With summer camp done, I went back to my home in Maine to start packing my life into boxes and into my car in order to make the move to southern New Hampshire. It’s an exciting thing to move to a new home, but let’s face it. I’m a Mainer through and through. I have a hard time imagining any other place to be home, no matter how long I may end up living there. Vermont came close a few years ago, but it still didn’t have that particular Maine Charm.
|That’s a mighty big rock. Too bad I couldn’t get all of it in the photo, but I’d say at least 30 feet high.|
In the middle of packing and worrying about all the things that come with uprooting, I had a few small day-hikes planned to relieve the sadness of leaving home. Julie, my co-leader at the summer camp and now a close friend, joined my family in Belfast to see some more of Maine. She’s from the west coast and had never been to the east before this summer. During the summer camp trips we made our way up to Jackman, but the northern lakes region was only a tour of one of the three major outdoor recreation environments of Maine. She still had to check out the inland mountains region and the coastal region.
For the inland mountains, we headed up to Farmington and Weld to climb a mountain I had only climbed once, ten years ago and on a cloudy autumn day with no views. With a little help from Maine Trail Finder, we met up at the trailhead and began our hike in the early afternoon. I was a little apprehensive because of the overflowing parking lot at the bottom of the mountain, but once we started up the Loop Trail we saw only a few small groups of hikers, which we quickly overtook (that’s right– my mom, 60 years old, is such a badass that she passed a bunch of much younger hikers like they were standing still).
|Tumbledown’s south cliff. The trail comes out at the notch on the right.|
The Loop Trail starts out through lush, mossy forest, passing a tremendous boulder the size of a large house, before starting a devilishly steep climb to the Great Ledges. These partially open rock faces gave us a view of what we would soon be climbing– the south side of Tumbledown is a sheer seven-hundred foot cliff, which we would climb nearly vertically to a notch just below the west peak of the mountain.
|Inside Fat Man’s Misery, after shimmying up the hole in the rocks.|
The climb to Tumbledown’s ridge was as steep and arduous as the warnings had made it out to be. We stepped high, walking up a cross between a rock-slide and a small stream, finally finding ourselves at a notch in the rocks above. Three rebar staples had been driven into the stone as the trail sent us through a small hole in the cliff. This must have been the tight squeeze that the trailbuilders had labeled “Fat Man’s Misery.” That is now my favorite name for a trail feature just about anywhere. The Misery took a few minutes to get through, since we had to remove our packs, shimmy through the hole in the rock, and hand packs through. If you’ve ever been to Mahoosuc Notch, you’ll recognize this kind of trail feature. Imagine the small hole you need to pass through in the Notch, but instead of going through horizontally, the Fat Man’s Misery is vertical.
|Looking across Tumbledown’s ridge to Mount Blue and Webb Lake.|
Just above the squeeze, we topped out on the Tumbledown cliffs, complete with views to the south of Webb Lake and the mountains around the Weld region. Only a few wisps of clouds in the distance. The only limit to our views were the other mountains nearby. We headed west to the end of the Tumbledown Ridge Trail and had lunch on the rocky peak. The mountain seemed completely deserted– we hadn’t seen anyone since the Great Ledges, and no one showed up at the peak despite our 45 minute break.
|The long ridge on the right is Saddleback Mountain. It doesn’t look a thousand feet higher, but it sure is.|
The west peak of Tumbledown had the best views of the ridge; they were downright jaw-dropping. Directly to our east, Little Jackson Mountain loomed above us, blocking the eastward view, but to the south was a vast landscape of southern Maine, the mountains giving way to rolling hills. To the west and north, the Appalachian Trail laid out like a panorama. I named peaks in order from the west to the east, starting with Mount Washington dominating the far horizon. Most of the Mahoosucs were unidentifiable to me, but Sunday River ski resort was easily visible with its ski trails. Blocking most of it was Sunday River Whitecap, with Old Speck and Baldpate right nearby. Old Blue and the Bemis Range continued the high mountains of western Maine, and Saddleback, Saddleback Junior, and the Horn sat high to the north. I was completely amazed, and in the minutes that I stood looking around, I already missed living in this grand state.
|Traversing the Tumbledown Ridge. Far in the distance are the Mahoosucs and the White Mountains.|
We left the west peak and headed across the ridge, a rocky traverse with open views mostly to the south and east. With only a short walk, we arrived at Tumbledown Pond, probably the main reason for Tumbledown’s popularity. At about 2600 feet, the pond sits just below Little Jackson Mountain, and at the edge of Tumbledown’s ridge. There were several people picnicking, fishing, and swimming around the pond when we arrived. Undoubtedly this is where all the people from those cars had been, since they hadn’t been anywhere else on the mountain. We stopped on the rocks near the pond for a brief snack and a dip in the icy waters.
|Little Jackson Mountain above Tumbledown Pond.|
The trip down the Brook Trail was much less steep than the Loop Trail, and in almost no time we were back to the cars. It was a nice, long drive back to the coast, but well worth the effort. In the next few years I’ll be closer to the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, and it will be a long drive for me to get to even the closest mountains in Maine, so I couldn’t help but feel that this hike would be my last big one in Maine for quite a while. Maybe I’m just being a little overdramatic about moving out, but I sure as hell am going to miss these mountains.
|I guess it’s time to head back home.|