trail (which we would someday like to try) and a secondary sign directing us to the main peak, just another couple minutes up the trail.

Final ledge
Hello moon!
This wasn't our first visit to Pleasant but the beauty and vast views at the open summit captivated me as powerfully as the first time.  There was only one other person up there enjoying the scenery and everything else the summit had to offer so we took the opposite side to relax.

After taking an hour to cover the 1.8 miles to the top, we relaxed for about 25 minutes appreciating the silence and trying to simply live in the moment.  Tango is certainly best at that, I'm trying, and Ty, well, she's trying these days too!

Private massage with a view... spoiled!
Half relaxed, always ready
I briefly toyed with the idea of waiting to watch the sunset but ultimately tabled that experience for another day.  On our return trip, the leaf cover was a little sketchy but we practically flew down.  It was a major mental workout to be joyful, calm, alert, in the moment, and one step ahead simultaneously without slipping on the leaves.  This was a huge test for me and Ty.  I had a harness and bungee leash ready but decided to push our luck a little, instead opting to jog with her remote trainer in one hand, whistle at the ready, and singing everything from Jason Mraz to Dropkick Murphys along with my iPhone since I'd forgotten our bear bell (more like the, "big creatures of the woods, please vacate the area before my dog sees you" bell).

With a lot of luck, my strategy worked and we reached the car unscathed with some light left in the sky.  Pleasant Mountain is a small peak but has a to to offer.  Our first time we were there, it provided a solid challenge for Erick (an intermittent hiker) and blueberries galore to sweeten the day. Yesterday it gave us a perfect, short, moderate hike with the spectacular views I was craving.  I even remembered to bring and use my binoculars to observe the patchy snow on Mt Washington.  Despite the freshly fallen leaves that hid potential hazards, the terrain was excellent for a quick hike. There weren't many water sources but the trail was quite dog friendly, despite Tango slipping on rocks that were hidden by the leaves.  He's very ready for winter.  But to get in one last warm-weather hike was special and I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon hike.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wandering Douglas Mountain, Maine (10/15/2016)

Small hike, big payoff!
A rather un-helpful trail report but in order to chronicle the yearly foliage patterns and make a note of a great little hike that I highly recommend for a fun, easy jaunt with beautiful scenery, I am obliged!

My brother Nate came up from Rhode Island to see some foliage as we were at the very end of peak, if not a hair past in many areas, and I did not want to disappoint.

I had a lot of criteria but was mostly looking for about an hour from home, excellent foliage views, and not too tough.  A co-worker who I'm very fortunate to work with (for more than her shared loved for nature!) recommended Douglas Mountain in Sebago which sounded like a short hike from my limited knowledge of the area and only 50 minutes from home.

The drive up there was gorgeous and I was thrilled there were still plenty of vibrant colors.  We had to backtrack on Douglas Mountain Road; I wasn't expecting a large sign waving in all hikers to a designated lot.  Based on feedback from my coworker (and nothing else; I did no research other than a Google Images search!), I wanted to do the Ledges Trail but the large maps at the trailhead and donation box indicated we'd have to walk the road to get there.  Between that and a lovely-looking trail in front of us, we opted for what was right in front of us.
Quintessentially New England

So Much Orange!
As it turns out, the trail we were on was the primary Eagle Scout Trail.  It was very enjoyable: broad and easy through varied, semi-open woods.  Ty was amped but on her best behavior!

We passed a junction with a snowmobile trail, then a few turns as the trail bordered private property, and then the trail began to ascend.  After such a mellow start, and clearly my body had forgotten about Tuckerman Ravine by then, it felt steep!  If I'm being honest, it wasn't all that steep but a couple brief sections sure felt it and will be a good, short challenge for those who haven't hiked in awhile.  As the trail eased up, we passed under a very large fallen tree and came to an intersection.

Looking down the "steep" ascent (insert snicker here!)
The aforementioned big fallen tree
The trail marker suggested we could take the "Nature Trail Loop" and reach the summit.  We wandered the loop twice, baffled.  Each time took us less than 10 minutes.  It wasn't a large time investment and the brevity of the hike overall made it an easy gamble to take.  While on the second loop around, Nate said he recalled another path at the junction we'd stood at, befuddled, before.

Hopefully Nate forgives the use of his photo.  His expression summarizes
the depth of concentration required of us to find the right trail!

Back at the intersection, he pointed it out. I'd never seen it and was grateful for his keen eye.  It was immediately apparent it was the right path.  Initially rocky, the trail evened out and transitioned to dirt then smooth, exposed stone before reaching the clearing that's considered the summit.  There's an awesome stone tower with a fantastic view.  Nate did the majority of the picture-taking with his Samsung and keen eye.  With a frown, I have to say that said phone was stolen before he got the photos off of it so you'll just have to believe me!

Is it any question why the ladies love him?!

We decided to wander to the other side of the clearing to find a path down.  Afterwards, it was apparent it was the Ledges Trail.  Smooth ledges are my favorite and we enjoyed hiking down, all the while, with Nate showing off the grip on his Salomon trail runners!

The ledges didn't last long; we soon figured out why nearly everybody else that arrived at the top after us came from that direction.  The walk down was only half a mile! We oogled the gorgeous properties than lined the road on the walk down to the lot.

Quick, fun, interesting, and scenic - we will definitely be bringing more visitors to Douglas Mountain!  First, I'll probably return once on my own to get my bearings first; reviewing the map, it's quite straightforward and I'm baffled about our detour.  Not that I wouldn't mind getting lost again; it was a fun walk.  Of note for the dogs: there were a couple good streams along the beginning of the Eagle Scout Trail.  It's a nice piece of land but the trail sometimes closely borders private property so keep your wanderers in check!  Finally, we heard distant gunshots but their sound carried well.  We weren't in danger (but wore orange to be safe); however, Ty is extremely uncomfortable with the sound so "spooky" dogs might not appreciate that aspect.  We've only been once so I will offer updates if that's a usual thing there or not when we return.  I've since read it's a superb place to snowshoe.  Until then, happy trails, especially if you visit Douglas Mountain!

P.S. If you do, bring three bucks, the requested donation amount to maintain the property!
In light of the small amount of information compared to some of our other trails, here are some of links I found helpful:
Trail Map, thanks to
Another post about hiking Douglas with dogs, highlight is the great descriptions of the surrounding mountains! How many have you done?
Some good wildlife recommendations and the perspective of a green hiker here.