Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hike and Golf – Mount Kineo

Mount Kineo from the Rockwood Boat Landing
Mount Kineo is located on an island in Moosehead Lake in Maine.  It is about halfway up the 27 mile lake, a mile across the water from the town of Rockwood.  It is a very interesting sight when it comes into view.  It juts up 800 feet from a flat peninsula and towers over its surroundings.  Many photos have been taken of it, and it’s not uncommon to find a painter also capturing its image.  It is a good hike for the whole family because it combines a little bit of an adventure for the kids and there are options for reaching the tower at the summit that can be handled by small children.

Directions – Rockwood is on Routes 6 and 15 on the west side of Moosehead Lake.  Coming from the South you would drive through Greenville and stay on Routes 6/15.  After about 18 miles out of Greenville you will come to Rockwood.  Look for signs pointing you to the town’s boat landing.  It will be a right off of the main road.  Drive down in and there is parking for many cars.  You will need to take a boat shuttle over to the island.  There is a schedule posted at the launch.  During the summer the shuttle runs every hour throughout the day.  It is a ten minute ride over to the island.  It cost $10 during the summer of 2010.  You will see a mixture of hikers and golfers on the shuttle since the island also hosts a nine hole golf course built right at the base of Kineo.

There are three trails to the summit.  Indian Trail is the shortest and steepest.  Bridle Trail is a little longer and more moderate.  North Trail is the longest.  This post describes a hike up Bridle Trail and down Indian Trail.

While crossing to the island people asked the man running the shuttle which trail he recommended.  He said to take Indian Trail.  Having been on it I would actually not recommend going up or down this trail if you have small children.  It is steep for much of it and in places you have to navigate over sudden rises/drops of four or five feet.  It does provide the best overall views while hiking, though, so I do recommend it for all others.

I had read about Kineo’s trails a little beforehand and I had already decided I was going to ascend on Bridle Trail, since it was the original route to the top.  After hearing from people who had come up Indian Trail I decided to descend on it, rather than going down North Trail.

When you reach the dock on the island the trail follows a flat carriage road to the left.  I immediately took off walking as fast as I could to put some distance between myself and the crowd of hikers that were on the shuttle.  It turns out I didn’t really need to since most of them ended up going up Indian and I went up Bridle. 

The start of the trails was further than I thought they would be.  I passed a slope with a lot of loose rock on it and paused to try to figure out if this was a trail.  It didn’t look promising.  I continued on the flat carriage road, walking clockwise around the base of Kineo, right on the shore of the lake.  Finally I saw a trail heading up to the right.  It was somewhat hidden, but I was able to determine that this was Indian Trail.  I knew Bridle Trail was further on, so I kept going.  After another few tenths of a mile I came to the start of Bridle Trail and headed up.

Bridle Trail climbs steadily and moderately up Kineo.  There were washouts in a couple of places, but they were not hard to get by.  There are no views on this trail until it joins up with Indian Trail after about a half mile.  This point is a popular place to stop and take pictures because you have views of the flat peninsula on the south side of the island.  Several holes of the golf course are visible from this point.

View from intersection of Indian and Bridal Trails
Closer view of golf course and homes

Once you are done here continue up the combined trail another four tenths of a mile to the summit.  There are tall trees here, so a tower has been built.  Go up the stairs of the tower and you will have 360 degree views of Moosehead Lake, its shores, and many islands around it.

View to the northeast from tower
View to the west from tower

When you decide to descend you have two choices: you can go back the way you came, or you can take North Trail instead.  Picture looking down on the entire island as if it were a clock face:  The boat launch is located at six o’clock.  Indian Trail ascends between seven and eight o’clock.  Bridal Trail ascends between eight and nine o’clock.  North Trail ascends at one o’clock.  You walk all the way around the base of Kineo on the carriage road to get to it.  Since I had heard about additional views on Indian Trail, and also since I had thoughts of making the shuttle before its next departure I decided to go down Indian.

Leaving the tower go back down the trail you came up on.  When you reach the view point where Indian and Bridal Trails combine, take the path on the left to descend on Indian Trail.

This turned out to be steeper than Bridal Trail.  It runs right along the edge of Kineo’s steep drop off on this side.  It does provide additional views that you do not get on any other trail.  It also has multiple places where you have to be careful to not fall.  I had to pick my spots to put my feet on many occasions.  I also used my hands some to ensure I safely got down over a few sections.  Even though it was only about four tenths of a mile it took me longer to descend than I had expected.  As I was walking back along the carriage road to the boat launch I saw the shuttle departing.

View down off Indian Trail to the carriage road
View of the peninsula from Indian Trail
On Indian Trail rapidly getting closer to the carriage road (although hopefully not too rapidly)
View from Indian Trail

Since I now had an hour to kill I went up to the golf course’s pro shop.  Like all golf courses they sell a variety of drinks and snacks.  They also have a few t-shirts and hats for sale.  They were evenly split between the golf course and Mount Kineo itself.  I picked up a hat that said “I hiked Mt Kineo.”  I also picked up some info on the course.  I walked around a couple of the holes that were near the pro shop and took many pictures.

I talked about the course that night with my uncle.  He lives in the area and I was staying with him.  He had never been on it, so he and I decided to head back there the next day to play it.  We called but didn’t need a tee time.  We were told we could just walk on.

The course opened around 1890 and is one of the oldest golf courses in New England.  The nine holes have a simple, logical layout.  There is none of this fairway mounding and four level greens that architects like to put on golf courses built today.  This course worked with the land it had. 

View from the first tee
The first green

The signature hole is the fourth.  Long before there were even such things as “signature holes”, this one existed.  It is built right on the island’s shore with Moosehead, and right at the base of the Kineo.  It is a par 3 that requires all carry over water, with the green framed against the backdrop of Kineo.  Even though it is short the wind swirls some at the base of Kineo so it can play with your ball.  How do I know?  I hit a perfect shot, with the right club for the distance, and part way there it’s like the ball slowed down in the air and plopped into the water about a foot from shore and about a half club’s length from the green.

The fourth green
This video was taken on the fifth green:

Other than this hole there are not too many hazards on the course.  There was a wet area between the first fairway and the sixth that could swallow a golf ball into the soft ground.  It’s not marked as a hazard, though, and it might not normally be that wet.  My uncle found out that there is a hidden challenge on the ninth hole.  He ended up in a grass bunker the size of a crater about forty yards short of the ninth green.  You can’t see it from the fairway. 

The price for the two of us to play nine holes with a cart (my uncle is in his seventies) was less than fifty dollars, so it is reasonably priced.  Is it worth driving three or four hours just to play this course?  Probably not, but if you are vacationing in the area and have your clubs with you then I highly recommend it.  You can do what I did, hike up Kineo one day and play the golf course the next.  There is even plenty of time on a summer day to do one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.  Make sure to bring your camera with you.

Cumulative distance:             3.8 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   800 feet
Cumulative duration:            2.0 hours (once on the island)

Maine Mountain Guide

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