September 6, 2015.
A long weekend in Maine and not just Maine but the northern reaches of Maine, Madawaska. On the way up we (more I) had to stop at the viewpoint for Maine's highpoint, Mt Katahdin. A bit hazy on the distance views but none the less pretty visible. I have not seen Katahdin since last year and it stirred up some emotions as I just sat there looking at it.
I always think of Katahdin as this massive that sits there by itself but from this pullout there are certainly plenty of peaks that could keep one self busy. Above Houlton and the landscape changes as from here on north it is just about all farmland. Rolling hills one after the other all the way up.
Passing through Lille and the old Roman Catholic Church has been beautifully preserved which was saved from demolition. More can be read here about the history and today's use of the building.
Finally reaching Madawaska and time to relax and enjoy time with the family. An afternoon cruise along the lake first in search of a bald eagle as I have never seen one. All we got to see today was a nest across the way.
After a long cruise around the northern end of the lake it was time for some deep fried turkey and one of the assets of this area, potatoes a la fried. To wrap up the day a sunset cruise on the lake this time heading to the southern end.
Prior to heading up I was looking for a decent hike in the area to keep my hiking streak going. It took some time but I finally found something that was somewhat close and as high as one can get in this area. After all this is farming country and logging territory, mountains are not a big feature in this neck of the woods. Talking with Heather and I told her of where I wanted to hike and she greatly agreed to be my guide. It wasn't so much I was afraid of hiking in unknown territory but more of getting there with the myriad of logging roads and lack of good directions online. So I settled on Deboullie and Black Mts located in, well, the middle of nowhere. Mike and Paul wanted to go also as they had never hiked Deboullie, let alone hike at all, considering they have lived here all these years. Kind of like living in southern NH and never hiking Monadnock. A time was set and we would leave by 6:45 since it was over a two hour drive, only 60 miles, to get to the trailhead. Getting up that morning and the sun was coming up behind Paul and Linda's house and I couldn't resist getting a picture.
No that is not a vapor trail from the sun as the world comes to an end. Coincidentally there was an airplane flying in the right spot at the right time. Heading north on Route 161, looking at the map and we are heading southwest, to the unmarked turnoff by a convenience store. This is the beginning of the logging roads, 22.4 miles of them to the trails. A stop at the gate, which is run by North Maine Woods, to pay our user fees. It is seven dollars per person for all you White Mountain complainers who don't like paying the three bucks at some of our trails. The main logging road is wide and fairly smooth for a gravel based road as we are making pretty good time until we come across some heavy equipment in the road. The lady at the gate failed to tell us about this as it looks like the bridge ahead is being worked on. A detour to the right and it turns into a four mile detour as can be seen on the map below.
After the detour and 22 miles of logging roads we finally arrive at Deboullie Pond where across the pond we can see our two destinations for the day, Deboullie Mt and Black Mt. It took two hours and ten minutes to reach the trailhead and a few minutes later just before 9:00 we are off and on our way.
The early morning air is still crisp up here in northern Maine but it is supposed to warm up to the 80's. The trail is a great treadway and just a few minutes from starting we reach the split for Black Mt to the right or Deboullie Mt to the left. I advise going left as I have read there is a steep section heading up to Deboullie and it is better to go up steeps than to come down, even more so with this being Mike and Paul's first hike.
The trail parallels the shore of Deboullie Pond and soon I find an opening to scoot down to the shoreline. I find an old fire pit and in the woods is a piece of a wood stove and some flattened stove pipe. Be interested to know the history of this little spot.
Along the shore there is a nice breeze and a view of Gardner Mt at the opposite end and Deboullie Mt next to it.
Up ahead on the trail and the gang is waiting for me as they have found the Ice Cave (not hard to really find as there is a sign on a tree right next to it). Not really much of a cave, at least to the naked eye, but standing next to to it and putting your hand down near the opening and there is a significant temperature difference. Who knows how big the opening is inside and how deep it is. The red squirrels are also out and very annoyed that we are intruding on their space. This one was particularly chatty as we passed by. He danced all over the tree chattering at me as I took several pictures before getting this good one.
Reaching the rock slide and it is an impressive spot as the rocks go all the way to the shore. I wished I had checked to see if it goes into the water but I didn't think of it at the time. The slide starts out with some regrowth slowly filling in the area then opens up and extends quite a ways before heading back into the woods. By the shore are two fishermen and they are having success as one of them pulls out a trout as we are walking by.
Just before re-entering the woods a couple of hawks are circling above us riding the thermals. Soon another one joins and then another. Before we knew it there were a total of eight of them making there way east. Not long after re-entering the woods and we reach the base of the steep climb up to Deboullie and there is a picnic table there making it a perfect spot to take a break before heading up.
Sitting there eating and I notice in the woods some trash that has been left there by some careless people. Checking it out and it has been here for quite some time as they are Budweiser cans with pull tab openings, a throwback to the 70's. Ready to go and we start up the rock staired trail.
Being spoiled by the beginning of the hike which was all flat the trail does a complete 180° and it is indeed steep with very few breaks. Crossing a small brook complete with a bridge and up the trail continues. The breaks are often as the rookies are feeling the hike although one of them never sweated the whole time!
A brief opening in the trees with a glimpse over to Black Mt and within an hour from starting the steep section we have arrived to the fire tower topped Deboullie Mt. Not bad considering it is 0.6 or 0.7 (map says 0.6 but trail sign says 0.7) miles and about 800' of elevation gain.
