Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hike – Long Pond and the Great Notch

Long Pond with Mansell Mtn left and Beech Mtn right
Long Pond is located in Acadia National Park.  It is on the west side of Mount Desert Island, away from the more heavily populated trails.  The island is almost cut in half by Somes Sound – the only fjord on the Atlantic side of North America.  Since Bar Harbor, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, etc. are all on the east side, the west side of the island sometimes gets overlooked.  Hiking on the west side of the island is usually quieter.

This post describes a hike along the shores of Long Pond then a loop back to the starting point via the Great Notch and Cold Brook Trails.

Directions – When you first cross the causeway from the mainland onto Mount Desert Island you come to a fork.  Heading left to stay on Route 3 will take you to the east side of the island.  You will want to head right on Route 102 for the west side of the island.  Drive several miles until you pass Echo Lake and the Southwest Harbor Food Mart.  The speed limit will drop to 25 miles per hour as you near downtown Southwest Harbor.  Take a right onto Seal Cove Road.  Drive to the top of the hill then take another right onto Long Pond Road.  Drive all the way to the end and park to the right of the pump house.

There are no bathrooms or running water here.  There are trails up Beech Mountain to the right and back of the parking area, but this hike starts to the left of the pump house.

There are two mountains to the west of Long Pond: Mansell Mountain and Bernard Mountain.  There are many trails that run over and around them.  These trails are the Long Pond Trail (sometimes known as the Great Pond Trail), the Perpendicular Trail, Cold Brook Trail, Mansell Trail, Razorback Trail, the Great Notch Trail, the Sluiceway Trail, the South Face Trail, the West Ledge Trail, the Bernard Mountain Trail, and the Western Mountain Trail.  While there is parking at the head of the West Ledge Trail, most people start these trails at Long Pond.  The parking area holds maybe 8-10 vehicles, so you may find it a little crowded if you come later in the day.

The west shore of Long Pond where the trail runs.  Mansell Mountain is above it.

From where you parked, head around the pump house.  The Long Pond Trail starts here and runs for two miles along the western shore before heading inland.  Almost immediately the Cold Brook Trail heads off to the left.  Continue on the Long Pond Trail.  Two tenths of a mile along, the Perpendicular Trail cuts off to the left.  Stay on the Long Pond Trail.

It's not the ocean, but seagulls have made a home here.

What had been a smooth, flat trail now becomes rockier.  Roots and some small washouts also dot the trail.  Along much of this you can see through the trees to Long Pond and there are some informal trails that lead out to clear views.  The entire pond is almost undeveloped.  I believe I saw a total of three houses on the eastern shore of the Pond the entire length of the trail.  There are several small streams running down off Mansell Mountain into the pond.

An example of the path where it gets rougher
Long Pond in the early morning fog
One of the streams coming off Mansell Mountain
Looking back after passing a small peninsula on Long Pond

As you go along you will notice that the ground to the left of the trail is dropping to where the rise is much less.  You have hiked two miles along the base of Mansell Mountain.  The trail now takes a left turn and heads up into the trees.  The first section of this was quite swampy when I hiked it.  There were a few logs to help you over these sections.

The slopes of Mansell Mountain to the left of the Long Pond Trail

The trail rises gradually away from the pond.  I was hiking on a day where the fog was low over the pond and there was little breeze.  Once I headed away from the pond the temperature rose and the humidity felt like it was around 99%.  Any breeze was blocked by the trees and the air was absolutely still.  What do you get when you combine wet conditions, close in trees, high humidity, and no breeze?  Sweat and mosquitoes. 

There were places where I tried to stop to get a photo or to take a drink of water, but when I did the mosquitoes would descend on me.  With the humidity the way it was any bug spray would have been almost useless.  It eventually reached a point where my glasses were literally steaming up on me because it was so humid.  The trail had now become heavily covered with roots.  I had a choice between hiking with my glasses and having obscured vision, or hiking without them and having blurred vision.  Either was a recipe for a turned ankle from stepping wrong on a root.  I managed to make it through unscathed (other than mosquito bites.)

Needless to say, I didn’t stop long on this section of the trail.  At nine tenths of a mile from Long Pond, some of which parallels Great Brook, you come to a signpost.  The trail to the right takes you to a trailhead on a fire road 1.1 miles away.  This is the Western Mountain Trail.  I debated covering it and coming back because I didn’t know when I might ever be there again, but the humidity and mosquitoes convinced me to turn left onto the Great Notch Trail.

Great Brook from a bridge that spans it
A true forest walk - not that common in Acadia

This trail rose a little quicker, but still not that steeply.  If anything, it had even more roots than the trail I had just left.  It was only four tenths of a mile to the Great Notch.  There was some trail repair done and a new set of log-lined dirt steps built just before reaching the notch.

The Great Notch is a meeting place of trails.  It is an open area with a couple of benches for folks to rest or to visit.  From the way I came in, heading left would have taken me towards Mansell Mountain’s Razorback and Mansell Trails.  Heading right would have taken me to Bernard Mountain’s trails.  I headed straight through the intersection to continue on the Great Notch Trail.

The trail now descends from here all the way to Gilley Field.  Part of it follows a stream and crosses it a few times.  The trees open out some and the trail isn’t always quite so obvious.  Blazes on the trees are there, but sometimes not as numerous as they should be.  If you are ever in doubt about where the trail goes, just look for the direction downward that has the most roots to walk over and that is probably the trail. [sarcasm]

You will pass a couple more signposts.  The first one indicates a way to connect with the Sluiceway Trail.  The second points the way to the reservoir.  Continue past both of these and you will come out to the Gilley Field parking area.  The trail makes a left.  Continue to follow it.

You will pass the trailheads for the Razorback Trail and later the Mansell Trail, both on the left.  Continue going straight.  After the Mansell Trail trailhead, the trail you are on becomes the Cold Brook Trail, so named because you literally walk in the mostly dry brook for part of the trail.  I’m not sure what the name of the trail section from Gilley Field to the start of the Cold Brook Trail is named.

The Cold Brook trail rises a little, but any elevation gained is quickly lost and more as you head downward toward Long Pond.  You cross a small wooden bridge and connect back onto the Long Pond trail near the pump house.  Take a right and you come out back where you parked.

This hike makes for a good change of pace on Acadia.  Rather than open ledge and/or crowds, it is a quiet walk along a still pond then a walk through the woods.  I saw not one single other person the entire hike.  On a day that was not so humid it would have been quite pleasant.

Cumulative distance:             4.9 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   750 feet
Cumulative duration:            3 hours (including time for photos)

Acadia Hiking Guide

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