Friday, February 18, 2011

Hike – Borestone Mountain

View from West Peak of Borestone
Borestone Mountain is the centerpiece of the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, which was founded in 1958.  In addition to the hiking, the sanctuary features Adirondack style cottages on alpine ponds that are available to be rented.  There is also a Visitor’s Center with displays of the animals in the sanctuary. 

The hiking trail to the two peaks of Borestone is listed as moderate by the AMC Maine Mountain guide.  That is more an average than an overall description.  The trail starts out easy, becomes moderate when starting up Borestone, and becomes somewhat strenuous as you near the top.  The reward is 360 degree views from two different peaks, much of it looking into the “100 Mile Wilderness.”

Directions – Borestone Mountain is in Elliotsville Township, a little south of Moosehead Lake.  Take Route 6/15 into Monson.  This is the main road to Greenville from the south.  Driving north about a half mile from the center of Monson, you will see a sign on the right for the Borestone Mountain Sanctuary.  Take this road (Elliotsville Road.)  Drive 7.3 miles until you reach a small bridge that crosses Big Wilson Stream.  Just after this bridge turn left onto a paved road.  (Just before the bridge is the dirt road to go to the Little Wilson Falls hike.  See the prior hiking post on that.)  Drive just a short distance up this paved road, cross over railroad tracks, and the parking will be on the left.  The trailhead is across the road from the parking area.  The sanctuary is open dawn to dusk, year round.  Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, and free for children under six.  No pets are allowed in the sanctuary.

The beginning of the trail is actually an access road.  There will be pamphlets with maps available at the trailhead.  They show that there is a Base Trail that exits left off the access road just after the start.  The map showed a scenic outlook just off the access road, though, and I wanted to explore that.  The Base Trail offered a side trail that cut across the access road to get to it, but that would have meant gaining hundreds of feet, losing it to see the scenic outlook, gaining it again, and then losing some of it as you descend to the Visitor’s Center.  I decided to just walk up the access road.  It was 1.3 miles as opposed to the 1.0 miles of the Base Trail, but it offered steadier elevation gains.

The road cuts back and forth and you will see some informal footpaths where people have cut off the corners.  I just stayed on the road.  There was no traffic.  It appeared the road was only used for maintenance.  The scenic outlook was a little obscured, but it was still worth stopping to take in the view.

View from scenic overlook - Little Greenwood Pond

The Base Trail reconnects with the access road about two tenths of a mile from the Visitor’s Center.  There are bathrooms available near this junction. 

I spent some time in the Center looking at the displays.  There was a volunteer there that explained some of them to me.  She told me there was a group ahead of me, but that they would likely be coming down as I was going up.  Since she was leaving in an hour, she cautioned me that I would be all alone on the mountain.  There was a book to sign in and sign out, and she asked me to make sure I signed out when I left.  I thought she was being overly cautious, but when I got near the summit I saw several places where a person could fall and injure themselves pretty badly.  She wanted to make sure the person coming in the next morning knew that everyone had gotten down off the mountain safely.

My mother grew up in the town of Monson, which is near this mountain.  She used to talk about twice climbing Borestone, once in the summer and once in the winter.  After I did it I asked her how the heck she made it up it in the wintertime.  She said she didn’t remember, but she definitely did it because it was with her classmates in high school.

The Summit Trail starts at the Visitor’s Center.  The trail heads counterclockwise around Sunrise Pond.  This section is flat.  Once you reach the other side of the pond there are a large number of stone steps that rise somewhat steeply away from the water.  I had played 18 holes of golf in the morning, so I was feeling it in my legs going up over these steps.  The pamphlet said that there are 130 of these steps, but I could have sworn it was twice that.

The steps end and the trail continues up over ledge.  There are a few iron rungs put in place to help you pull yourself up over sections.  I felt the trail could have used a few more in places.  I was scrambling up over a few rock sections by turning and lifting myself into a sitting position, then turning onto my knees, then getting back onto my feet.  I made liberal use of any rock handhold I could find.  This is not mountain climbing, but you will definitely be using your hands and arms on this last section.

When you clear the last of these rock outcroppings you will be on top of the West Peak of Borestone Mountain.  You have views of the three alpine ponds, Sunrise, Midday, and Sunset, as well as the larger Lake Onawa to the north.  This peak is seven tenths of a mile from the Visitor Center and about 650 feet higher in elevation.

L-R: Sunrise, Midday, and Sunset Ponds

The trail continues down off the backside of this peak.  It will take you another three tenths of a mile to the slightly higher East Peak where the true summit is.  There is a smaller up thrust of ledge between the two peaks.  The trail leading down off of this intermediary ledge was very steep and did not appear to offer good handholds.  After considering it for a minute or so I chose to backtrack and go clockwise around the base of this ledge.

After rejoining the trail on the other side there was only a short distance remaining to reach the East Peak.  The views of the alpine ponds are blocked here, but in return you have views to the east that are completely open.  There is almost no sign of anything manmade in any direction.  There are two displays on this peak that tell you what the various mountains and water bodies are that you can see.

Lake Onawa

I sat here for a while, had a snack, and enjoyed the view.  Once I felt rested enough to tackle going down over the trail near West Peak, I headed back.  I went around the base of the ledge between the peaks again, then back up over West Peak.  There were a couple of places coming down where I turned around and went down backwards.  This allowed me to grip the rock to ensure I didn’t fall.  Once I reached the steps it was easier going.  I came out by the pond and followed the trail back to the Visitor’s Center.  As expected, the Center was closed and no one was around.  I signed out and headed back to my car.  I actually started to take the Base Trail down, but the trees were blocking out the remaining sunlight and I was worried that I might not see a root and lose my balance.  I decided to just use the access road to get back down to my vehicle.  As promised, the only people I saw the entire hike were the woman in the Center and some people coming down the trail while I was headed up.  I had both peaks entirely to myself.

Since they are so close to each other, the Little Wilson Falls and Borestone Mountain hikes would make for a good day in the outdoors.  The two would complement each other, too.  Little Wilson Falls is relatively easy and you get a large waterfall, while Borestone can be challenging in places and you get 360 degree mountaintop views.

Access Road to Visitor Center, plus Summit Trail

Cumulative distance:             4.6 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   1,300 feet
Cumulative duration:            3 hours (including time for photos)

Base Trail to Visitor Center, plus Summit Trail

Cumulative distance:             4.3 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   1,600 feet
Cumulative duration:            3 hours (including time for photos)

Maine Mountain Guide

No comments:

Post a Comment