Not bad for the boys to make it to their first mountain top hiking. Heather has been up here several times and jokingly we found out that Mike's truck has made the trip to these woods a few times unknowingly to Mike. No one wishes to join me in climbing up to the cab of the tower for the views. It is forty-five feet up and it is a ladder not a set of stairs. The ladder is set inside the tower base tucked into the corner. That is it on the left in the picture. I slowly make my way up looking straight ahead as looking up or down psychologically psyches me out. I make it to the top and push on the heavy trap door and climb up in looking out through one of the windows to the smart ones down below.
To the east are four of the many ponds in this area. North Little Black Pond can just barely be seen in front of Black Pond. Beside them are Deboullie Pond and behind it Pushineer Pond. To the south are Round Mt, Middle Mt and Peaked Mt. Peaked Mt is the high point for Aroostook County.
While looking for Katahdin I noticed a very pointy peak off to the southeast and it turns out to be Pyle Mt and Haystack Mt. They are located near Mapleton which is west of Presque Isle. Finally to the west I spy what I was looking for, Katahdin, it is faintly visible with the haze and I bet on a clear winter day it looks fantastic from the tower. Although I would have reservations about climbing a metal tower in the middle of winter.
Time to head down the ladder and that first step is a tough one. Hanging on for dear life as I swing the leg into the opening stepping on the first rung. Then the other leg and there is nothing to hold onto as I lower myself to the next rung. The harder part is actually grabbing the heavy trap door that has no handle on it and lowering it with one hand while the other hand is in a death grip with the steel rung. Letting it rest on my head I slowly lower myself until it closes and make my way to the bottom. Taking a break inside the cabin at the base of the tower and the boys are feeling pretty good making their first trip up to Deboullie. It only took how many years to get here guys? Behind the tower is an opening and a landing spot for helicopters. You can see a picture of one on this page. Scroll to the bottom and on the left side there is a picture of one with the tower in the background. From the landing spot there is an open view over to Black Mt where we are headed next.
Heading down off Deboullie and everyone is still game to continue on towards Black Mt. Having never hiked to a mountain the boys are going for two in one day, pretty impressive and Mike has still not broken a sweat! Passing the junction that leads down to the western shore of Deboullie Pond and the trail heads through a great mossy section and then Mike discovers another ice cave. We name it after the discoverer and it is much smaller than the first one. Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you...Mike's Ice Cave.
The trail reaches the col and it does not last long as soon we are climbing back up. Not as steep as heading up Deboullie but there are some annoying spots. As we get closer to the summit everyone is anxious to reach it and when looking at my GPS we are only a tenth of a mile away. This trail does not exist on my GPS and logical thinking is it heads straight up and over. However nothing is logical in the woods as the trail suddenly decides to swing to the left heading around below the summit. Why? I can only assume to reach this little outlook to the north where there is really nothing to see but woods.
A short steep climb up where I thought we were going to break out onto the summit and it ended up being just a tease. An unbelievable forty minutes from the outlook and we crossed over the inconspicuous summit of Black Mt. The group was ahead of me by about twenty feet when I called out to them to let them they just passed over the high point. There wasn't any fanfare on their accomplishment of hiking two mountains in one trip. At this point everyone just wanted to get down. Being so close to the summit earlier, then having the trail route around like it did, probably didn't help the moral either.
Heading down some rather steep sections and coming to an overlook to the ponds, I think it was called Five Ponds Overlook, which was quite overgrown and hard to see five ponds. We took a break here and then continued on. It was somewhere out here that I introduced Paul to the term PUD's. Pointless ups and downs as they are called. The trail was in constant PUD land through here. One spot really annoyed me as we dipped into a very pleasant and noticeable gully and I though to myself that would make a great path down. Instead the trail headed up the other side made a U turn and before too long we were back in the gully. To our right on the ridge was the trail a mere 170 feet away we just came down. The trail eventually did come out into an opening on the left with a view down to Black Pond and again a bit overgrown.
Down another steep section and then a mellow area where a old yellow birch had grown next to a boulder with one of it's main roots straddling the top stretching out across to reach the ground.
Finally we reached one of the feeder streams with a bridge made with a chainsaw as the plankings had the marks grooved into it. Through a great pine forest with a peek of Black Pond off to the left. Making it to a spur trail I headed down to the pond to get a look while the rest of the gang continued on. It is one of the quietest spots I have ever been in. No noise at all. Not even the wind, nothing. The only thing breaking the water landscape were two loons out in the middle.
The trail becomes an old logging/woods road beyond the bond spur and finally some easy walking to end the day with. Passing by the other spur trail which leads off to the right to North and South Little Black Ponds I entertain heading out and back very briefly. Looking at the map I figured it would take too long and I didn't want everyone waiting for me. Besides it would give me an excuse to return to this remote area some other time.
Finally just ten minutes shy of seven hours and we re-emerge at the parking lot tired but other than a cramp attack Paul had everyone is doing pretty well. Except for Mike's little breakdown about a mile before the end which I don't understand as he didn't sweat one bit the whole way. All our shirts were soaked from the day's sweat but Mike's was still dry as when we started this morning. A big thanks for joining me guys and I am impressed with you all making it. 6.4 miles and two mountains is quite an achievement for your first hike. And a big thank you to Heather for being our guide and driving us to the trailhead and back home. Even though we know the truck was in auto pilot the whole time since it has been there a few times!
Final numbers: 6.4 miles, 6 hours and 50 minutes.
Redline Miles: 0, Total to Date: 904.0