July 18, 2015.
It rained all night and supposed to stop this morning so I am going to take a gamble and head to Maine. There are a couple of small hills I need to do so if the weather doesn't clear it won't be a total loss. Just south of Evans Notch are Pine Hill and Lord Hill and arriving at the trailhead a little after seven and I wait for the rain to stop. The trailhead for Conant Trail is located just up the road from where I was last week when I hiked Deer Hill.
About an hour later and it looks like the rain has stopped but it is hard to tell with the dripping leaves. The dripping sound is peaceful and calming as I set off down the road that doubles as the trail. Not far down the road crosses over a manmade dike that separates Colton Brook.
Looking ahead and this is definitely going to be a non-view day as the cloud deck is low. To my right I see the odd structure I saw from Deer Hill last week and it is part of the flood control built on Colton Brook.
There are a few houses along this road and they look like they are probably seasonal as there is no electrical hookups out here. Reaching the split and I head to the right wanting to get the worse section done first. Supposedly there is a section that is typically flooded by the beavers. A few minutes down the trail and I reach the section and thankfully it is dry as can be and traversing is a non-issue. I have seen pictures of this section where the trail is covered in shin deep water. Not far beyond is the remnants of the old Johnson homestead where the trail makes a sharp left turn.
The trail begins to climb up from this point but nothing drastic. Higher into the clouds until I see an opening ahead and what would normally be views is nothing but the inside of a cloud.
The trail starts climbing on exposed ledges with the occasional duck back into the woods as it makes its way across the expansive ridge of Pine Hill. The only thing of interest is an upturned tree and it's roots all exposed and cleaned off by the weather.
The ridge is broken up with patches of blueberries and as usual I can not resist stopping to pick the tasty treats. Beyond the last patch and just before the high point of Pine Hill I am reminded the hard way that I am not the only one out here who likes the berries. Mister black bear enjoys them also.
The trail leads down off Pine Hill into the small col between Pine and Lord Hills. The woods through this area have been selectively cut to weed out the poor quality trees. I got that much out of the very weathered sign as you start heading down off Pine Hill. Soon the trail reaches mossy Bradley Brook and not long after crossing it the junction with Mine Loop Connector is reached.
The Connector trail heads up a short ways to connect, get it, with Mine Loop Trail. While the trail starts here there must be access from the south as it is a pretty defined woods road leading down. A quick up and back on this trail and along the way is another odd tree. This one is rotting away with the center disappearing but there are two root like pieces coming out of it to the ground.
Back on Conant Trail and the trail skirts around Lord Hill all the way to its eastern flank where it turns to head up to the summit. On a good day there would be views from this turn down to Horseshoe Pond but...Up the ledge and just past the next junction with the other end of Mine Loop Trail is the highpoint for Lord Hill.
Lord Hill is/was used for mineral collecting and has been used off and on since the 1870's. Some of the gems found are explained here. A simple search will turn up more info but just from walking around this has seen some serious mining.
Having putzed around enough it is time to head down for the section of Mine Loop Trail between here and the Connector from earlier. This trail is more of a woods road also as it was probably the main entry path for the mining that used to go on up here. Having reached the junction I turn around and head back up to Lord Hill.
Back at the junction and down the other end of Conant Trail making my way to the next junction. A couple of steep spots and the rest is cake as I make my way to Horseshoe Pond Trail.
The hike on Horseshoe Pond Trail enters different ages of young birch trees repopulating along the way. There are thin young saplings in the upper part and they get older the farther down I go.
Eventually the trail passes through a brushy section before reaching a forest road. Turning left and it follows it for a short bit before heading left back into the woods climbing up over an embankment. Climbing up over a hill and next to the trail is the old grave of Olive Styles who died in 1848.
A short ways away and the trail ends on Deer Hill Road. Doing my accustomed turn around and I start the trek back up to Conant Trail. Reaching the spot where the trail comes out onto the forest road I see what looks like an old path leading down into the woods on the other side of the road. Following it and it comes out into a very open campsite. There is an old road that leads back up to the forest road and then it's back up to Conant Trail where I notice the trail sign mileage is a tad off.
The sign says it is 1.1 miles to Deer Hill Road when in reality it is 2.0 miles. Crap, I just figured out what is wrong here. The mileage is correct for the Horseshoe Pond Trail section to Deer Hill Road so they put the right info on the wrong sign. Heading back on Conant Trail as it skirts below Harndon Hill. The trail is littered with old stone walls as I reach a spot where a house once stood. There is the faint outline of an old foundation and a good size stone wall behind it holding the earth back.
Pass more stone walls and I am at the last out and back trail for the day, the other portion of Mine Loop Trail between here and Mine Loop Connector. A left turn and a short steep climb until the trail reaches the old woods road which is slowly growing in up here.
A bit over ten minutes and I am back at the junction for the third time and turn around to head back. Returning to Conant Trail and time to call it a day. A few minutes up the trail and much like last week there is fresh red paint on the trees. This time, though, I can see the path through the woods that the surveyors made as the paint marks the forest boundary. That has to be one tough job of following the boundary and clearing a path along the way.
The trail now is more road like as it makes its way back to the fork where Conant Trail splits. Just before and there is a wicked old cemetery off to the right. It even has the old granite fence posts although the rails are long gone. One grave is of Abigail Gray who died in 1852.
Passing the fork and soon I am back at the car done for today and lucky the weather held out. Another great set of trails in this area of Maine and I did not see anyone all day.
Final numbers: 9.8 miles, 4 hours and 55 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.3, Total to Date: 872.3